Longtime former New Belgium Brewing Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert has joined the board of Melvin Brewing, a GABF award-winning, Wyoming-based brewery that faced a boycott of its products this spring after a server at another brewery accused a Melvin employee of groping her.
Bouckaert, who retired from New Belgium last year to open Purpose Brewing and Cellars in Ft. Collins, Colorado, approached Melvin co-founder Jeremy Tofte at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in October.
Seemingly satisfied with amends the Melvin crew has tried to make in the aftermath of the incident, which took place at Menace Brewing in Bellingham, WA, near one of its own brewpubs, Bouckaert signed on. The partnership hasn’t been formally announced until now.
“Someone of this caliber and this esteem recognizes that what we did around the incident in Bellingham was handled correctly,” says Melvin’s spokesperson, Eric Henderson.
But there’s no question Bouckaert, who’s won American craft brewing’s highest award and has been an industry icon since his days brewing at Rodenbach in Belgium, faces at least a bit of risk to his reputation. Melvin critics say the brewery has cultivated a bad-boy, “bro” identity since the beginning. Staff removed a contact page from the brewery website that made light of child sexual abuse after word of the boycott, which reportedly included more than 20 bars in Seattle and Washington, spread.
According to VinePair, “ Incidents at … bars in Seattle include Melvin employees staging a ninja fight and “accidentally punching and cracking a patron’s rib,” “making lewd comments,” and bringing Melvin beer into other establishments to drink it although it is not permitted. (Tofte says this only happened once, and that the beer was meant as a gift.)”
Brewery management initially suspended the offending Bellingham brewer and sent him to sexual harassment training and drug addiction treatment. He no longer holds his position. Tofte went on an apology tour through his distribution territories, while his website pledges transparency and a chastened attitude.
On the site, Tofte writes, “We take full responsibility for the damage these incidents have caused, and admit that we screwed up in our initial attempts at responding. Melvin instituted a sexual harassment training program, hired a human resources department, and our management teams are receiving culture and leadership training from an outside organization.
Growth has come quick to the brewery that started in the closet of a Thai restaurant in Jackson and now produces almost 40,000 barrels of beer (1 bbl=31 gallons) per year. In addition to the restaurant, a production facility in Alpine and the taproom in Bellingham, Melvin is opening a San Diego taproom on December 1 and is making its first foray off the western part of the map to open a brewpub in Eureka, MO, in spring 2019. Thanks to lower real estate prices and an excited, unsaturated market for quality craft beer in the Midwest, this facility will focus on sour beers, replacing the sour concept that management had been developing for Denver.
NOTE: I’m waiting on comment from Bouckaert and will add it asap.