Who should have to pay for 2.6 million bottles worth of bad pumpkin beer?

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Photo courtesy of Shipyard Brewing Company

Photo courtesy of Shipyard Brewing Company

What we’re talking about

Who should have to pay for more than 2.6 million bottles worth of bad pumpkin beer? —That’s the question an insurance company is asking a judge in Maine federal court to settle.

Over the summer, a batch of Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Pumpkinhead ale was spoiled when bacteria got into the brew. Although the bacteria is not dangerous, the company chose not to release the beer and asked its insurer to cover the loss. The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Co. refused after investigating, but Shipyard insists that it should be covered.

The Connecticut-based subsidiary of insurance giant Travelers is now suing for a declaratory judgment on whether Shipyard’s insurance policy covers the bad beer, which brewery president Fred Forsley estimated to be worth millions.

In July, two types of bacteria that are common to beer and yogurt but not usually included in Pumpkinhead were detected in a batch of the seasonal ale being brewed at a contract facility in Tennessee, according to the complaint, filed Wednesday. These bacteria can change the taste of beer, according to the complaint, and Forsley said that the Pumpkinhead didn’t meet Shipyard’s quality standards.

“It wasn’t acceptable product to us so we elected not to sell it,” he said. “None of the product made it into the market.”

A lawyer for Charter Oak declined to comment but in court documents the company says that it shouldn’t have to cover beer not sold because the flavor wasn’t right.

“To the extent the claimed loss of stock was caused by or resulted from a change in flavor of bottled Pumpkinhead associated with the presence of the bacteria, the [losses] claimed by Shipyard are not covered,” states the complaint.

Pumpkinhead normally has a “subtle spiced flavor,” according to Shipyard’s website. Forsley wasn’t ready to say that the taste was the problem.

“It can be debated if it’s about the taste, or about the flavor, or if you just don’t want [these bacteria] in the beer,” he said. — Jake Bleiberg

Speaking of beerDarren Fishell confirms what you’ve probably suspected: The number of new breweries has skyrocketed in the past 25 years.

Since 1991, the number of federally licensed breweries in Maine has jumped 3,200 percent.

That number — really, 3,200 percent — is not a typo. And it’s not out of line with what’s happening at the national level, where the number of breweries surged 2,150 percent from 1991 through September of this year, according to federal figures.

Portland is banking on faster internet to help grow its economy — Jake today dug into the economics behind the city’s push to boost internet speeds:

With the shift in American jobs from manufacturing to the service and information sectors projected to continue, the availability of high-speed, low-cost internet is likely to become an increasingly important factor in where businesses choose to locate their operations.

But it’s an area where Portland lags behind other American cities with broadband. And despite the availability of high-speed internet infrastructure throughout the state, Maine was estimated to have some of the worst internet access in the country in 2014.

Hospitality workers of Portland! — This viral tale of a man who clearly doesn’t know how to interact with waitstaff came across my feed today. If this — or something like it — has happened to you, let me know.

Tweet of the day

From a fictional children’s book character:

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The Big Idea

It’s the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootingsI was on an early shift four years ago at the New York Post when the first reports came over Twitter about a possible school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The next 12 hours were a blur. But after the first editions went out and the newsroom emptied to the skeleton night crew, I still had one number in my notes that I had to call.

We had stumbled upon Neil Heslin’s phone number in our reporting earlier in the day, and I blindly dialed it late in the evening, not sure who would I reach, or what his connection was to that morning’s massacre. He answered, and was friendly, though audibly distraught. He was still waiting alone in the firehouse for someone to tell him whether his son was dead. He seemed thankful just to have someone to talk to.

At first, I was just excited to get the first interview with a parent. But the longer we talked, the more my objectivity softened, and the less the scoop mattered. Eventually, authorities confirmed his worst fears. I called him back after deadline to talk more. I got home around 3 a.m. and the weight of the day — and Neil’s loss — finally hit me.

I reported on every mass shooting and major horror of 2012 and early 2013 for the Post — the Boston Marathon bombings and the Colorado movie theater massacre, for instance. But every year, on this day, I think about Neil, waiting alone in the firehouse. That image stuck with me more than any other.


Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.