Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"Big Beer" is Moving in on Craft Beer Scene

I can't blame them really - those craft brewers who hit the lottery. Think about it: you start a small brewpub in a little mountain town, and after a decade or so, you have a few locations and a thriving bottle business. And then someone offers you $50 million or so for the whole operation. That's tough to walk away from. That's tough to say, "No, I want to keep going to work each day and earning a nice, but not extravagant living." And, that's the way it was last month when the soul of craft brewing was rattled to its core by news of In-Bev's purchase of local favorite, Breckenridge Brewery. But it wasn't just about Breck Brew - the international beer behemoth bought up five other craft breweries. And the wrinkles in the spirit of the industry continue, as Jeremy Meyer of the Denver Post notes in his examination of In-Bev moving into the up-and-coming River North  neighborhood of Denver:

Big Beer has discovered the market and desperately wants in. Whether corporate beer will be accepted and whether its incursion will spoil the good thing we have going are good questions.
Anheuser-Busch InBev recently acquired Breckenridge Brewing, which even Gov. John Hickenlooper said left him with a feeling of loss. In another development, 10 Barrel Brewing, an Oregon-based brewery that was bought by AB InBev, just announced it was opening a pub in the River North district. Upon this news, many craft beer lovers took to social media to say they would stay far away from 10 Barrel out of allegiance to independent brewers.

"I'm neither interested in drinking InBev beer or giving them my money on a regular basis ... or at all," said Annie Sugar, a beer lover and research associate at the University of Colorado. "InBev's business ethics and practices will not allow me to support their products." Beer lover Luc Sauer had the same response. "I will be unlikely to visit the pub, especially given its ownership," he said. "The craft beer business movement has historically been one of remarkable cooperation. ... AB InBev seems to be afraid because they are losing share in their fizzy yellow beer sales and so are trying to drive out any competition to anything that isn't theirs."

I don't know if the news of these aquisitions is catastophic to the craft industry. But it sure feels a lot like the Wal-mart-ization of the craft beer industry. And losing that artisan spirit is a loss for us all.

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