New Belgium Brewery visits Craig to listen to business owners | CraigDailyPress.com

New Belgium Brewery visits Craig to listen to business owners

Noelle Leavitt Riley

Six New Belgium Brewery representatives visited Craig this week after several local business owners pulled the company's beer for supporting WildEarth Guardians, the environmental group that litigated against Colowyo Coal Mine and Trapper Mining, Inc.

Colowyo is at risk of closing due to a lawsuit against the federal agency that oversees the permitting process for the mine. Trapper had already mined the coal pit in question, so it will not be affected in the same way as Colowyo.

Earlier this week, Craig liquor stores and restaurants stopped selling several brands of beer, including New Belgium, because the brewing companies were listed as business supporters of WildEarth Guardians. A1 Liquors in Hayden also pulled the beer.

Craig businesses said they won't support any enterprise that gives money to the environmental group that put Colowyo at risk of closing.

Fort Collins-based New Belgium took the issue seriously and sent six people to Craig to listen to local business owners.

"They didn't even try to talk to us. They were here to listen and hear what we had to say," said Clyde Hettinger, who owns Dark Horse Liquor in Craig. "They said they weren't going to even try to have us put the beer back on the shelf. I thought it was a pretty good attitude on their part."

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Yet, the visit didn't prompt Hettinger to start selling New Belgium again.

The brewery told the Craig Daily Press earlier this week it has donated $9,000 to WildEarth Guardians since 2008 for watershed issues, not coal litigation.

"Specific to any work Wild Earth Guardians has done regarding the Colowyo and Trapper mines, we were unaware of it at the time and that is outside the scope of our grant allocations," New Belgium said in a statement.

Craig business owners said they don't care where the money went; New Belgium supported a group that could kill the livelihood of Craig.

"It's the company they supported. Regardless of how they supported them, they're supporting them," said Lori Gillam, owner of Stockmen's Liquor.

She did say, however, that the interaction with New Belgium was positive.

"We spent about 45 minutes talking to them. It went very good," she said.

New Belgium was gathering information on how to regain the trust of Craig residents, Gillam said.

"They want to earn Craig's trust back so that New Belgium can be a force up here," she said, highlighting that she's still not going to sell the beer.

Craig businesses also pulled Breckenridge Brewery products because it was listed as a company that supports WildEarth Guardians.

Breckenridge Brewery officials called Craig business owners on Thursday to clarify how they supported the environmental group. The brewery essentially gave a gift card to WildEarth Guardians.

"”Historically, Breckenridge Brewery has supported many nonprofit organizations through in-kind donations. In 2011, one of our affiliated restaurants donated a $30 gift card to WildEarth Guardians for a fundraising event that, to our knowledge, was not associated with ColoWyo and Trapper mines,” the company said in a statement.

Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or nriley@CraigDailyPress.com. Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.

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