"i invited him to sample a rare wine down in my family vault where i will brick him in"
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Editor’s note: Welcome to the 44 new Friends of Fingers who have subscribed since last week. We’re glad you’re here!
For more original reporting on the booze business, labor, and beyond, please subscribe to Fingers now. I’m running a sale on annual subscriptions through 10/22/21:
Thanks for supporting independent journalism.—Dave
I don’t often find myself admitting this, but it’s been a very good week here at Fingers HQ. Some highlights:
Monday: I published a fun/upsetting (fupsetting?) look at the chaotic Instagram account of Bang Energy’s CEO. It’s already one of the boozeletter’s most-viewed stories of all time.
Tuesday: Jonah Furman (writer of Who Gets The Bird?, a vital newsletter that tracks union drives, elections, and other comings-and-goings) tweeted my picket-line interview with a striking Heaven Hill worker. The piece was then retweeted by ascendant labor leader Sara Nelson—the second time she’s put Fingers in front of her 73,000+ pro-labor Twitter followers in the past three weeks. (The first time was this story.)
Wednesday: After 1.5 years of publishing Fingers for free, I took the plunge and launched paid subscriptions. The response so far has blown me away. Thank you so, so much to everyone who shared the announcement on social media, bought subscriptions, and sent me texts and emails of encouragement. Fingers has been an amazing project so far, and I can’t wait to collaborate with you, the esteemed Friends of Fingers, on awesome new aspects of the boozeletter. I can’t do it without your financial support, so if you haven’t pulled the trigger yet, I hope you’ll consider purchasing a subscription now:
Also Wednesday: In the middle of all the launch chaos, Fingers got a big link-out from Garbage Day, a popular, insanely smart newsletter about internet culture written by Ryan Broderick. Garbage Day is one of my favorite newsletters, so for Fingers to get an introduction to its (much larger!) audience was a real treat.
Thursday: More subscriptions rolled in and made me feel good about myself, and journalist Eoin Higgins reprinted my Heaven Hill interview in his newsletter The Flashpoint, getting the story of the strike at the world’s biggest bourbon distillery out to a whole new readership.
Friday: Is today, and I’m sending you this newsletter.
That’s a lot of good shit right there. All that action did wonders for Fingers’ subscriber list (see above.) And that growth, coupled with the big reception you all gave the paid subscription launch, made me more certain than ever that people want to read award-winning journalism, interviews, and cultural criticism about how, what, and why they drink. Paid subscriptions make that work possible. I’m going to be saying this a lot over the course of the next month, but seriously, thank you to everyone who bought subscriptions this week.
And for those of you that haven’t yet, the launch special is still running through October 22nd! Score 25% off a yearly subscription at your earliest convenience to support independent reporting and commentary on drinking in America, wouldja?
One more time: thanks for your support of Fingers. Media has been a mess of an industry for as long as I’ve been a part of it, but your generous subscriptions and kind words make me feel a little less bad about it at the moment. Like I said, it was a good week. Onward!
📬 Good post alert
🎙️ Bonus pod: The pseudoscientific spectacle of @BangEnergy.CEO
For your listening pleasure, I recorded an audio read of Monday’s newsletter. Check it out:
Remember to subscribe to The Fingers Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss new episodes as I publish them. All previous episodes can be found on those platforms, or in The Fingers Podcast archive.
🔝This week’s top comment
When I announced that Fingers was launching paid subscriptions this week, I received an incredible amount of validating, generous, and downright flattering social media chatter. Frankly, it made me a little embarra—lmao just kidding, it was TIGHT, I loved every minute of it. Thank you again to everyone who showed support and helped me get the word out about the boozeletter’s bold next step.
But I do want to take this opportunity to clear something up—to squash the beef, as it were—with my former editor and friend, journalist Hanna Raskin, who took gentle umbrage with by line about flailing at my old newspaper gig:
I responded quickly on Twitter, but allow me to reiterate before man, god, and all Friends of Fingers gathered here: Hanna was the best thing about my job at the paper, bar none. In fact, she was the only reason I took the job! My woes had everything to do with the vagaries of “filling the paper”—the sword of Damocles at every print newspaper, I’m told, and a major reason I’m not keen to work at one again—and nothing to do with Hanna herself.
Creatively stymieing, she isn’t. Once, during the early days of the pandemic, we got a tip that a restaurant was reselling $2 Costco pizzas for $18 apiece to customers who didn’t realize they were getting gouged. Hanna got the brilliant idea that we should stake out the joint under the cover of darkness, which we did. Then, once we’d confirmed the fix was in, she went through a dumpster to find the telltale Costco pizza carton, then wrote the whole escapade up as a classic Raskin banger.
I say all that to say this: Hanna recently left the newspaper to launch her own newsletter, The Food Section, about dining in the American South. I bought a subscription the moment she began selling them, and I highly recommend you do that right now. The Costco pizza caper is just a sliver of the curious, unflinching, and, yes, creative reportage she’s capable of. 10/10, I’m long on The Food Section. Fingers will have an interview and podcast with Hanna out in a week or so with more about both her and her project, but for the time being, know that she was responsible for exactly 0% of your pal Dave’s creative stymieing. None! Nada! Zilch!
🎉 Sticker update!
As of Thursday night (9/23), all of the stickers I set aside for the first 50 people to purchase annual subscriptions have been spoken for. If you were one of the first 50, you’ll be hearing from me separately so I can get your mailing address and send you your rightfully earned swag—plus a handwritten note from your fearless Fingers editor, as promised! Of course, though the stickers are gone, the discount on annual subscriptions remains. Don’t miss out if you haven’t taken advantage yet!
As for the Fingers Founding Member holographic stickers: I’ve still got plenty of inventory, but it is finite. So if you’ve got the financial wherewithal, and you find yourself with a burning desire for a slick, shiny, limited-edition Fingers badge of honor, consider throwing down for the higher-tier membership. This extra support goes a long way. (This is also a good time to say a special thank you to all those readers that have already become Fingers Founding Members. I’ll be in touch soon to schedule our 1:1 virtual beers!)
If you’re not in line for either sticker right now, know that I plan to make additional runs of new sticker designs in coming weeks/months. Maybe I’ll sell six-packs of Fingers for a nominal fee? I don’t know yet. Make sure you keep reading Fingers for details on that when I figure it out.
🧾 The Bottom Shelf
The Bottom Shelf is a round-up of headlines from across the beverage landscape (plus some stray items from everywhere else) that caught my interest since last Friday. I’m still experimenting with how to best use this section, so for this go ‘round I’m going to include interesting stuff from the past workweek, as well as a copy-paste of the links I included in Monday’s email, in case you missed them. Pop into the comments to let me know if like/hate that approach!
From the workweek that was:
Twin Cities Craft Beverage Organizer Sets Sights on Statehouse: Sheigh Freeberg, the UNITE HERE Local 17 organizer I interviewed for my story on the remarkable union movement amongst Minneapolis/St. Paul’s breweries and distilleries, announced this week his plans to run for the MN State Senate. I have no idea how viable the labor organizer-to-state politician pipeline is in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but I guess we’ll find out!
Colectivo Coffee Workers’ Union Win Isn’t Final Yet: The union drive at Milwaukee coffee chain Colectivo was one of the biggest and gnarliest in the craft beverage space to date. Discourse Blog’s Sam Grasso had a good piece (possible paywall) on the 300-350 workers’ fight, which eventually proved victorious after a nail-biter that included some challenged ballots. But it’s not over yet: according to a post to the union’s Instagram, management is challenging union certification in a federal hearing slated for 9/29. Stay tuned.
DoorDash Marketplace Expands into On-Demand Alcohol Delivery: The third-party delivery (3PD) giant announced this week that it’ll begin offering booze delivery options via its massive marketplace. There’s tons of money in on-demand drinks, so DoorDash’s move makes plenty of sense. But it also means there’s another massive firm joining Uber/Drizly and Postmates in the category, and the companies have a track record of spending hundreds of millions of dollars to engineer their preferred regulatory outcomes. Which does necessarily bode well for the workers that make those platforms run. (More on that below.)
From Monday’s newsletter:
Starbucks Is Waging a Ridiculous, Sinister Union-Busting Campaign: As Buffalo Starbucks workers continue to organize for an upcoming union election, the corporation continues to give the lie to its progressive veneer by engaging in union-busting 101. The coffee giant is trying to expand voting eligibility to all 450 workers in the city, rather than just those at the unionizing stores, in a classic effort to water-down the election. It’s also sending its executives to do menial tasks in its Buffalo locations, resulting in incredibly cringe-y moments of “one big family” corporate vaudeville like this lol:
Revolt of the Delivery Workers: For Curbed, Josh Dzieza went long on the daily indignities, exploitations, and dangers delivery guys in NYC contend with as they fulfill dozens of orders for shit pay from billion-dollar platforms like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. One worker calls the platforms “patrón fantasma, the phantom boss — always watching and quick to punish you.” This is excellent reporting and it has implications for the drinking public, too: Uber acquired booze delivery leader Drizly earlier this year for $1B, and delivery platform goPuff has been buying up smaller platforms.
How a WV Barrel Company Is Turning Heads in the Bourbon Industry: A nifty little look from my long-ago Thrillist compatriot Bill Kearney at how an Appalachian cooperage is trying to break into the clandestine, highly lucrative business of of bourbon barrel manufacture using infrared and CNC tech.
BuzzBallz, TikTok and the Mechanics of Accidental Virality: “We’ve gone from, ‘I am drinking a Four Loko and it’s funny because the can is really ugly and there’s weird chemicals in it,’ to, ‘I am drinking a BuzzBall and I’m glad that my money is going to a women-owned company which cares enough to list all the ingredients on the front of the plastic sphere-can.’”
If you haven’t followed Fingers yet, you’re missing out on daily original memes about the booze business. Don’t do that! Do this instead:
Your feed will thank you. (Not really, that would be weird. But you know what I mean.)