Breweries are purchased by global beer companies like ABInBev (Bud for short) all the time. They’re also acquired by investment firms and even other the large breweries that increasingly are becoming larger players in the beer market. There often is a disproportionate amount of anger and concern someone sells out to Bud instead of a non-Bud company. And they think they have good reasons, but their energy might be misplaced.
Jacob McKean takes on the continuing PR push by beer conglomerates to both acquire craft breweries (which often made their bones by slamming “big beer’) and prevent any real consumer blowback. It’s a war Bud clearly is winning handily. People drink Boulevard and Ballast Point and truly enjoy them. Goose Island is on tap everywhere. Even as the industry grows, people don’t seem to care who makes the beer they’re drinking.
This last sentence, more even than the mis-information and lazy journalism by beer writers he (rightly) denounces is what, I think, makes people like McKean and other brewers a little squirrely. There’s a bubbling beer apathy that brewers need to deal with on a national level, but they need to do it locally. There’s nothing wrong with expansion but craft brewers who try to do it without any local support might be up against a tough crowd.
As I’ve repeated (regularly and ad-nauseum) on the Beer with Strangers podcast, we’re lucky on the Shore. Our breweries are part of the communities they’re in and, even the bigger ones like Dogfish and Evolution take care of the Shore first. They’re also careful not to expand beyond their reasonable reach and all have grown responsibly over the last five (ish) years. The expansion plans I’ve heard from locals seem to be equally responsible.
But there still are plenty of local places that carry Bud-owned craft beers and sell them right next to local beers and (again) very few beer drinkers notice or care. There are people who like Blue Moon and Goose Island so attacking them on flavor doesn’t make sense. We have to be honest here: it is the superior culture, not the superior quality or taste that matters to most people. Bud’s success has lots of facets, but the main one is making people feel like they’re part of something. It’s how branding works. As I mentioned yesterday, those of us who love local craft beer have a responsibility to be welcoming rather than exclusive. The best way for all of us to do that is to laud local beer and tie it to local pride. It’s tougher, but it’s a lot more effective than waiting for a wave of anti-Bud rage that clearly isn’t coming.
Drink what you like and be happy.