Where Does the AB-InBev Craft Project End?

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…

Here’s a quick­ly hacked togeth­er map of the US states where AB-InBev has acquired brew­eries so far:

Map of the US with AB-InBev acquisition states (Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Illinois, Virginia, New York, Arizona, Colorado) marked in yellow.
SOURCE: Adapt­ed from Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

(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?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Where Does the AB-InBev Craft Project End?”

News, Nuggets & Longreads 15 October 2016: Takeovers, Lay-Offs and Argy-Bargy

Here’s everything that’s grabbed our attention in the world of beer and pubs in the last week, from seismic industry movements to historic lagers.

For starters, there’s been quite a bit of news from the US.

We got to all of this news via Jason Notte (@Notteham) who also offers com­men­tary on Brook­lyn. Whether this is the cat­a­clysmic ‘shake out’ peo­ple have been proph­esy­ing (hop­ing for?) remains to be seen but it cer­tain­ly feels as if some big plates are shift­ing.

The debate at IndyManBeerCon
SOURCE: Kei­th Flett (@kmflett) via Twit­ter.

Clos­er to home, but not unre­lat­ed, accounts of an appar­ent­ly frac­tious debate at the Inde­pen­dent Man­ches­ter Beer Con­ven­tion (Indy­Man­Beer­Con) have begun to emerge. Soap opera aside there is some inter­est­ing con­tent here. Clau­dia Asch’s sum­ma­ry (she’s one of the organ­is­ers) reports that the slick, well-fund­ed Cloud­wa­ter is appar­ent­ly regard­ed as almost as big a threat as those shod­dy under­cut­ting brew­eries:

Sue [Hay­ward of Waen Brew­ery] and Gazza[[Prescott] from Hopcraft had a bit of a go at Cloud­wa­ter, for lack of a bet­ter word… The gist of Gaz­za and Sue’s argu­ment seemed to be: we can’t sell our beer because of Cloud­wa­ter. Can it be that sim­ple? Maybe, just maybe, Cloud­wa­ter are giv­ing the mar­ket what it wants? The beers sell eas­i­ly?

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 15 Octo­ber 2016: Takeovers, Lay-Offs and Argy-Bar­gy”

Is It OK Not To Be OK With Brewery Takeovers in 2016?

A few years ago if a big brewery took over a small one, it was a disaster – (almost) everyone agreed. But now, is the consensus in the process of swinging the other way?

In yes­ter­day’s News, Nuggets & Lon­greads round-up we men­tioned in pass­ing that New Zealand brew­ery Pan­head had been tak­en over by Lion and that peo­ple gen­er­al­ly seemed fine with this. This prompt­ed Luke Robert­son, who is based in Aus­tralia and blogs at Ale of A Time, to drop us an email. Quot­ed with his per­mis­sion, here’s a chunk of what he said:

To me it feels like peo­ple don’t want to be lumped in with the stereo­typ­i­cal angry beer nerds. So as a result every­one comes out in 100% full sup­port with­out a hint of any con­cern. I men­tioned to a good friend yes­ter­day that I think every­one is try­ing to out­do each oth­er in that aspect. With blind­ly pos­i­tive cheer­ing and clap­ping. The more pos­i­tive, the bet­ter; regard­less of what you actu­al­ly feel.

Deep down I think there is a lot of con­cern. Pan­head are beloved and the founder is a great guy who has built a great and unique brand with the beers to back it up. While Lion have han­dled their acqui­si­tions amaz­ing­ly well in both Aus and NZ, I think if peo­ple were pressed on the issue they would­n’t be as in sup­port as they are in pub­lic… I may be way off base but the lack of dis­sent­ing opin­ion, or any­thing that isn’t ‘Yay isn’t this awe­some?! GO BEER!’ is begin­ning to all seem a bit fake.

Sec­ond guess­ing whether what peo­ple say is sin­cere, unless you know them per­son­al­ly and well, is a mug’s game, but we have cer­tain­ly noticed the same shift in the (ahem) ‘dis­course’ and felt uneasy about it.

The Small is Beau­ti­ful par­ty line goes some­thing like this: big brew­eries tak­ing over lit­tle ones is nev­er good news; those brew­eries lose their char­ac­ter and the beers get more bor­ing; and over­all con­sumer choice is reduced as those beers become more ubiq­ui­tous. (We have some sym­pa­thy with this view.) And the most extreme crit­ics – the angri­est of the beer nerds – argue that it’s all part of a glob­al con­spir­a­cy to crush or at least con­trol the threat of craft beer. (Which can sound a bit hys­ter­i­cal but that does­n’t mean there’s not some­thing in it.)

Let’s wait and see if the beer changes before we com­plain, goes one of the well-estab­lished, more neu­tral lines of argu­ment. This is might be good news, goes anoth­er, because takeovers can increase the avail­abil­i­ty of a beloved brand, and might also improve qual­i­ty and con­sis­ten­cy. (On which more in a lat­er post.) And these kinds of deals get craft beer into more out­lets and so spread the word, advance the cause.

What we’ve been hear­ing in the last year or so, though, as the pace of acqui­si­tions has stepped up, is some­thing else: an expec­ta­tion that drinkers won’t just accept takeovers, or cau­tious­ly wel­come them, but will be delight­ed by them.

At the same time, any­one who does have con­cerns is dis­missed as imma­ture, or as a god-damned tree-hug­ging hip­py who should go and live in Sovi­et Rus­sia if they hate cap­i­tal­ism so much. (Sor­ry, straw-man­ning there. But only a bit.) Dis­sent is hys­te­ria – we got in on the act with this two paras up, for good­ness’ sake – and dis­senters are loons.

Maybe this is just a nat­ur­al turn for the con­ver­sa­tion to take – the result of fatigue after a decade or two of evan­ge­lis­ing, whoop­ing, brand­ed T‑shirt-wear­ing hop-tat­too craft beer trib­al tri­umphal­ism. And per­haps there’s some old-fash­ioned hip­ster­ish con­trar­i­an­ism in it, too.

"Likes Mainstream because liking mainstream is non-mainstream" hipster meme.

At any rate, if we were in charge of PR for a mul­ti-nation­al brew­ing firm we’d be delight­ed. The out­stand­ing ques­tion is, would we also be tak­ing cred­it? Would we be look­ing at a bill for lob­by­ing and ‘influ­enc­ing’ – a spon­sor­ship deal here, a blog­ger out­reach event there – and think­ing, ‘Well, that was mon­ey well-spent’?