This thread is for Beastie and I to discuss how AB InBev is good for craft beer.
So, I see you are surprised that behind the scenes brewers are not all hugging each other and making love not war. This is an important observation because some do believe the myth that there is no competition or real business in craft beer, just group back massages and people putting in hard work in return for the feels. They might also believe in a binary world there are two teams – small and large – which are also good and evil, right versus wrong.
But in today’s industry there are all sorts of sizes of brewery, many companies brewing for the local market and internationally for any market, using myriads of types of financing. There are small international breweries and largish single state breweries.
In terms of whether the incidences you mentioned are good or not for craft, let’s get a few things straight
(1) if these incentive programs had any effect on the number of brewers out there wasn’t the brass tacks effect that we have more craft brewers than at any point in history?
(2) if they negatively affected consumer choice in any real way, how is it that we greater consumer choice than at any other time in history?
Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) populations increase when a predator is introduced to their environment. Their mating behavior increases and they develop schooling behaviors that enhance their ability to elude predation. In a similar way, market advantages by larger breweries are in part responsible for the greater development of brewpubs, more craft distribution companies – including those owned by craft brewers, and better cooperative strategic approaches by small players which helped some smaller brewers rise into the international powerhouses they are today.
Jez, so many logical errors and deception. I’ll address these after I put my kid to sleep tonight But, in general: I feel like I’m in bizarro land with you all of a sudden. Guppies?
I have a hard time with Joe’s assertion that AB-Inbev is good for craft beer.
However, I think it’s true that the line between who is good and bad has become blurry and craft doesn’t mean nearly as much if anything anymore. Boston Beer Company and Brooklyn can eat a shoe as far as I’m concerned, so can Duvel-Moortgat, Stone, and Schneider. Independence in itself has nothing to do with quality or customer concern (regardless of what the BA would like) and size is getting to be more and more of a continuum (as opposed to the reality of multi-million barrel brewers and <10 000 barrel brewer split we had some years ago)
There is something to be said about countries where macro swill dominated and the ability for micro-breweries to flourish vs countries with a strong brewing tradition and multiple established brands choking out the new school. CZ, BE, DE, and GB are no strangers to craft beer because of how engrained brewing is in those cultures but countries that were beer wastelands like SE, DK, CA, NL, & US thrived from having that huge production disparity and only fighting one very easily identifiable adversary (blond, bland, macro brewed lager).
Still think joet swallowed too much kool-aid though.
There is also some need for reality check here when opposing ‘big beer’. If, by a miracle, all the ‘bland blond generic lager’ disappeared all of a sudden, do you seriously believe all the beer drinkers would flock to craft beer? Sadly no, based on my experience with my non-craft drinker friends. Every year I take a number of good samples of the current craft beer market to my hometown with me, and have tasting evening with friends. Invariably the results is ‘these are fine but…’ fill in the black with ‘too heavy, too bitter, too sweet, too sour, too strange for me.’ There is market for everything as long as it continues to expand. A lot of people prefer the bland blond stuff. On the other hand, if the corporations think that they can just stifle the craft beer trend, they are also deluded. As fast as they keep buying the larger craft brewers, smaller ones replace them, but only for people like us. The former crafts now owned by the big corporations now serve an economically optimized version of their products, to an intermediate crowd who believe they drink ‘trendy craft beers’ when they have a Goose Island IPA. Here’s a market with at least three mostly distinct segments then.
Bridgeport Brewing (owned by Gambrinus) announced its closure today.
While I don’t think that they were taken over to shut down, I do think we are going to find out how good these investments were for the multinationals. Bridgeport could well be the start of a big correction. When these companies, operating on razor thin margins, start to become unprofitable, do people really expect them to get more money? How will that be good for craft?
(And let’s be honest. If RB keeps sinking in the Alexa site rankings, will ZX keep pouring money into it?)
In other words, when the adversary is less identifiable, “craft” breweries would less likely be able to thrive.
That’s what many are afraid of when they hear about AB InBev acquisitions
Undoubtedly there will always be need for the low common denominator for the larger consumer base: macro lager, vodka, block cheese, sliced bread (whatever that chemical blob is called), cheap pop songs, Nutella, tv game shows…
Yes. I’m not too shocked when a brewery is bought out or closes, because another one will start tomorrow.
I don’t know what brought Bridgeport to close.
But one way for small fish (guppy?) to survive is to stay away from the predators.
In this case, the predator is invading the territory of the small fish…
A side note, just noticed a local small brewery releasing a “light lager”.
It tastes like water.
Are they trying to fight the Coors/Bud Lite market? a friend in the industry believes that they will sell just because in Vancouver (an specifically the city called North Vancouver) people like ot buy local.
You are comparing your ratebeer sale to abinbev to selling to a predator. How is this a good thing?
Sure, evil might make part of the ‘prey’ population stronger, but that’s no reason to make evil stronger. It’s like supporting crime to make the police better.
Really weird argument.
There is a lot to be said about AB-InBev, in order to simply things I will briefly focus on the situation in Belgium. In Belgium AB-InBev owns a lot of property and bars and has many contracts with bars where the bars are tied to serving their beer only for a number of tap handles and they can choose what a bar serves. Several other large breweries maintain the same system. Those bars cannot offer other brands even if their the customers want. Some rare bars do, risking their very own business. They own space in supermarket shelves and enforce so that other brands cannot claim that space since they have the biggest selling brands they have their own say. Example several supermarket chains where stale Goose Island flagship beers sit that no one wants, taking away space from speciality beer. AB-InBev, Interbrew at the time and their currant brands were partially responsible for the demise of a lot of Belgian brewing culture, breweries etc.
The real speciality breweries in Belgium largely exist due to the courage and hard work of select individuals who did a lot of hard work. They preserved the tradition that people appreciate. The bars that choose to avoid contracts from big breweries and took a financial risk are the ones who sell local specially beer and sell foreign craft. Those are the bars on the best places list of RB for Belgium. The local geeks, the rouge brewers, the bars that took the hard way these are the pioneers. AB-InBev is just trying to cash in on their hard work and push them out.
Clear example in Belgium, breweries like Boon, 3 Fonteinen, Cantillon and select individuals risk their livelihoods, preserved for years to keep the real lambiek traditional alive. AB-InBev is now selling supposedly traditional lambiek coasting on their hard work for double the price almost of a Boon Black Label and I tried their Kriek Lambiek tastes like oxidized soured sweet cherry garbage and costs a fortune.
Saying that AB-InBev is good for craft here is sad and insult to so many hard working individuals whose work you apparently pretend to value.
Another well known example, which proves AB Inbev would do anything to harm craft beer:
So with JoeT being the new spokesman of AB Inbev, may I call this site AB RateBev from now on?
We’ve fallen a really, really far way to see Joe Tucker employed as a mouthpiece for big beer. I’ve been a pessimist about the future of this site under the given leadership for a long time, but by no means did I ever expect this. It’s like fucking bizarro land, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it.
ABInbev’s passion is growth and making money. Beer is the way they achieve this. It doesnt get more simple than that.
Most of us here continue to get excited by beer through the honest brewing passion touched on by 77ships above, and the general craft beer community which shares the same passion and is driving craft beer’s resurgence.
None of us buy that a massive brewing behemoth has our best interests at heart. They want our money, pure and simple
Starbucks is good for your locally roasted coffee shop.
Walmart is good for your neighborhood mom-and-pop store.
You’re finally catching on!
Have another sip of the ABInBev kool-aid, everything’s gonna be alright lol
This is actually a great example of how a little cynicism with an added dash of confirmation bias plus a sure as heck scoop of fear forms a public opinion.
As much as I respect Jason Notte, his article paints a very skewed picture. This article at All About Beer (arguably the best beer publication we the beer community have ever had in our lifetimes) is a more informational, 360 look and better reveals the complexity of the issue, although I also disagree that AB InBev is “attempting to control the supply of ingredients to the industry.” It’s, in this case, simply trying to fairly allocate supply outside of its own company. Further, every scaling company does all it can to control cost factors for their product and there are dozens of breweries growing hops, creating retail spaces, or starting distro companies. Does this really mean they’re trying to control industry supplies?
Similar story in Switzerland, directly from the bar owner: the big brewery lends money to owner so he can start the business, that’s how they get in the “contract”; the contract per se doesn’t limit the variety of beers that they serve, but they need to meet a monthly quota, so if they put too many craft beers on (or sell too many craft bottles) they risk.
Not so long ago @Travlr told me how AbInbev tried to help Cigar City by lobbying over and over for new laws which would prohibit CC to sell their beer at their premises. I’m pretty sure this is just one of many examples out there.
Which brings me to another topic. I wonder what craft beer industry people think about Joes “AbInbev is good” epiphany. I wonder if the brewers and owners of breweries which attended RB Festival in 2016 share his views. I’m sure they do, after all AbInbev makes beers brewed the hard way.
No way am I buying that AB or other large share macros are good for craft beer. Literally, they are competitors in a perhaps not zero, but close to zero sum game. The moral judgements against AB etc. are individually determined. But factually I think we can agree that Bud is competing with craft breweries. We sometimes get myopic here. Perhaps the average RBian would rather drink craft cocktails than cheap beer. But, a huge percentage of craft beer is sold to regular people who just occasionally or perhaps often, want a beer. They can go either way.