UPDATE: Breckenridge Brewing from Colorado just sold to ABInBev. Here is their “change” quote: “We’ve been in this creative and dynamic industry for over 25 years, loving everything about it. That won’t change. The passion for quality and culture that got us where we are today isn’t going anywhere.”
“Nothing has changed.”
Perhaps you saw today that Camden Town Brewing Co was just purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). It seems we don’t even get time to mourn the craft loss of Four Peaks Brewing before the Macros enticed another small brewery. Since the announcement of a potential merger of AB InBev and South African Breweries Miller (SAB Miller), craft beer is on high alert. While the merger may not go through because of anti trust laws and the threat of a monopoly, the Macros have a beer domination backup plan. The idea? Purchase craft breweries in order to maintain a hold on the market and profits. This is a problem for craft beer and craft drinkers. I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last. All I can hope is that my two cents will sway at least one brewery from the dark side.
My hackles raise every time I see news of yet another small craft brewery being purchased by ABInBev or SABMiller or even Heineken. And you know what makes me even more upset? When that brewery releases its statement that “Nothing will change (now that we’re owned by this huge conglomerate that is throwing money at us)!” I can’t help but argue. A whole lot has changed.
People raised eyebrows when Goose Island sold to AB InBev in 2011. Since this was a first major sellout, there wasn’t huge backlash like we’re seeing these days. But when Craft beer really began taking bites out of the market share a few years later, Macro began fishing around for microbreweries ready to sell. Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing shocked the community by announcing its sale to AB Inbev in 2014 and from there it’s just been terrible news from month to month of yet another brewery sellout, all year long.
Elysian’s estimated $24 million buyout caused the largest ripple for a number of reasons. The press release stated that AB InBev purchased Elysian, who is known for their pumpkin ales, and that this was going to “build on past successes and share our beers with more beer lovers,” according to Elysian CEO. Not one week later on February 1st, Budweiser played a Super Bowl ad in which they literally make fun of pumpkin ales, making this new acquisition seem more like politics and less like sharing beer. This caused a huge uproar in the community (hell, I even blogged about it). A few months later, founder and brewer Dick Cantwell publicly resigned from Elysian stating that he is a craft brewer, not a macro brewer AND that his concerns regarding the purchase were ignored. What’s more, Budweiser continues its attack on craft beer despite purchasing 5 craft breweries this year alone.
A history of large beer corporate buyouts is not really the purpose of this post. Honestly, I just want to point out that whenever a small craft brewery is purchased, they can’t help themselves, they have to say in some form or another, “Nothing has changed!”
Which is bullshit. Sure your day-to-day hasn’t changed, maybe even your beer hasn’t changed. Craft beer drinkers are not concerned about your brewery’s internal changes. What they are concerned about is whether or not you are community based, local, collaborative, etc. Yet when you sellout, you tell consumers that those aren’t important traits. What has changed is that you no longer remain self built or self sustained. You’ve shown your true colors: you are in the beer industry for only money. You say you want to expand, or improve quality, or move into new markets. It doesn’t really matter what your base reasons are – in a nutshell, you don’t have enough money to do it, and aren’t willing to wait until you do.
When your beer used to sit proudly on a craft shelf it was taking profits and marketing away from Macro. Now that you’ve joined Macro, your beer sits deceptively on a craft shelf taking profits and marketing from OTHER CRAFT. You’ve contributed to the problem, rather than improve it. And this is what craft beer lovers are pissed off about; smaller and smaller pure craft choices, while purchased companies are masquerading around as community oriented.
Let’s see what all the ex-craft have to say about how little they’ve changed!
You say “nothing has changed!”
I say, if we don’t come together as a community, and fight the large corporations, nothing WILL change.