Paul Ryan ties inspire boycott of sellout craft beer Ballast Point


Here's House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) toasting a pint of Guinness last week; the image inspired memes galore because he's holding the glass like a robot [Photo: Al Drago/The New York Times]

Ballast Point, a popular San Diego craft beer available throughout the Twin Cities, brewed up headlines in 2015 when beverage giant Constellation Brands acquired it for almost $1 billion

Now the political affiliations of the New York-based parent company are giving its new brand headaches. The #DONTDRINKBALLAST hashtag emerged last week, a boycott call inspired by money Constellation gifted to a political action committee (PAC) supporting Paul Ryan, the Republican House speaker from Wisconsin.

Through its PAC in 2016, Constellation donated $23,000 to the Team Ryan PAC, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Boycott leaders Revolution League, a Chicago activist organization, say purchasing Ballast Point indirectly aids Ryan's attacks on the Affordable Care Act and "[President Donald] Trump's agenda of hate." Constellation's political donations skewed heavily toward Republican causes and candidates last year, though the company gave more cash to Democrats in 2014, 2010, and 2006. 

Ironically, the election of Trump caused Constellation's stock to tank in November. That's because the largest U.S. beer importer could theoretically be harmed by Trump's negative views of NAFTA and proposed "border tax." Here's a snapshot of the brand portfolio belonging to Constellation. 

Thirsty for a less politically loaded pint? The Minnesota craft beer industry exploded by 355 percent during the past five years, so you've got plenty of locally owned options. We named New Glarus Brewing Co., the cult-loved pride of Ryan's home state, one of the 12 things worth road-tripping to Wisconsin for.

Ballast Point beers first arrived in Minnesota liquor stores and bars in 2013. Ballast is the 13th best-selling brewer in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association trade group. Its Sculpin IPA won gold at the 2014 World Beer Cup.

Update (March 20): Kris White, a communications manager with Ballast Point, provided the following statement to City Pages:

"We absolutely understand the concern. Ballast Point does not support Paul Ryan, nor the healthcare bill. While our parent company, Constellation, does have a PAC that contributes to candidates on both sides of the aisle, it does so only in the interest of policy issues directly related to the beverage alcohol industry. The PAC's primary goal is to educate lawmakers on the benefits of our industry as a whole -- creating jobs and contributing to our economy. That said, Ballast Point has no direct involvement or input into the actions of Constellation's PAC. Please know that our only goal as Ballast Point is to brew great beer and provide for our employees and our customers." 

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