It’s been a while since AB took over a craft brewery but today, they struck again, taking over a Texas brewery we’d never heard of but…
Karbach sold 19,000 barrels in 2013 and 55,000 last year. We all should've seen this one coming.
— Zach Fowle (@ZachFowle) November 3, 2016
Here’s a quickly hacked together map of the US states where AB-InBev has acquired breweries so far:
(Note: that’s Alaska and Hawaii tucked in underneath for tidiness as is the norm for discrete maps of the US.)
Can you see a strategy emerging? We’re not sure we can, not quite yet, but there might be a vague correlation with states where people have relatively higher incomes. If what’s driving their decisions is that, combined with a reach for geographical coverage — which would make some kind of sense — then we’d be placing bets on the next target being a fast-growing brewery in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota). After that… Maybe they’ll just go all in and aim for a presence in every state?
So, that’s the US (where — just a reminder — we’ve never been and only know-about through books and articles, so cut us some slack) but what about Europe? As far as we can tell their only craft beer acquisitions so far have been in the UK (Camden), Italy (Birra del Borgo) and Belgium (Bosteels, which is debatable). Here’s (very roughly bodged) how that looks:
In some ways, this is easier to read: these are simply the countries where you might say, in one form or another, ‘craft beer’ is a big ‘thing’ right now. So, in terms of where might be next: France just topped 1,000 breweries ahead of schedule; Germany is definitely having some kind of craft beer moment, although it’s complicated — what is the German version of Camden? Assuming some of these countries go through the same explosion the UK has, leading to a slew of brand-savvy and rapidly expanding craft breweries, here’s a guess at how it might look in two or three years time:
Add to that the purchase of indie distributors here and there (France, the UK) and the very odd acquisition of a US homebrew supply firm, what else can they be up to other than an attempt to build an entirely AB-InBev owned craft beer infrastructure?
In which case, might they not also fancy a magazine or two? A festival-conference operation such as Craft Beer Rising?
And some BrewDog style bars of their own, too? Draft House might look tasty in the UK, especially given the involvement of Luke Johnson, famous for taking over, expanding and selling off firms like Pizza Express and (beer related) Belgo.
Whatever happens the next few years are going to be interesting and, frankly, we’re interested to see the finished product.