News AB InBev's ZX Ventures Buys Minority Stake In RateBeer

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Jason, Jun 3, 2017.

  1. LuskusDelph

    LuskusDelph Aspirant (286) May 1, 2008 New Jersey

    Count me as one of the people who could care less "who owns what".
    As far as I'm concerned, what's important is the quality of the products they turn out. If anything, I've observed that in some cases, the quality and consistency of the beers improve after these buyouts.
    HenriqueAbreu and beerguy04 like this.
  2. syppr

    syppr Initiate (26) May 19, 2011 Florida

    And Bourbon County 2015 is an example.
    FFFjunkie and buckeye1275 like this.
  3. Miles_in_beer_city

    Miles_in_beer_city Aspirant (210) Jun 18, 2014 North Carolina

    But clearly not true for GI IPA
  4. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (299) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico
    Beer Trader

    Just wondering.. Not trying to attack you but has your grocery store/gas station/restaurant scene changed at all in the past few years? For me, GI is in places that is really shouldn't be. My area is home to the last 4 Brewing News national IPA challenge winners, and GI IPA is stealing tap handles. Tell me how that makes sense... Now of course, if you love GI IPA, its not an issue. I can definitely see where some areas are wastelands of craft beer, and AB INBEV improves it dramatically. But for other regions, Four Peaks and Elysian to name just a few, are stealing shelf space like no other. I mentioned before, but its not just truly local. Oskar Blues, Deschutes, and Odell are losing tap space. I couldnt tell you the last time I saw either 3 on tap at more than one place in my metro area of 1 million people.

    I value choice, over what AB INBEV wants us to believe is choice, but is more of a perceived choice. SO I definitely cannot be totally blind about "quality" above all else.. I think for most regions, quality is all around and AB INBEV is stumbling into regions as a bully and taking tap handles from beers that may be just as on par with AB INBEV. If we had a choice, why wouldn't you want to support the smaller guy?
  5. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (274) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    This is a stomach churning acquisition. I view it as part of their broader online strategy though. ABI believes that online delivery is the next big space in craft. I wouldn't be shocked if they are working on a way to add "buy this beer" style button to Ratebeer (a la Drizzly, Amazon Fresh, etc.), emphasizing their own brands of course. I'm unsure of the legality of that in all states, but very easy to picture given conversations I've had.

    That's what happens when GI IPA is 1/2 the price of other beers. Most craft drinkers (though probably not the majority of those on this site) ask for styles rather than specific beers. "What IPA do you have?" Thanks PromOpti...
  6. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Disciple (375) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    So when is the Beer Advocate Awards Dinner?
  7. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,468) Aug 23, 1996 California

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  8. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Disciple (375) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    I know, I was suggesting you replace the Rate Beer Awards Dinner given the questionable ethics with Inbev behind them.
    Sammy likes this.
  9. zid

    zid Savant (924) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    The reported comment from ZX Ventures on the deal supports my amateur conjecture earlier in the thread:

    I think that people who are seeing this as having a different benefit to AB-InBev (using RateBeer as a more direct commercial platform or channel) are undervaluing consumer data as a commodity. The deal is mutually beneficial. RateBeer can tap the resources of ZX to grow in various markets and integrate themselves further with consumers... and then ZX benefits from the better data that results.

    From the standpoint of the user who does not want to support AB-InBev - As people here suggest that every Goose Island purchase provides dollars for AB-InBev's growth, the same is true for a RateBeer user. Every interaction that the RateBeer user provides is contributing to the data that AB-InBev will wield to their benefit (in theory). If they are aware of this, each user can decide if that matters to them or not.

    I would think that the owners of this lovely site are thinking through all of the ramifications involved.
  10. rgordon

    rgordon Crusader (782) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I find the wording, "kind of keep our finger on the pulse" intentionally low key, towards disingenuous.
    ovaltine likes this.
  11. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania


    I'd further suggest that is also the underlying motivation behind the acqusition of Northern Brewer. What better way to keep a finger on the pulse of home brewers than to know what they are buying and what are some of the best selling options. Similarly how better to test market the potential desirability of new hop varieties. (And at minimal costs for data collection.)

    My thinking about the value of the data to the marketing researchers includes the notion that they'd not be "contaminating" a valuable data source by also using it as platform to try and sell their own brands. Especially when their target market is not folks like us, but we may be seen as predictive of certain things on the horizon.
    #91 drtth, Jun 5, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
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  12. Alexmc2

    Alexmc2 Aspirant (274) Jul 29, 2006 Massachusetts

    You're not wrong; the breadth of data they've already got access to in terms of IRI, other syndicated data and granular sales information is pretty impressive. Now they'll be able to tap directly into consumer sentiment to view trends. It is the digital version of what they're doing with their pubs (all the craft acquisitions have them). Yes, those help build the brands and directly provide revenue, but they're also great windows into consumer trends.
    denver10, zid and drtth like this.
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I, on the other hand, find it quite descriptive of actual intent. Why spend money of a fresh source of water and then contaminate it before you can use it?
    #93 drtth, Jun 5, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
  14. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Disciple (375) May 3, 2016 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Rate Beer could have just become a data seller, they didn't need to sell an ownership stake to a beer company....InBev could have paid a going market rate for the data. Now that data is corrupted. It isn't a legal ethical violation, but it is a moral ethics violation.

    It's similar to the credit rating agencies that gave free passes to shoddy securities because they were beholden to those brokers. RateBeer is now in the pocket of Inbev and has no more credibility....
  15. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Except that assumes that all the useful data worth buying are currently available to be sold and that there's no way to improve the quality of the data or its collection.
    LambicPentameter likes this.
  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,446) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member


    Now that ABI has ownership in RateBeer that will indeed affect things.


    Edit: I am reminded of the concept of the Observer Effect.
    Lone_Freighter likes this.
  17. rgordon

    rgordon Crusader (782) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    I kind of read that differently.
  18. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yep, I noticed.
  19. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,346) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    They have been rolling out homebrewing kits from the captive brands. Goose Island, Golden Road, and Elysian so far.

    They can see how these sell vs. the legacy kits NB had.

    There is also a kit using the South African hops that they now control.
    drtth likes this.
  20. ypsifly

    ypsifly Meyvn (1,028) Sep 22, 2004 Michigan

    I say we saddle up and head over to RB and start skewing some data.
    Rbarnes4381, denver10, BSW and 6 others like this.
  21. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Ahhh, thanks. Did not know about that yet.
  22. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Not worth your time and energy. It will get buried in the statistical nose and barely noticable, if at all.
    LambicPentameter likes this.
  23. zid

    zid Savant (924) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    Of course people can view that statement as a smokescreen... in which case, the speculation will just continue to grow. :slight_smile:
    Sammy, drtth and rgordon like this.
  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,446) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Premium Member

    I did not anticipate that this could be an effect of ABI being a part owner of RateBeer. Very interesting concept.

  25. emannths

    emannths Initiate (199) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    For those speculating this is about's probably not about the existing data. They could scrape the entire RB/BA databases for a couple hundred bucks perhaps.

    It's much more likely about access to a userbase that can produce new data. @drtth is right on the money, methinks.
  26. zid

    zid Savant (924) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    That's what I'm suggesting as well - that this is a partnership that allows RateBeer to grow to the benefit of both sides. (If I'm reading you correctly)
    drtth likes this.
  27. Hanglow

    Hanglow Defender (624) Feb 18, 2012 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    drtth, jrnyc and Mizzou311 like this.
  28. jcos

    jcos Aspirant (251) Nov 23, 2009 Maryland

    I am disappointed to find this out today, but hey it is the owner Ratebeer's decision on what to do. I was still rating over there as that is where I started and already had plenty of ratings. I migrated my web traffic over here a few years ago as the forums are much better.

    I downloaded them to Excel, don't know what I'll do now.
  29. zid

    zid Savant (924) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    Sam Calagione is equating RateBeer's user-generated consumer review format to professional journalism?
  30. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Probably a side effect of having been an English major in College. :wink:
    LuskusDelph likes this.
  31. Ranbot

    Ranbot Devotee (497) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania

    As some have mentioned this could be just a means to obtain a trove of data to mine, not a nefarious plot to manipulate the entire craft beer industry; but at the same time I think people have plenty of reason to be suspicious. We really don't anything about this deal other apart from:
    1) Rate Beer sold a minority stake to ZX/ABI in October, and
    2) they have been working together with programming and server support since.

    Everything else is conjecture here...some well-thought out and rationalized, but still conjecture.

    In particular I've scanned through this discussion hoping for an answer to the question posed in the 3rd post....
    ^^ ....but still not answered, apart from it being a "minority" stake. I think most people of would feel differently if it's a 5% stake or a 49.9% stake. A small stake to get access to that data could be understandable, but a larger stake might indicate sometime bigger going on.

    The How much and what percentage question becomes more pertinent when Rate Beer is criticized by a brewer who sold a minor stake in their own business, and is clearly encouraging others to follow their lead to hurt Rate Beer's business. Granted Dogfish didn't take an investment from ZX/ABI, but it's hard to ignore the parallel. I'm not saying that Dogfish is wrong in their actions, I just don't think we have all the facts yet to make a sound judgment.

    There's also the possibility that the owner of Rate Beer might just be a poor business person who severely undervalued their site's data and user base and NX/ABI would have been stupid not to grab a piece of the pie. :grimacing: Who knows... :rolling_eyes:
    LambicPentameter, champ103 and drtth like this.
  32. reefer_bob

    reefer_bob Disciple (345) May 13, 2014 California
    Beer Trader

    A discussion I had with some other people thought the only reason Joe released the info on the Ratebeer facebook page was that Brewstuds got the information and was releasing it. Had not someone else gotten the scoop, it may have gone under the radar.

    Just a thought...
    chinabeergeek likes this.
  33. zid

    zid Savant (924) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    To expand on your thought... a story on the sale was published by another site and the RateBeer announcement came later that day.
    chinabeergeek, Sammy and drtth like this.
  34. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,861) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I would argue the question becomes, "What do you know is an actual user generating the data and what isn't?" Just like those biddng sites (DealDash or whatever)... how do you know that there are only real people bidding up the price?? Of course you can debate whether AB InBev would do this, but is there a debate that they could do this? Or does this make it easier to do it? For some, that could/ease might be enough to not trust the site - but only if those persons know enough to make that decision.

    I wonder how many independent bottle shops will stop using the shelf talkers touting RateBeer's score for a beer?
  35. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Well since the debate about whether or not they would manipulate the data presupposes or assumes that they could do it....

    As someone who has had occasion to work with a few people who were dealing with massaging large datasets I can assure you that under the proper circumstances they could do it, and easily. Computers can be very powerful tools.
  36. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,861) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Agreed. And there are also many ways they could do it without owning part of the company, which is why I also added the "easier" part. Easier to do, easier to "hide" (i.e. versus a large payment on the books to RateBeer), etc. All of this is leaning towards if not conspiracy theory level stuff, I know - just acknowledging/clarifying that buying in to the site was not a necessary step towards manipulating data. And following that, said purchase does not necessarily indicate the intent or desire to manipulate the data.

    As in almost everything, transparency is what should be key here - and the [potential] customers/users of the site can decide. Back to the original quote of @zid, I'm not sure how DFH (or any brewery) fits into this - are they customers of sorts? Do they have the same right to be skeptical? Can they do anything about it if their request is denied?
  37. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,370) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    One caveat here is that manipulation from the outside involves contamination of the data. Ownership access to the data allows making it more reliable and more useful for purposes that would be of much more use to them as marketing research data. Also once things are neatened up there would be no large recurring expenses involved such as there would be in collecting their own consumer behavior data.

    Which is why I argued above that any manipulation that they perform will be directed to improving the data and fixing the flaws in the data set rather than trying to manipulate or change public opinion.

    Yes, transparency for the users is important. Where I think DFH won't succeed is in getting their beers removed from the database. They can easily refuse to do any further advertising but they don't own the data itself, the listing on the site, or the crowdsourcing mechanism. So I'd predict that if they brought suit over removing their beers from the database they'd lose that one (assuming they could even get a lawyer they trust to be willing to take on the case).
    #117 drtth, Jun 6, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
  38. Sammy

    Sammy Poo-Bah (12,325) Dec 1, 2003 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    Or its a payoff to go and (semi)retire to slow the momentum of craft
  39. Sammy

    Sammy Poo-Bah (12,325) Dec 1, 2003 Ontario (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    there were some pros who have written for them
  40. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (3,861) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    Quite possibly or even likely. Trust me, it's not to hard to fudge the output while keeping the original input, though. Again, not assuming this is going on. And I agree on the "lawsuit" for all the reasons mentioned.

    I will offer this up, as well (and if someone else did already, I apologize). What if Stone bought RateBeer instead of AB InBev? Would AB InBev have essentially the same problem that others are having with this action or would they be fine with it? For that matter, everyone including Ballast Point, Lagunitas, Boston Beer, and even DFH could have the same concern.