Lord of the Barflies

Discussion in 'Article Comments' started by BeerAdvocate, Aug 16, 2017.

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  1. BeerAdvocate

    BeerAdvocate Admin (17,207) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Society

    Once heralded for its camaraderie, the craft brewing community is under siege from within as each buyout fractures the industry’s communal spirit.

    Read the full article: Lord of the Barflies
     
  2. TQuinlan

    TQuinlan Initiate (0) Jul 15, 2011 Canada (MB)

    Before the buyout by AB-InBev, I used to enjoy Goose Island's IPA. After the buyout, the taste of the beer changed. I thought that maybe I wasn't being objective, so I kept trying a bottle every year until I finally stopped buying it two years ago because it was a shadow of it's former self.
     
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  3. Chipotle

    Chipotle Aspirant (204) Apr 23, 2017 New York

    Perhaps that should read...

    "Once heralded for its camaraderie, the craft brewing community is under siege from within as each sellout fractures the industry’s communal spirit."

    I see it as some are choosing to exit the craft brewing community.

    The adversity of the situation may just strengthen the craft community.
     
    VABA likes this.
  4. bwjunkie

    bwjunkie Initiate (0) Dec 3, 2015 Colorado

    Use some numerical data in your article, so it isn't just a rant. Like what percentage of craft breweries have been purchased by large corps? .01%? 1% 20%? This offers the reader some real information.
    -josh
     
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  5. crag

    crag Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Nice article. I think a little market adjustment will be healthy for the industry.
     
    rodbeermunch likes this.
  6. TheInsomniac

    TheInsomniac Initiate (63) Jan 11, 2015 New Mexico

    That's because the goal of craft brewing has been to produce a product that is entirely unlike what big breweries produce. That's not the goal of coconut water hawkers. Their goal was to market a product that was basically part of the waste-stream of coconut farming. It wasn't to produce boutique, small batch, local, heirloom coconuts. If that had been their goal then we'd be right to look askance if they were purchased by Pepsico. But it wasn't, so we don't.
     
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  7. ChipMurray

    ChipMurray Disciple (384) May 21, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Change is one of the few guarantees we have, (or the only one...). Sometimes that change is positive.
    I still enjoy beer so far, and they haven't taken the camaraderie from craft beer drinkers.
     
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  8. dwsutton

    dwsutton Initiate (66) Nov 24, 2011 West Virginia

    In many cases, it seems, it is about distribution for craft brewers. But what happens when Big Beer also more or less owns the distributors (as is largely the case in my state)? It's easy to see how - at best - they might promote their own beers over those of independent breweries. Small brewers need each other more than ever; I can imagine them, for example, creating shared distribution processes... I certainly don't want them to go away! Two trips to the UK were enough to convince me of the downside of Big Beer. Very few varieties available in pubs, and those not terrific.
     
  9. Obxer

    Obxer Initiate (43) Jan 7, 2015 Virginia

    "Much to the surprise of many naysayers, A-B didn’t buy Goose to kill it." Totally misses the point - Big Beer doesn't buy craft breweries to kill the breweries they buy; they buy 'em to kill the rest of the craft breweries by monopolizing tap and shelf space.
     
  10. LambicPentameter

    LambicPentameter Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2012 Nebraska

    "Big Beer may not have changed craft brewing in terms of flavor, but it has certainly disrupted its culture."

    No. It may be semantics to some, but the reality is that Big Beer's interest in craft and the disruption of "craft culture" are two symptoms of the same root cause: massive popularity.

    Big Beer is trying to cash in. Believe it or not, some of the newer entrants to the craft beer scene are trying to cash in. Yes, the overwhelmingly prevalent attitude is one of that same camaraderie and passion for crafting great beer, but the real culprit here is the growth in consumer interest and the resulting growth in size.

    Craft beer simply isn't the monolith that it once was (in some ways).
     
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  11. Icedog

    Icedog Initiate (134) Oct 27, 2014 Texas

    Who didn't see this coming? Since prohibition it's been happening. Only the independent effort of every passion filled
    brewer adding his God given talent to the cause will keep it going. If you do this AB can only grin and bare it; but the macro-brewers have painted their own tapestry of dead-ends by not being innovative; that requires no risk. Go on you pioneers in micro-brewing we are dependent on you to turn our heads to your genius. Love Always...
     
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  12. Brgrmstr_Mstrbrgr

    Brgrmstr_Mstrbrgr Initiate (5) May 12, 2016 California

    I have a buddy that started a business 20 years ago. He just sold the business, that he solely owned, for thirty-five million dollars. Should the way I feel about his success and ability to cash in on it differ based on what business he was in? Far too often the collective voice of the craft beer community sounds like the complaints of someone who's favorite band just signed a deal with a big record company. No one chooses to be a starving artist. We should all raise a glass to those who have worked hard to quench our thirst and reaped their just rewards.
     
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  13. McFinniganOfTheFinnigans

    McFinniganOfTheFinnigans Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2017 Maine

    I couldn't agree more. Distribution schemes where ABinB practically makes it so breweries cannot sell direct to retailers and it can drive prices up all to cover middleman costs.
     
  14. redmurphy

    redmurphy Initiate (86) Jan 2, 2009 Rhode Island


    I would never blame a business owner for selling. I just want a level playing field in terms of distribution and knowledge of the sale. As a consumer, I can drop them from my list like I did with Goose Island.
     
  15. Hefemeister

    Hefemeister Initiate (0) Sep 18, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Question is...would you have said the same thing had you not known about the sale to AB? What if AB didn't change anything? The issue I have with some comments is one of the problems with craft beer drinkers. There is no purist thinking here. Go back 20-30 yrs...what craft beer was around? Home brewing didn't taste that great either. People are a little stuck up when it comes to this and I'm sorry but I won't leave a brand or a specific beer if it's sold to this company or that...AS long as it tastes the same, I'm fine with it. I go back to when Killian's original recipe before it was messed with. That was a mistake by big beer going cheap but if they have learned from that, what is the problem? The craft brewers have their right to sell. Heck, if I was offered $5M or $10M for a brewery, I might take it and start a new venture. I think people are just way too quick to judge that when big beer does anything, it's bad no matter what.
     
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  16. Hefemeister

    Hefemeister Initiate (0) Sep 18, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Most breweries nowadays have their own taproom...etc. Bars choose what they want to offer, it's not that AB or anyone else "owns the taps" but hey, capitalism at it's best - if you are going to offer me more money to put your beer on tap, from a business standpoint - why shouldn't I? Now from a bar's view - I want something that is going to sell and make my customers happy. I'll run the numbers to see what is more profitable but I also want to make sure it sells pretty quickly - that IS based on what consumers want...and has no bearing on "owning taps".
     
  17. Hefemeister

    Hefemeister Initiate (0) Sep 18, 2013 Pennsylvania

    And to your last point....I'll go a step further and ask what is craft beer anyhow? Do they have to be independently owned? Is craft beer just more bodied beer compared to the "light" beers? The Brewers Association tries to define it but they are ridiculous too saying this company is but this one isn't....like Boston Beer vs Yuengling based on volume or is it a public owned company...what a bunch of hogwash. Personally, I would drop the whole label of craft beer because it has lost it's luster.
     
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  18. Hefemeister

    Hefemeister Initiate (0) Sep 18, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Really? "God given talent"....I'll probably get a bunch of upset folks by saying this but brewing is not that hard. It really isn't and a brewery is not that difficult, it's the scheduling, the ability to get good help, distribution, contacts that is the thing that sucks life out of you. There are a lot of smaller breweries that are struggling now and it's because of over saturation of the market. I really believe we are in a consolidation phase that will probably last 5 yrs or so. We'll start seeing breweries going belly up because as all statistics show - beer drinking has been declining year over year for almost 10+ yrs now. Breweries can't keep popping up everywhere and still sell the volume they need to in order to turn a profit. I've looked into this very thoroughly - it was one of my MBA projects I did just last year. The real threat to craft breweries is wine and spirits. They have increased each year in terms of sales for the last 10 yrs...go figure.
     
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  19. aleyeast

    aleyeast Aspirant (243) Sep 15, 2004 South Carolina

    Whats the air smell like where you live. AB does own the taps for the same reason you just acknowledged. They will put one of their crafts in place cheaper. I go down my beer aisle now, and half the craft section is big beer, thats a big change from 10 years ago. They have a two fold approach: First is to eat shelf space which they used to do by offering their product in 18 different configurations, now they add their crafts to the list. The second is to dumb down craft for beer drinkers. I don't know how many times someone has said I tried craft beers and they aren't much different than the bud light I drink. This unfortunately is true. The article author mentions that Goose island did not change, obviously he has never had them before the buyout. They have dumbed down the beer to the point that it's not much different. I was once told while working retail by a big AB seller that they didn't care if the product they had on the shelf sold because it meant that a competitors product wasn't there to sell. This doesn't only happen with beer, look at how many different sizes and flavors of other products have sprung up to push competitors off shelves.
     
  20. ManBearPat

    ManBearPat Zealot (545) Dec 2, 2014 Colorado

    Does anyone really have a fresh take on all this?


    Seems like the BA version of click bait these articles:thinking_face::thinking_face::thinking_face::thinking_face:
     
  21. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    Very interesting article and was to be expected honestly. As craft grew and became very lucrative it was inevitable that it would catch the eyes of the big boys. Craft became the new cool and the big boys love being cool so they are making strategic moves to acquire it. I don't see good beer going away at all but I see a massive switch in control coming and also a pushed image they want to paint.
    Cheers and good drinking....
     
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  22. CassinoNorth

    CassinoNorth Disciple (304) Apr 5, 2013 New Jersey

    More AB-In Bev bootlicking, eh?

    Guess that's where this site is going.
     
  23. Stagester

    Stagester Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2013 Idaho

    Yes, we have our own taproom, which doesn't serve any Big Beer brands but I've run into more than once, a bar owner telling me why they won't buy my keg at $85 when they can put Goose Island on for $45. That's controlling the taps. Also look at California, Florida and Massachusettswho have fined distributors who either are owned by or who serve ABI for giving coolers, tap systems etc.. away to ensure their brands own those taps.

    The take away is yeah it's probably impossible for an owner(s) to turn down what's being offered although that is coming down too as BB has bought all they need but still I get why they would do it, but what's going to happen is we will see the last leg of the 3 tiers go to BB then you'll have ABI bars, Heineken bars, Constellation bars, etc... Just like the UK. And that will suck.
     
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  24. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Correct.

    This is a fact that a lot of people miss. Many people are opening breweries because they see dollar signs, not because they've always wanted to own and run a brewery.

    The kumbaya spirit of craft beer has always been overwrought. It's just more obvious now what people's motivations are. As Sam C. said a few years ago, "There's a bloodbath coming." FWIW, we stand at the beginning of said bloodbath right now.
     
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  25. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    Well then, what would you suggest? I see a ton of people arguing that people are sell outs but I never see those people list out the options. If you are a business owner and have mounting costs and can take ad traffic to continue providing a service are you saying you would rather close down? LOL i bet not.
     
  26. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Overall great article. Still had some points worth addressing.

    "The big breweries remain cognizant of these trend lines and no longer wish to snuff craft rivals out in their cribs. That doesn’t mean they plan to play nice with their competitors."

    I believe this to be an important point for people to understand. This is competition and Big Craft doesn't play any nicer than Big Beer does.

    "Big Beer may not have changed craft brewing in terms of flavor, but it has certainly disrupted its culture. While always a business, craft brewing has never really been about the money."

    I'd completely disagree here. Sure, craft brewers produce a different product and are concerned with variety as well as quality, but it's always been about the money just as much as it's been about the beer.

    "While the beer remains solid, craft brewery sales to Big Beer have left a wave of disruption in their wake. One result of these sales, whether intended or not, is to set the industry against itself. The craft brewing community, once heralded for its camaraderie and jovial spirit, is currently under siege from within as well as from larger market forces. With each sale, we witness a greater fracturing of that communal spirit. Eventually, consumers may see feuding craft brewers on one hand, and cheap, flavorful, craft-ish beer on the other, and understandably wonder: why does it matter who I buy from?"

    This is an outstanding point to make. It's not JUST Big Beer that craft breweries have to be concerned with. It's other craft breweries.

    "The big guys are dead serious now about playing hardball in the craft segment. Big Beer is no longer trying to kill craft. It’s trying to co-opt and own it. Things are going to get more difficult, more competitive for many brewers."

    Indeed, but competition always benefits the consumer, which is a great thing from where I'm standing. Lower and more stable prices coupled with more diversity and more availability of the product are what the craft beer consumer has always wanted. It's just too bad that it had to come from a competitor like ABI, which many vilify. If it would have come from within the independent craft community, I think that it would be a different story. Vastly different.
     
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  27. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,543) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    AB owns around 20 distributorships in 10 states, none of which are located in West Virginia. (MillerCoors owns only one, in Denver).

    As in most states, independently-owned AB and MC distributors no doubt distribute most of the beer in WV, but it also safe to say that the largest portion of craft beer in the US is also distributed via AB and MC houses - especially the beer from the largest craft brewers like Yuengling, BBC, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, etc.

    There are a number of states (a little under half of them last time I counted them) in which the use of a distributor in required but that is based on states' Three Tier laws, not Anheuser-Busch.
     
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  28. Keene

    Keene Initiate (0) Sep 11, 2009 Washington

    You make a fair point, but our Unfiltered column, which Mr. Crouch has contributed since issue #1 of the magazine, is meant as a monthly op-ed article. Many of our reported stories and longer features include statistics and numerical data. Thanks for reading.
     
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  29. ckornmannn

    ckornmannn Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2014 Washington

    The bottom line for me with breweries, as well as any other business, is intent. For a family owned brewery, number one goal is craft and delivering an excellent product. Yes you have to make payroll but the money isn't everything. A corporation that is publically traded answers quarterly to a board of directors. They live and die by quarterly profits and it trumps craft. Rather than collaborate, they are going to do their best to squash their "colleagues". Personally I always seek out and support the small local businesses. Its the best way to support your community. Luckily in the beer world, the small independently owned breweries are making the best beer anyway.
     
  30. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    You had a decent argument going until that last bit. That's rubbish, that is.
     
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  31. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,543) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Rather than the number of breweries that have been purchased (the large percentage of relatively small microbreweries and brewpubs would render that stat insignificant), another way to look at it would be total barrelage.

    According to Beer Marketers Insights estimates, printed by the Brewers Assoc. The New Brewer, the 22 "captured"/ex-craft breweries (owned by NAB, Heineken, AB*, CBA, MillerCoors, Constellation and India's United Breweries) brewed around 3.7 million barrels last year, compared to the BA's "Craft" total of 24.1m bbl.

    So, those 22 breweries brewed around 15% as much beer as the +5000 recognized "craft" breweries.

    *For some reason, the B.A. didn't list the AB Joint Venture, Coastal Brewing Co., dba Fordham/Old Dominion.
     
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  32. TQuinlan

    TQuinlan Initiate (0) Jul 15, 2011 Canada (MB)

    Like I said, objectively, through various tastings over several years, I confirmed that the taste of the beer had changed so I no longer purchase it. All brewers can do whatever they want with their beer, just like I can do whatever I want with my money.
     
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  33. ckornmannn

    ckornmannn Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2014 Washington

    Do you have an example of corporately owned beer that is the pinnacle of quality? I like Elysian space dust, for example, but the Fremont Lush is even better and locally owned to boot.
     
  34. WV_Charles_Homebrew

    WV_Charles_Homebrew Initiate (60) May 17, 2017 West Virginia

    My opinion on Goose Island has not changed. I held them in low regard before the sale and I still do. Their flagship brews were never great to begin with and I don't care about their barrel program because there are still plenty of independent craft breweries producing barrel aged beers that are equal to or better than BCBS.
     
  35. JohnnyU6

    JohnnyU6 Initiate (32) Jun 14, 2017 New Jersey

    Hello, my name is John Usyk. I live in the "village" of Richland in South Jersey. I like to be honest. In my fridge presently I have a collection of local brews: Flying Fish, Tonewood, Tuckahoe, Carton, Glasstown, Three 3s, not so local Dogfish Head. I also have some Founders and a couple cans of Schaefer. I am your typical blue collar beer drinker. I AM A BEER DRINKER. Plain and simple. I frequent a "Mom and Pop" liquor store that supports the local breweries. He also has an amazing growler/crowler fill station. I've been drinking for 30 plus years, survived the microbrewery "shake out" of the nineties and the so-called hop shortage. I am a survivor. Brewing beer is a cutthroat business. Look at the history of brewing in the U.S.; Pabst, Shlitz, and of course Budweiser. Do you honestly think Sierra Nevada is "friends" of Oskar Blues? They are both becoming regional powerhouses. Shelf space is the battleground. We all know that the Brewers Association is a joke. Self serving hypocrites. If one is going into brewing beer as a business don't cry that it's unfair that the big guys have the advantage; you have to earn it and fight to survive. As Ed Rendell would say, "don't be a wuss."
     
    #35 JohnnyU6, Aug 19, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2017
  36. bk462

    bk462 Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2017 North Carolina

    Sierra, Oskar Blues, New Belgium - their east coast facilities are just down the road in Asheville. Yet shelf space at the local supermarket is growing with AB-INBEV beers, Goose, Elysian, etc. More Wicked Weed on the shelves since the buy out. Coincidence? True locals like Highland and Hi Wire still have presence, but fear they're being squeezed by the big bot distribution network.
     
  37. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (0) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Nobody said anything about "pinnacle of quality". You said, "Luckily in the beer world, the small independently owned breweries are making the best beer anyway."

    Now, it depends what you mean by "small" and "independently owned", but if you throw out a style of beer, I can give you a great example that's brewed by either a "large" brewery and/or one that is "not independent".
     
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