Forget Craft. Let's Try Transparency

Discussion in 'Article Comments' started by BeerAdvocate, Jul 18, 2017.

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  1. BeerAdvocate

    BeerAdvocate Admin (0) Aug 23, 1996 California

    While Big Beer pushes for a “post-craft” mindset, emphasizing flavor over ownership, consumers deserve transparency about a brand’s heritage.

    Read the full article: Forget Craft. Let's Try Transparency
    JLaw55, nater919, BVukelich and 7 others like this.
  2. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Grand High Pooh-Bah (7,010) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Hell yeah!

    I'll stick with what I said before (and got crap for) - as long as the beer's good I'll buy it... I don't care who makes it, but I also don't want any bullshit involved.

    And that's nothing new. I've enjoyed beer from the giants for years. Many of my favorite English brews are from breweries that were absorbed. Some of my favorite Belgians as well. And even Hacker-Pschoor and Paulaner merged. I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with breweries pretending to be something other than what they are.

    And I am aware of the shelf space take-over. Why does Goose Island now have 20 feet worth of space in my local distributor? Because they're that good? No, I don't think so. It's because the A-B distributor for the region is just 5 blocks away and they have to "own" that location. And now there's 10 Barrel and a few others. Soon there will be a Wicked Weed display I'm sure. What is Budweiser's global mission.... to own every beer that's sold? It's a noble effort, but I won't be owned. "When someone comes to eat me alive I want to see their teeth!" - Justin Sullivan/New Model Army
    #2 NeroFiddled, Jul 18, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
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  3. pat61

    pat61 Initiate (0) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota

    As usual, Andy Crouch is pretty much spot on. I am probably a little more curmudgeony when it comes to craft vs. big beer but Andy makes important points about what happens after a brewery is taken over that consumers need to understand. I think craft beer is important as a category for the same reasons that craft cheese and craft bread are important. Craft captures elements of diversity, creativity, and responding to a great deal of stress and pressure in interesting and unique ways.
  4. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    Loved the article and agree fully with it. Own the sale, publish it and allow consumers to know the facts, how simple an idea but how hard to get to happen. Cheers, this was very well written and so so true.
  5. CraigTravor

    CraigTravor Initiate (0) Nov 12, 2013 California

    The practice of downplaying the changes is definitely dishonest. I also don't like the shift after the buyout to try to act like you should only care about the liquid and not the story behind it
  6. Squire

    Squire Initiate (0) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi

    Good article about an idea that may have resonance in the future. Esoteric discussions about craft aside everybody understands transparency.
  7. stingley

    stingley Initiate (0) Sep 21, 2013 Pennsylvania

    I drink Miller High Life or a suitable alternative when craft options aren't available (e.g. dive bar) or if I'm going to be drinking mass quantities over an extended period of time, like on vacation.

    Most of my beer consumption is Southern Tier, partly because they are "local" (an hour drive) and partly because they are very reasonably priced. Not to mention that they make damn good beers!

    There is a local brewery that does not can yet (Four Mile in Olean, NY). They have taps all over Western NY and a few across the border in my town. I drink Four Mile every chance I get. Partly to support the local guy, and also because they make damn good beer!

    I guess the takeaway is drink local as much as possible, if you drink a lot like I do then you need to keep it reasonably priced as well, but don't be all anal about it either way.

    I also agree with previous comments that honesty should be foremost... If you're owned by AB InBev then don't be coy about it. Let the consumer make an informed decision.
  8. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    This, to me, is the most important part of the article:

    "And consumers have a right to know about this. If you’re a Big Beer-affiliated brewery, own that. Don’t hide it. In your company’s “About Us” or “Brewery History” page online, don’t omit that AB InBev owns you as almost every formerly independent and now High End brewery does. Don’t play cute about it with the press. Stop telling consumers nothing has changed. Anyone saying that is either lying or negligently naive."

    And it's important because it's a slippery slope. Why should consumers only be made to know if another brewing company owns a certain brewery? Why shouldn't they know if there is VC or PE involvement? Maybe they should know who exactly owns what specific percentage of each and every brewery?

    All this talk of transparency is rather disingenuous, as the people suggesting it aren't suggesting transparency for everyone, just transparency for those who are owned by Big Beer, because, by the BA's definition, those breweries are not longer considered to be "craft" breweries, even though they still make craft beer. That's hypocrisy, if I've ever seen it.

    What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Pun very intended.
  9. socon67

    socon67 Grand Pooh-Bah (3,479) Jun 18, 2010 New York

    The definition of "craft" needs to fall into the rearview mirror, because if the only factor is ownership then we've fallen out of touch. The real discussion is over ABI masquerading acquired brands as a separate entity. Andy is very much on point with that argument. If nothing changes and the product is just as good; why all the secrecy around these brands being part of ABI? Clearly *something* changed as now those products become widely available. If it was only about the "liquid" and not the branding, rename GI Honkers ale as Anheuser Busch Ale and see how the perception of that beer to the consumer would change.

    I will not be boycotting these brands outright; sorry but I do like my BCBS and a few other acquired beers. But knowing these breweries are no longer *independent* does make me spend my dollars more on breweries that are, given the choice.

    I find the argument less about turning a nose to a brewery that sold out. Rather, I appreciate the options we have and want to use my power as a consumer to help that continue and encourage future independent brewers to feel there will be space for them in the market, if they make products we want.
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  10. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania


    Not here, though. There's nothing that says that a company needs to advertise or broadcast who owns them. Is there any other industry that requires such a thing?

    Again, what other industry does such a thing or encourages their consumers to do so?

    By all means, speak with your wallet, but all of this "The High End isn't craft" and "The High End is evil" rhetoric is ridiculous.

    We've yet to see any craft brewer go out of business because of ABI's involvement in the craft segment and they've been involved for around 10 years. When and if this starts happening, people can start to complain. As of today, however, the only people that should care are the owners and investors in large craft brewing companies who are in direct competition with The High End. If their profit margins start decreasing due to The High End, then it's nobody's fault but their own. If your competitor is smarter than you, you need to up your game, not complain about how they are going to cheat you. That benefits nobody.
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  11. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Pooh-Bah (2,498) May 21, 2008 Colorado
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Guess it takes bullshit to call bullshit...I'm rolling up my pant legs now. The big in the small should work together instead of assassinating one another and marginalizing their collective value to the consumer. Look at the NBWA's latest report and see how much this wonderful industry pays in taxes, how many people are employed and value of service to consumers - its staggering! As many honestly confess, big or small, the quality of what's inside the can has never been better. Seems like that should be the story.
    mpmcguire11 and Rufus1 like this.
  12. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    I have been reading the posts here and I can see both sides. But the one thing I cannot agree with is that the small guys need to up their game to compete with the big guys. That is like asking a mom and pop clothing store to stop bitching at Wal-Mart and up their game and compete with them. I don't see how you can compete when one side has billions and the other has their house mortgaged up to stay alive?
    Again, I agree that it is a free market and yes no one else has to open their books and advertise their involvement but people have to agree big beer has a massive advantage, and could, if they desire sink a lot of little guys just by having endless pockets.
    Hope that makes sense and again I can see both sides of the argument just seems like something has to give. Like "Haybeerman" said above, maybe we need more team play and less division, I am open to that I guess.
  13. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I respectfully understand your opinion, but if the best that independent craft beer can come up with to combat the "inevitable" takeover by Big Beer is "we're craft and you're not", they're in some SERIOUS trouble.
    ChicagoJ, eldoctorador and 13DegN like this.
  14. Roadkizzle

    Roadkizzle Initiate (0) Nov 6, 2007 Texas

    The industry may pay good taxes and employ people... But look at the quantity of Honker's Ale and other beers acquired by the big guys. Goose Island's standard offerings are produced at the massive ABI breweries leaving the limited run offerings to Goose Island themselves. The Goose Island offerings are ubiquitous. Think how many more people would be employed throughout the industry if those beers were being brewed in smaller batches (less efficiently). One of the problems with the big breweries bringing their economies of scale is that they brew a LOT more beer meaning they can just run 1 brewery that would take 4-5 smaller breweries to produce, fewer employees getting paychecks, and fewer communities getting money invested in them.

    The ABI brewery may provide community service to their own community but that's just one out of the entire country.

    Has there suddenly been such an increase in demand for Goose Island specifically in all of the casual dining restaurants where Goose Islands and others suddenly started dominating? Or was there already a market and the distributors just didn't want to push the smaller breweries in there because they got more benefit pushing ABI?

    Why don't you start talking to the big companies to start investing and working to improve the lot of the small companies? If the small companies start supporting and cheering for the big companies then all they will get is a dagger in their back in return.

    ABI and MillerCoors could have fought against the bills in Texas and other places pushed by the distributors and the small breweries would have had a chance of success. But the big companies decided to sit back after they got provisions to exempt themselves from the bill and allow the state to restrict the ability of the small breweries to grow and get investments... They happily fight against the small breweries and the small breweries will get nowhere if they just roll over and sing kumbaya.
    Haybeerman and charlienyc like this.
  15. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    This reasoning is faulty. Just because one brewery produces a lot of beer doesn't mean that they are taking away production from others or stopping other breweries from opening. Bigger breweries produce more jobs and put more money into the community. Just ask Asheville how that's working out for them.
  16. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    I agree with that. I think they do need to remain creative and smart with their business. I think one thing big beer has done is keep the little guys on their toes. I think a lot of the growth we see is in a weird way a result of this battle if thats what were calling it. And I also won't accept that they are bad we are good either, to me that is sort of an easy out. My only desire was to be clear to the end user as to who is involved, etc. If that means a symbol or such I guess I am not sure. At the end of the day people will flock to good beer. In the end we the consumer hold the keys to the kingdom so in my eyes if you make great beer you will be successful, weather you sell that greatness is the owners decision in the end.
  17. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    And isn't this what we've always wanted as beer loving consumers? More choices? Last time I checked, ABI isn't limiting anyone's choices. They're actually providing more.
    LuskusDelph and AZBeerDude72 like this.
  18. kegtapper

    kegtapper Initiate (0) May 11, 2010 Connecticut

    I guess I am one of the rarities...I drink based upon who owns the brewery. I fully support my local breweries including those states that border mine. I will not support the big 3 in any way. if I am out and I don't see anything that comes form a independent brewery, I won't drink beer. I'll order a mixed drink. I don't believe they are doing any good or benefiting the true craft beer industry. the craft beer scene is exploding and they can see that; their reason for buying up smaller craft breweries is a business decision, period. not because they want to really brew craft beer because what they do brew, sucks; of course with the exception of the breweries that they bought out but you won't see any "lager" or "lite" beer touching my lips. I can see the point that smaller breweries need to step up their game to win over drinkers which breeds competition and innovation but at the same time, if they make good beer, regardless of their end game and business strategy, in the end the brewery wins and so does the consumer.
  19. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    This is certainly your right. Personally, I don't drink much from The High End, but I certainly don't seek out any of their beers. Nor do I purposefully avoid them. I'm kinda neutral, really.

    And the reason that any other brewery has opened is . . . ?

    Why is it good that the small brewery wins over the big one? How does that benefit the consumer? Does them winning make beer more available or affordable? Does it ensure that better beer is made or more varieties of beer are made?
  20. digboy

    digboy Maven (1,352) Dec 4, 2016 New Hampshire

    I am admittedly ignorant on much of this topic, so this is an honest layman's observations and questions...

    To me the fact that the small and nano brewing industry is thriving may be because they found a market sector that the big guys can't seem to reach (yet): what Andy referred to (rather dismissively) as "authenticity". I am *not* a millenial but I think that term resonates with me. I am blessed enough to live in a region (coastal New England) that is teeming with small breweries and I have the money to spend there. When I go to most of these places I find beers that generally taste better than most of the ones that are mass produced and distributed nationally. There is style and ingenuity and risk-taking and a little crazy coming out of the people behind these places. That appeals to me and I am rewarded with some fantastic beers as a result. When ABI takes over the next "craft" brewery my perception is that those qualities are mitigated by answering to shareholders who understandably demand more profit and less risk. As a result I almost never buy beer these "corporate" beers anymore... yet I am more satisfied than I have ever been with my beer selections. So for me and others in my circles something is obviously not working with ABI's strategy to appropriate "authenticity". If I were a shareholder I'd be pissed.

    A couple of questions:

    Did the quality at Goose Island (for example) decrease after selling and expanding production? Is it possible to separate out bias from those who say it did?

    What impact do the big guys have on the small and nano breweries in terms of a strangle hold on distribution (contractually and politically through lobbying)? Even with a strong "authentic" scene do the small guys and startups even want to get a greater foothold in distribution (I would think yes)?
  21. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    That perception might have been accurate 10 years ago when AB formed CBA, but not now with The High End.

    I don't know anyone that can seriously back up a claim of a decrease in quality.

    The overwhelming majority of the new breweries that have opened over the last 5 or so years, aren't interested in anything other than self-distribution. They're content to stay small and sell as much as they can out of their doors, as that keeps their profit margins high.
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  22. kegtapper

    kegtapper Initiate (0) May 11, 2010 Connecticut

    I am not saying they need to win over the big breweries. They need to win over beer consumers, which in turn should breed competition and innovation, which is a good thing for us. I don't care about affordable and not so much about availability. I want quality. and of course competition will breed better beer. the costs are their concern and in turn if they price themselves out of the market, that is their decision. it is basic economics as with any other industry. and can anyone honestly say that any small brewery that is bought out will still produce "better" beer? it may stay the same but certainly not get better.

    I wholeheartedly agree with transparency. I want to know "who" is brewing my beer.
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  23. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Pooh-Bah (2,498) May 21, 2008 Colorado
    Pooh-Bah Society

    uh-huh - facts are never friendly to the conspiracy theorists
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  24. digboy

    digboy Maven (1,352) Dec 4, 2016 New Hampshire

  25. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    It is ABI's "craft" division. It currently has a stable of 10 breweries. All of which were independent breweries that were purchased.
  26. Haybeerman

    Haybeerman Pooh-Bah (2,498) May 21, 2008 Colorado
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Both sides have a long way to go to get to a spot where there is no need for sides
  27. Rhodes19

    Rhodes19 Initiate (0) Dec 20, 2016 Massachusetts

    Generally, the only argument against consumer transparency comes from companies which are worried that their potentially unappealing business practices will harm sales - and that's exactly why transparency is so important.

    It absolutely matters to me who's getting my hard-earned money. It's why I buy as much of my food as possible from local producers, why I order books from my neighborhood shop rather than Amazon, and why I would prefer to support small breweries rather than multi-national corporations.

    Consumers have the right to know where their money is going. Aren't we supposed to make educated and informed buying choices, after all? I have no problem with ABI staying in the space they've traditionally occupied and doing well there, but if they start using their considerable heft to crowd out or monopolize a different segment of the industry, I want no part in financing that through my beer purchases.

    And frankly, if ABI's main argument is that the beer is 'just as good' as independents...I mean, that's not much of an argument. I'll continue to buy equally good or superior beer that also gels with my values. Transparency is the key to that.
  28. Lone_Freighter

    Lone_Freighter Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2017 Vermont

    I have to agree with Kegtapper. I know some will say to me - well, it's easy for you, look at where you live. However, I must admit not every brewery here in Vermont is worth seeking out.

    In agreeing with Kegtapper, and possibly taking it one step further - "it's the quality that drives the curiosity of the beer consumer." Money only talks once the hype train gets started and it gets in the "heads" of some brewers who may be getting "tired."

    Also, I don't mind being a "rarity" either. I want to know where/who is behind the ops for brewing the beer I drink.

    As far as the article is concerned, just a thought and mainly geared to those who are on untapped: but ask yourselves this question - when was the last time you saw a toast or a comment from a brewer who is owned by the big three? I rarely do. I see more local or smaller brewers chatting it up with untappers than any brewers that are owned by these bigger brewers. How's that for transparency. To me, I commend the brewers that I know once I check in a beer I know they'll toast or even start chatting with me. I like that. That's transparency. That's how you build a stable and positive beer community.
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  29. bbtkd

    bbtkd Grand High Pooh-Bah (7,304) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    How long would the bigbeet company leave the zombie management in place if they put their ownership front and center on their website?
  30. jesskidden

    jesskidden Pooh-Bah (2,969) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Stella Artois and AB's "Shock Top" brand are also part of their "High End" division.
    (page down about half way to "THE HIGH END")
    #30 jesskidden, Jul 19, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
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  31. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Interesting, didn't know they were putting one of their imports in that division. Also noticed there's a bit of Cider and Spiked Seltzer in there too.
  32. kegtapper

    kegtapper Initiate (0) May 11, 2010 Connecticut

    Amen brother!! Beer is like food. I prefer to eat at a restaurant that uses local farm fresh ingredients instead of a chain restaurant no matter how big or small they are. I'm not ashamed to say I have standards. I don't condemn or belittle anyone that doesn't, that's just my personal opinion. craft beer should be just that, "craft". made by hand by a small brewery not a huge conglomerate
  33. jesskidden

    jesskidden Pooh-Bah (2,969) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Yeah, both acquired brands but with "brewing industry" connections. Virtue Cider was owned by GI owner's son and ex-brewer, Greg Hall, and Spiked Seltzer was a new brand created by an heir to the Heffenreffer brewing family, who failed to revive Haffenreffer Private Stock Malt Liquor after regaining the rights to the brand from Pabst.
  34. Lone_Freighter

    Lone_Freighter Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2017 Vermont

    Amen. Beer is like food! Yes, and at least in Vermont, there is a plethora of farm to fresh restaurants that I am fortunate to have access to. Yes, I'm not ashamed to say I have standards. And those who have standards can't be afraid to share them.

    But yes, I agree, we can't be condemning or judgmental even if it is our personal opinion and that's why we see more people "inquisitive" of our standards and why we love the craft beer scene. When they question us-that is what makes us different because most of us can give an answer. By showing this real "transparency" that makes the craft beer scene tick, the real "comradery" and "fun-loving nature" comes out. Most people soak that up and want to be a part of the party, right?

    What these bigger brewers don't get is that they think by buying their way into this that they are a part of it. But are they? Nope. And that's why I believe this article came about.
    These brewers can say "forget craft beer," but they're still not being transparent.

    Sidenote: I'm wondering if reps from Breckenridge, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Wicked Weed and the others are furiously toasting to people on untapped right now. :rolling_eyes:
    #34 Lone_Freighter, Jul 20, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
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  35. garykirk

    garykirk Initiate (0) Nov 27, 2014 Ohio

    I look at it as a "GMO vs. NON GMO" type of issue. The folks who do not want to eat stuff made from GMO's and are pushing for labeling to that effect are getting push back from the food industry. Folks like me who like "craft" beer do not want beer from Inbev. The same labeling issue arises when Inbev fails to take ownership of a brew that they have purchased. I personally hate whats happening with large bloated corporations (AT&T,Inbev,BOA,etc.). INbev has access to capital that no smaller brewery can hope for. They are also very inefficient. Stock holders may sooner or later figure this out and force them to sell off the crown jewels (Widmer, Goose Island, etc.) to increase stockholder value. Until then, I will drink Great Lakes, Rhinegeist , Deschutes and other great regional craft beers.
    slacker79 and Lone_Freighter like this.
  36. Norica

    Norica Zealot (624) Feb 2, 2006 Massachusetts

    I can't figure out why my neighbor's Lexus doesn't say Toyota on it?
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  37. kegtapper

    kegtapper Initiate (0) May 11, 2010 Connecticut

    Two separate things. Your example is a lower end with lower quality standards and higher end with nice "refinements". Beer is the same thing. I would rather drink Lexus Audi (which I own), Mercedes, etc; than drink. Toyota, Honda, Kia, ford, chevy, etc. it's the personal touches and "ownership" that I am looking for. Mass produced vs. handbuilt.
    BBThunderbolt likes this.
  38. Squire

    Squire Initiate (0) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi

    Of course we can. The U.S. Constitution gives us the right to speak even if our mind is blank.
    BBThunderbolt likes this.
  39. Norica

    Norica Zealot (624) Feb 2, 2006 Massachusetts

    There's millions of Toyota drivers (and thousands of Toyota employees) on this planet who would object with you calling their automobile "lower end with lower quality standards." .... congrats on the handbuilt luxury auto.
    riegler likes this.
  40. Lone_Freighter

    Lone_Freighter Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2017 Vermont

    Of course, anyone can speak their minds.

    You mean these guys?

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