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Monday, April 14, 2014

Anheuser-Busch's Latest Counteroffensive: Pricing

As craft beer continues to see growth, it's hardly a secret where the increased market share is coming from. Big beer's so-called premium brands continue to take a beating. As documented here and elsewhere, they aren't taking this situation laying down by any means. They want your money.

Indeed, big beer is working against the growth of craft beer in all kinds of creative and not-so-creative ways. They've gone in and manipulated laws in some states...or they've used loopholes in laws to their advantage. They're fighting against growlers in some states. In others, like Oregon, they're buying up distributors.

Then there's brand confusion, where big beer creates fake craft brands, which they then promote as the real thing via spendy marketing campaigns. The beers don't fool knowledgeable craft beer fans, but they do create enough brand confusion to reel in some new drinkers.

Now there's news that Anheuser-Busch, big beer's biggest bully, is launching a new counteroffensive based on price. The story was first reported in the Beer Business Daily the other day. I don't subscribe...too expensive. But I've received several messages from industry sources filling me in on what's happening.

It seems AB distributors in parts of Oregon and Washington (the reach of the campaign is uncertain) have issued updated price lists containing massive price drops on the Shock Top and Goose Island brands. Kegs that were previously selling to retailers for about $110 per half barrel will now be priced at $56. That's not a misprint. No word on pricing for packaged versions of those beers.

Inquiring minds may ask what AB is up to. Well, it appears they will attempt to use loss leader pricing to gain control of tap handles wherever possible. The low hanging fruit likely includes meat markets where the clientele often likes to drink a lot on the cheap. Buffalo Wild Wings and Blitz come instantly to mind, but they aren't alone. These joints could offer $3 pints of Shock Top or Goose Island around the clock and still make money.

What we clearly won't see is Shock Top or Goose Island taking over any handles at aficionado spots like Belmont Station, Saraveza or BeerMongers. Fat chance. The buyers in those bars would rather have their blood drained by vampires than serve charlatan craft brands to customers. It's not gonna happen...though I do like the juxtaposition of vampires and Anheuser-Busch.

Then there's the distributor angle. How could a distributor offer pricing like this? Even with backdoor subsidies in the form of reduced prices, discounts on shipping or increased advertising support, this kind of pricing would put independent distributors in a bind. Of course, many, possibly most of the distributors offering this pricing are wholly owned by Anheuser-Busch. They have to sell this sludge no matter what. So much for the three-tier system.

There is definitely some consternation on the part of MillerCoors distributors, who are independently owned and generally more interested in growing craft brands than in collapsing them, like AB. They wonder what predatory pricing on Shock Top and Goose Island will do to gateway brands like Blue Moon and Third Shift. They don't want a price war. But maybe that's what they have for now.

Look, the obvious goal of AB's initiative is to gobble up as many tap handles in as many places as possible. It's a rear guard action. These handles are apt to be in joints frequented by a lot of gateway drinkers. Hardcore craft bars aren't good targets. Once they have the business, prices of Shock Top and Goose Island will gradually increase.

It's a cynical strategy. What did you expect? It's your money they're after. That's what they've always been after. All that's changed is they've lost control of the narrative.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rooney's Rainier Ads Foreshadowed Changing Times

The passing of Mickey Rooney the other day took me back to the 1970s, when he was frontman for one of the most creative ad campaigns ever launched in the beer industry. Forget the beer for just a moment. As a high school and college student, the ads made me want to like Rainier. But I couldn't manage it.

You recall the ads, of course. In several, Rooney is the leader of a team of hunters chasing Mountain Fresh Rainiers in vaguely mountainous Northwest settings. The group comes close, but never quite manages to corral or "pop the top" of a wild Rainier. Probably just as well.

The Rooney ads were part of Rainier's campaign to bolster its brand. For many years, Rainier ads graced TV, print and radio. They featured goofy, but highly memorable characters and themes. There was the running of the Rainiers. a parody of the running of the bulls in Spain. Long before Budweiser used talking frogs, Rainier used them to croak, "Rain-Neer, Rain-Neer." And who can forget the motorcycle that revs "Raaaaaiiiiinnnnn-neeeeeeeeerr-beeeeeeeeeeer," as it passes?

Rainier spent a lot of money on these ad campaigns. Inquiring minds may wonder why. It's pretty simple. All the regional brands, which in the Northwest included Rainier, Olympia, Lucky Lager and Blitz-Weinhard, were under siege by the national brands by 1960s. It was sink or swim by the early 1970s. Rainier was trying to swim.

You may wonder what could have happened to put the regional brands in such peril. For those who still read and want to know more, I suggest The U.S. Brewing Industry: Data and Economic Analysis, by Victor and Carol Tremblay. You may find it in your local library...or you can buy it on Amazon for a few bucks.

The basic facts are these: In the aftermath of Prohibition and World War II, the national brands, represented by Miller, Budweiser, Schiltz, Pabst, had gained significant advantages in production, distribution and brand recognition. Those advantages provided cash flows that enabled them to spend freely on advertising, particularly TV advertising. Television, you may recall, was entering its golden age about this time. A wacky fact I ran across last year: In 1952, the big four national brewers accounted for 84 percent of network advertising revenue. That's a shocking stat, no matter how you cut it.

By the early 1970s, the regional brands were on the run, faced with dramatically declining market share. They fought back by launching regional ad campaigns, of which Rainier's was arguably the most creative. Across the board, these campaigns bought the regionals some time. Not much more.

Portland oldtimers will recall that Blitz-Weinhard took a slightly different tact. Its launch of Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve in 1976, combined with a folksy ad campaign, was an effort to maintain market share in the face of onrushing national brands. One might argue, as I have argued, that Private Reserve was a precursor to the coming craft revolution.

Despite the efforts of the Madmen who created the ads that featured Mickey Rooney and others, it all went bad for Rainier. The company, which started brewing in Seattle in 1878, operated in California when state prohibition came in 1916, then returned in 1935, was sold to G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1977. It changed hands a few more times before landing with Pabst, which closed the brewery in 1999. Blitz-Weinhard suffered a similar fate, if you're keeping track.

You can still find Rainier. It's produced in a factory brewery outside Los Angeles. The creative, funny ads featuring Rooney and others, like similar ads fielded by many regional brands in the 1970s, served mostly as a sort of bridge to a period dominated by consolidation and mega brands. Today, craft brewers are moving us the other way, toward a return to mostly local and regional beer. Better times.

Cheers to Mickey Rooney for some great laughs. RIP

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hop Bombs and Blindspots

I sometimes wonder how much our current fixation on hoppy beers is impacting the relevance of competing styles. This question occurred to me after I read Jeff Alworth's recent piece on the importance of appreciating different styles. Relevant stuff.

Then there was my recent visit to Central Oregon. At one point I was sitting in a brewpub enjoying a pint. An older gent walked in and sat down in the vacant seat next to me. He looked at the board and asked if they had anything malty. "Not really," I said. In fact, the only remotely malty beer they were pouring was a black ale. It was not mega-hoppy by my standards, but it was hoppy enough to shock the palate of this gent after a taste. They had nothing for him.

That scenario may not be the norm, but it got me wondering about the current beer landscape. If you walk into a store, taproom or brewery, you are likely to find plenty of hoppy beers on the playlist. That's no accident. These businesses are catering to the masses...and mostly the masses want hoppy beers. That reality means darker styles, in particular, get less attention.

It hasn't always been this way. If you rewind to the early days of craft brewing, brewers typically offered a fairly balanced mix of hoppy ales and stouts. That's how they differentiated themselves from macro sludge. Don't kid yourself, though. The hoppy beers of yesteryear were nothing like the robust IPAs, IIPAs and IIIPAs of today. Night and day difference.

It's pretty clear that hoppier styles have won over the hearts and minds of most modern beer fans. At least for now. Your average brewpub, taproom or store is likely to have multiple hoppy choices for every stout or porter. Go out and do the research if you need to.

I have to admit being part of the growing IPA craze going back many years. I was homebrewing and drinking mega-hoppy beers by the late 1990s. I shifted my attention to a wider range of styles that includes lighter and darker styles as part of widening my beer perspective in recent times. Not everyone feels the need.

The quintessential question is this: Are darker styles being driven into extinction or will there be a backlash to the blindspot that's formed in the shadow of IPA's popularity? Will we ever return to a time when an oldtimer can walk into a pub or brewery and be pleased with the non-hoppy choices?

Something to ruminate about, if nothing else.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Widmer Brewing at 30: The Beat Goes On

Thirty years ago today, Kurt and Rob Widmer launched what would eventually become one of Oregon's leading craft beer brands. Through the years, Widmer Brothers Brewing has stayed relevant by producing solid beers that attracted wide appeal. That theme continues on.

Ray, Kurt and Rob Widmer in the early days
There are some special events on tap this week to celebrate Widmer's 30 years in business. There's also the grand reopening of a newly remodeled pub and more. I'll get to the specifics of those events down the line. First, a bit of history, because 30-year-old businesses typically have lots of it.

When the brothers founded their company on April 2, 1984, they had no grandiose plans. They hoped to be able to make a living doing something they enjoyed. Kurt had spent significant time studying the beer market and thought they could carve out a niche. The growing popularity of imported beer convinced him a local product could compete well in that segment.

It didn't take long for Kurt to convince Rob of the potential. They soon recruited their dad, Ray. As construction of their brewery and business moved along, Ray played an important role. He was a farm boy who could fix things and figure out solutions to all kinds of mechanical challenges. That was a crucial skill to have in a brewery cobbled together largely from scavenged parts.

History recognizes Bridgeport as Portland's oldest craft brewery. In fact, Bridgeport founders Dick and Nancy Ponzi, along with Karl Ockert, began assembling their brewery on Northwest Marshall about the same time the Widmers were doing the same on Lovejoy. Bridgeport is considered the oldest because they began selling beer in late 1984. The Widmers got their beer to market a few months later.

The original space on Lovejoy
The success of Widmer Hefeweizen is well-documented. It's a largely forgotten detail that Hef was not their first beer. That honor belongs to Altbier, a bold interpretation of the German style that Fred Eckhardt, then writing about beer for The Oregonian, named "Beer of the Year" for 1985. Altbier remains a favorite of Eckhardt and is also high on John Foyston's list of favored beers. I like it, too.

When it arrived on the scene in 1986, Widmer Hefeweizen was a sort of accident. The brothers had started making Weizenbier (later shortened to Weizen) to provide something lighter than Altbier for customers. Soon, they were asked to make another beer. But they didn't have the brewing capacity to do that. Their solution was Hefeweizen, unfiltered Weizenbier.

Hefeweizen became hugely popular. Good news. Except the boys had not really planned for the kind of growth they quickly experienced on Lovejoy. They had originally hoped to have a pub there, but the brewing operation soon consumed all of the available space. Thus, they wouldn't have a pub until after they moved to Russell St., where they eventually opened the Gasthaus in 1996.

Another thing not generally recalled is that Hefeweizen was draft only for many years. Bridgeport and Portland Brewing, two of the four founding breweries here, started bottling in 1989. Due to some problems with keeping the yeast in solution, Widmer Hefeweizen wasn't available in bottled form until 1996. It's hard to fathom, looking back.

Once Hefeweizen hit store shelves, Widmer experienced a dramatic growth spurt. The move to Russell St. in 1991 had increased capacity, but it soon became readily apparent that they would have to expand again. That was partly what drove the partnership with Anheuser-Busch, announced in April 1997. By selling an interest (27 percent) in their company, the Widmers got money to expand their facilities and access to AB's distribution network. It was an ingenious move, though some didn't like it.

Widmer's business continued to flourish through the end of the decade and early years of the 21st century. They formed partnerships with Seattle's Redhook and Hawaii's Kona Brewing, which subsequently evolved into the Craft Brewers Alliance in 2008 (shortened to Craft Brew Alliance in 2012). Their portfolio of beers has continued to grow.

To celebrate 30 years, Widmer is holding a grand reopening of its Gasthaus pub Thursday evening. Frankly speaking, the pub remodel was overdue. What they've done with the remodel is vastly improve the experience there. The berms that previously separated the booths and tables are gone. Beer taps have been relocated to the wall behind the bar, immediately below placards showing what's on. The feel is much more open and contemporary. Very nice effort, indeed.

Thursday evening's party will feature the first three releases in Widmer's 30 Beers for 30 Years series. They're essentially going back and brewing beers from their 30 years. The first three are Altbier, Weizenbier and Hefeweizen. Perfect symmetry. Each beer in the series will be produced in limited quantity. Thirty cases of each release, packaged in 22-ounce bottles, will be available in the Portland market. Draft will be limited to select markets and, I assume, accounts.

Next up is the launch party for Blacklight IPA, a collaboration between Widmer and Boneyard Brewing of Bend. Blacklight, a session style black ale, is the first of six collaboration beers Widmer will release to celebrate their 30th. The event is happening at Kelly's Olympian on SW Washington St. Friday evening. The party starts at 7:00, with music kicking off at 9:00.

Finally, Kurt and Rob will toast the official launch of Green & Gold Kolsch, a collaboration with the Timbers Army, prior to Saturday's game at Providence Park. The recipe for Green & Gold was the winner of a 2012 Timbers Army homebrew competition, and subsequently brewed for commercial release by Widmer last year. It is being re-released, they say, due to the resounding positive response. This is a pre-game toast...game time is noon.

When you look at Oregon's four founding breweries, it's fairly clear that Widmer has been the most successful. No need to go into any great detail. McMenamin's has a ton of properties, but Widmer beers are sold across the country. Through innovation, diligence and business smarts, the brothers have piloted their company to great success. They remain vibrant and relevant because they continue to pursue the lofty goals they've been chasing all along. The beat goes on.

Happy 30th, guys! Cheers!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Central Oregon's House of Beers Revisited

Since I moved to Oregon 25 years ago, I've made many trips to Central Oregon. Not that many in the early years, but more than a few in, say, the last 10 or so years. These trips aren't normally about beer, though I've made it a point to lean on the beer aspect more heavily in recent times.

Last week's trip was mainly a ski vacation. We loaded up the new Crosstrek with gear, provisions and the two Labs and headed for the Sunriver condo we've stayed in countless times. I sandwiched a day of beer chasing between days of skiing on Mt. Bachelor. It's easier on the body that way.

Sunriver Brewing
My first stop was Sunriver Brewing, conveniently located in Sunriver Village. Perfect spot for a tourist trap. I originally visited this place shortly after it opened in 2012. At that point in time, their beer was being brewed in Redmond. It wasn't bad, but not very memorable, either. There is no space to install a brewery inside the pub, so I wondered what they would do. Honestly, I figured these guys for another Sunriver joke...and I've seen plenty of those over the years.

How wrong I was. These guys now have their own production brewery in Sunriver and they were pouring seven of their own beers in the pub. There are reportedly more on the way. That wouldn't count for much except these are nicely executed beers right down the line. They also had several decent guest taps to round out the list.

Beer choices? Lazy River Lager (5.5%ABV, 31 IBU) might not be your first pick on an unsettled March day, but it's a terrific beer. I also liked Adopt a Trail Pale Ale (5.7% ABV, 35 IBU), which is buzzing with the citrus aromas and flavors you normally find in an IPA, only in a more compact package. Granda's Original Blonde Ale (4.8% ABV, 19 IBU) is another fine effort and a perfect session beer.

This joint is hardly a secret. Travelers and I suspect a few locals have discovered Sunriver Brewing. They've got some TVs for sports fanatics and kids are welcome. Besides the beers, they have a solid pub menu at reasonable prices. Pints are $4.50, $3.50 during happy hour (3:00-5:30 Monday-Friday). A bacon cheeseburger will set you back $11.50 and there are other selections in that range. They fill growlers, too, though you will likely find lower prices down the road at the Mountain Jug.

For a long time, Sunriver was a joke from a beer and pub perspective. You had to drive in to Bend for satisfaction. But Sunriver Brewing changes the game. In a place where so many pathetic businesses have failed, these guys are hitting home runs. They're doing it with great beers, good food and attentive service. The pub was a virtual beehive of activity during an afternoon visit. Yet the wait staff kept up and the barkeeps were pleasant and conversational.

Rat Hole Brewpub
Perhaps the name is related to the fact that Rat Hole's brewery is located in a barn in southeast Bend. That's where Rat Hole began as a family project. Brewer Al Toepfer was an experienced home brewer who earned many awards prior to becoming a commercial brewer. It shows.

The pub is located in the Phoenix West building, which appears to be a in a sort of business park. It seemed an odd location, until I discovered the building has housed a string of eateries and a brewery dating back to 2007. The space occupied by Rat Hole is small, even if you include an outside patio, but apparently sufficient for now. The place opened in July 2013.

There were 10 beers listed on the Rat Hole board. Several of the beers were blown, including Haystack Hazelnut Brown Ale, a popular favorite. Of the beers on my tasting platter, the Lemon Wheat (5.3% ABV, 50 IBU and served with a lemon slice) was brilliantly refreshing. Rat Hole Saison (5.4% ABV, 62 IBU), made with Red Wheat and Cascade hops is pleasantly likable. Rat Hole Rye IPA (6.0% ABV, 71 IBU) is mildly spicy with a citrus kick. The Rotation Red Ale (5.9% ABV, 34 IBU) seemed a little lifeless. The Vanilla Porter (5.5% ABV, 30 IBU), features pervasive vanilla aromas, a soft mouthfeel and a nice chocolate finish.

It's worth mentioning that Rat Hole's food menu is not typical. The cuisine has a Southwestern flavor... tacos, burritos, nachos and such. They also have a token burger and some sandwiches. The burger will set you back $12. I had a set of three fish tacos for $9. Good value, I thought. Some may consider the food here slightly upscale for a pub. Mostly it's just a different, I think.

Rat Hole Brewpub is a worthy stop, for sure. The beers here are well-made and it's an interesting spot. They evidently offer live music several evenings a week and I bet things get a little crazy when warmer weather allows full use of the outdoor space. The gent behind the bar was a former school principal and family member. He could use a little polish, though not bad.

Boneyard Beer
I first visited Boneyard's brewery in Bend several years ago. Things were different then. Boneyard was in high growth mode, but the place was still pretty quaint and charming. The tasting room was home to a pleasant buzz. The heavy metal motif was along for the wild ride.

Things have shifted dramatically for Boneyard in the couple of years since. Their product is in such demand that they're ranked among the top ten Oregon brewers by production volume while selling draft only. Plans to can the popular RPM IPA never materialized. Boneyard didn't have to bother. It hasn't been able to keep up with demand from draft accounts. A nice problem to have.

There's an expanded brewing facility in the works. Production is still in full swing at the brewery on Lake Pl. But the friendly old charm of the tasting room is gone. Well, if it's there, I didn't feel it. The tasting list was pedestrian and the service was crusty. If I didn't know better, I'd guess the success has gone to a few heads. Not really a surprise.

There's more. I've long regarded RPM as a fantastic beer. I knew from a 2011 conversation with Tony Lawrence that he intended to dial RPM down. It's now down to 6.6% ABV (early versions were 7.5%). I had several pints on this trip and it seems to me the current beer doesn't look, smell or taste like the original. Not terrible, but decidedly different.

Look, you can't argue with the success Lawrence and Co. have had. They knew what they were doing from day one and they've built a rabid following. The good times will almost certainly continue. But some of the old charm appears to be gone, lost in a tsunami of demand for their beer and the pains that come with that reality. I understand it. I don't like it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Got Growler Trouble? Bud Man to the Rescue

Like much of the old south, Florida has some archaic laws on the books. One of the more amusing laws pertains to beer growlers. I've talked about this here before. In Florida, you can walk into a brewery and leave with a gallon or quart growler. Half gallon growlers, the industry standard, are illegal.

Florida's growing craft beer industry wants to fix the law, which evidently dates to the post-Prohibition era. They see the current growler law as an obstacle to growth in the industry, which some observers say might eventually support 500 craft brewers. Growth is in the wind.

Craft brewers have supported two bills, one (HB 283) that would legalize half gallon growlers and another (HB 387) that would allow beer tastings at outside venues like grocery stores and related establishments. The need for bills like this makes you realize how retrograde Florida laws are when it comes to beer. But never mind.

Big beer is proving only too happy to help out. Thanks to the fact that the state is awash in political contributions from Anheuser-Busch, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill (HB 1329) that would legalize half gallon growlers. Naturally, the bill contains a number of stipulations that would cripple the craft industry. Were you expecting something else?

House Bill 1329, which is to be debated today, would put new regulations on growlers and restrict craft breweries in other ways. Remember, craft beer is largely made up of small local businesses. Big beer is essentially attempting to preserve its position by pushing through laws that make it harder for small craft brewers to operate.

Some have pointed out that this is an odd position for Republican representatives. Publicly, they clamor for less regulation and talk nonstop about free market principles. Yet here they are supporting legislation that will hurt small, locally-owned business in favor of big business.

Lawmakers evidently don't much worry about what Floridians or anyone else thinks. Want proof? Consider the comments of Don Gaetz, Republican president of the Florida Senate. When asked about growler laws, Gaetz brazenly told the Tampa Bay Tribune he will support whatever his beer distributor friend and major donor asks him to support.

"I'm with the beer distributors in my district," Gaetz said."That's a very important issue because one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor...this time he's talking about growlers."

Gaetz certainly isn't alone. Contributions aren't just driving the views of Republicans. Anheuser-Busch has bought representation on both sides of the political aisle with more than $1 million in donations over the years. It's a fairly sad state of affairs.

House Bill 1329 may or may not come to a vote. Anheuser-Busch is obviously hoping to push it through, to the detriment of Florida craft brewers. Meanwhile, MillerCoors distributors support legalization of half gallon growlers with no additional strings attached. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Does Low Pay Help Drive Craft Brewery Growth?

It's hard to argue with success. And the craft beer industry is creating a lot of waves with its success. The Brewers Association's (unofficial) numbers for 2013 were released a short while ago and they show about what you'd expect. Growth across the board.

You can read the details here, but a few things really pop. Craft beer dollar share of the overall beer market hit $14.3 billion, up from $11.9 billion last year. Volume was up, too. We now have more than 2,700 craft breweries, including 413 that opened last year. There are many more on the way.

All of this gets some folks thinking about where this might be headed. Could we be getting close to some kind of saturation point? At what point are there too many craft breweries? I don't have any answers, if you're wondering. I tend to take the position that there's still plenty of room for small output brewpubs. I'm not so sure about production breweries, but I'll leave it at that.

I'm not the only one wondering about the state of the craft beer industry. The Oregon Employment Department recently released a report in which the author, Damon Rundberg, a regional economist who works out of the Bend office, rhetorically asks if the state might be "over-beered." The ongoing expansion, he says, suggests the answer is "no."

Beer fans need to read this report. It's full of all kinds of interesting factoids. For instance, there were 188 breweries operating in the state last summer. Portland and Bend have the most breweries. However, Hood River County, with a brewery for every 3,226 residents, has the most per capita. As Spock might say, "fascinating."

There are some rather enlightening employment stats in the report. More than 5,000 folks earned a living in craft beer as of last summer. That's less than 1 percent of the total private sector jobs in the state, but the brewing industry is growing rapidly and was up 10 percent from 2012. That's far better than the 2.7 percent in the private sector as a whole.

One of the things I had been wondering about recently was compensation. My sense for some time has been that craft beer is not a very lucrative venture for most who work in it. This isn't a new concept to me. I worked in the fitness and music industries for many years. Neither paid very well. I could talk about the publishing business, but never mind.

The Employment Department report is revealing. The majority of jobs in Oregon craft beer are in brewpubs, where the median pay was $12.61 an hour last year. Brewery workers make a little more...$16.24 an hour. Not surprisingly, average industry pay for 2013 was just over $28,000. That compares to $44,000 in the private sector at large, according to the report.

These are obviously some fairly shoddy numbers. To some extent, they are driven by the restaurant aspect of brewpubs, which employ a lot of part-time, often younger workers. Production breweries offer slightly better pay because jobs there are officially considered manufacturing. Still, not very good.

What does this mean? It means that craft beer is typical of a lot of industries in that most of the financial benefits go to the people who own or run the businesses. Average workers aren't in on the success, aren't making a decent living and never will as long as they stay in these jobs.

Of course, there is a proven way out. Once you've paid your dues and learned your way around, you open your own brewery or brewpub. This has happened countless times in Portland, in Oregon and around the country. It's old hat. People see opportunity and they jump. Part of the reason is it doesn't cost a zillion bucks to get started.

So if you want to fully account for the rampant growth in craft beer, it may be worthwhile to factor in the industry's shoddy pay scale as a force that encourages employees to go out on their own. At some point, that option may dry up. For now, it appears to be as good as gold.