Pretty Things: Retiring or Pushed Out?

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project announced in a recent blog post that after seven years of crafting some of the best craft brews in the Boston region will be getting out of the beer game.

While not well known outside of the state of Massachusetts, Pretty Things has steadily grown in popularity among its loyal, local following since debuting their very first beer at the Publik House in Brookline, MA.  Since then they have created lines of complex beers including their flagship Jack D'Or,  Baby Tree, and American Darling.  They were a local favorite and huge proponent of building a community beer culture.  Eclectic, fun, and not ones to take themselves to seriously.  This was a big part of their charm and one of the reasons many beer drinkers would actively seek them out.

So the question on many people's mind is why did these guys go out of business? 

For the casual beer drinker the shuttering of Pretty Thing's doors probably comes as a huge shock.  However, for Massachusetts bar and liquor store owners, the closure has been a little bit less of a surprise. 

If our sources are to be believed, the beginning of the end all started a year ago.  In October 2014, Pretty Things co-founder, Dann Paquette, tweeted series of accusations that certain breweries were using "pay-to-play" tactics to get their  lines into certain bars.  Pay-for-play being the practice of breweries offering payment or bars requesting it in exchange for a coveted space on the barroom taplines.  In a crowded and competitive beer market having your beer on tap can be a huge difference maker.  As  a result, pay-for-play can be a very effective tactic.  It is also extremely illegal in the state of Massachusetts.   Dan's tweets included one saying "Right now one of the hottest newish brewers in MA pays for lines all over the place" and specifically called out Bukowski Tavern and The Lower Depths, both of which are owned by the Wilcox Hospitality Group.  

For it's part Wilcox responded in an open letter in less than complimentary terms; calling Pretty Things "inferior for the price" and swearing never to carry it in any of their establishments. 

As a result of Dann's tweet the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission began statewide investigation that included a issuing a summons to the massive beer distributor,  the Craft Beer Guild and five other Massachusetts bars.  A lawyer for the Craft Beer Guild, J. Mark Dickson, admitted that the practice of pay-to-play is widespread in the industry and that his clients had participated.  Coincidentally, the Craft Beer Guild was also Pretty Things distributor. 

Now, what does this have to do with Pretty Things going out of business? While talking to industry insiders, MiYM discovered that after word got around about Dann Paquette's tweets many liquor stores and bars refused to carry any Pretty Things brand.  One source noted that "...it really screwed a lot of people over.  You don't do that to your own." 

This raises the question:  is Pretty Things ceasing brewing operations to "pursue other adventures," as they say in their blog post, or were the pushed out by an inability to actually sell their product due to being blacklisted in their industry?   

We will be trying to get in touch with Mr. Dann Paquette for comment and hopefully get a little better understanding of the situation.  Stay tuned for more!