I've been wanting since the Wicked Weed buyout to write my theory of what could be coming to the craft beer world in the next few years. I don't have a much-read blog or access to a national newspaper, but decided to share my thoughts here for consideration by the beer community. I have been involved in the beer world for many years now, though since becoming a professional brewer I have been much less active on BA other than lurking. I was in retail in one of the best beer stores in the southeast for several years, founded my own brewery and worked there for a few years, and am now the head brewer at a small regional production brewery. I am not an expert on the inner workings of multinational corporations, but have some observations about the direction of craft beer culture that I hope you will consider. My assertion is that the Wicked Weed buyout is different from all the previous ones for several reasons, and the possible ramifications could be catastrophic to the industry we love. First, in all the others, ABI was taking a successful mid-sized or larger craft brewery and was purchasing them in order to get a share of the profits on an established brand. This is understandable for a corporation their size, and I didn't see much backlash on any of these purchases; I even purchased BCBS with a relatively clear conscience. I know the volume number thrown around for Wicked Weed is 40,000 barrels, but according to the BA data for 2016, their annual production was only 7,000 barrels. This is not a particularly moneymaking proposition for ABI, unlike Goose Island or even Devil's Backbone. Secondly, Wicked Weed is a craft only brand with little broad-market appeal. They made their name on sours and double IPAs, quite unlike any other brand in The High End's portfolio; the others all have approachable beers easily marketed to non "beer geek" clientele. (WW has some of these as well, but they are not a major focus for the brand... yet.) Thirdly, the WW buyout has struck such a chord with craft consumers because they were "one of us," despite having much more financial backing than most craft startups; they talked the talk of "sticking it to the man" and were in what for all intents and purposes is the most local-centric, independent-focused market in the country. So, what's ABI's purpose here? I would like to posit a theory that is terrifying and may be far-fetched, but I think is worth consideration. Since craft's inception, ABI has not been out to compete with us (indeed, it would have been seen as an elephant competing with a gnat), but has been out to destroy us. I don't need to go into the business practices and throwing of money; you all are well enough aware already. When they began purchasing regional craft breweries, I, and possibly you, thought "ah, well, they've realized they can't beat us so they may as well get a slice of the pie." I think I was wrong; their purchase of WW solidified my thoughts. ABI is not naive, and is run by some of the smartest business minds in the world. If they set out to utterly destroy craft beer, which I believe they have, they can and will. Two things can stop them: the DOJ (unlikely) and consumers. That's why I have sworn off all of their brands, and am trying to convince the rest of us that value craft beer to consider doing the same. My theory: ABI continues to buy craft brands, changing little about their portfolios, pricing or management for the next few years. We are all lulled to disinterest and accept that they are simply making profits on some good beers, and it isn't such a bad thing: after all, "we can all get BCBS now!" At some point, there comes a time that ABI has every style, every type of beer that any consumer could possibly want, and even enjoys the consumer's illusion of choice. At this point their power play is quite simple. They slash prices. Now you can buy Pernicious for $6 a six pack, and you're staring at Ruination for $15. What do you do? You may still buy Stone, but 90% of your peers won't; Wal-Mart and McDonald's have proven that we would rather pay $3 for something from a greedy corporation that puts local stores out of business than spend $6 on the same thing from someone that goes to our church. And if this scenario ever actually comes to pass, a vast majority of craft breweries will be forced to close or scale entirely into brewpubs. We simply won't be able to survive when our velocity drops to zero. And then, of course, their loss leaders are marked back up and they are making every single bit of profit in the entire craft segment. It's a terrifying thought to me, and I hope it's just a fantasy. But I know historically what they have done and how they have fought against us, and would not at all put it past them. This is why I believe our only recourse is right now. If we choose right now to no longer support any of their brands, and we explain to our friends why, we could possibly have an impact and be able to stave this scenario off. Especially with brands that are pure craft, where it was largely only true craft drinkers that made up a majority of their sales, maybe we can make it a losing proposition for them and their acquisitions will go the way of Bud American Ale. I sincerely hope I'm wrong, and my purpose here is not to offend anyone, but give food for thought as to where we should be putting our craft beer dollars. Thanks for reading. Cheers.