The Enemy Strikes Again
by Sam Farnelli
I'm not much of a contributor to websites but when I read about
Anheuser-Busch buying Elysian Brewing in Washington state I had to
vent somewhere. Since I'm an avid reader of your column Bob,
you're the one I'm turning to. As craft beer lovers, we’ve been taught
that the big beer companies like A-B are our enemies. Is Elysian now
the bad guy? Don't know about you Bob, but I've got mixed feelings-
well, that's not really true. To be honest my heart is saying YES.
Of course Elysian released a statement with the usual baloney (I mean
defense) saying it was business decision, moving the brand forward,
still going to brew great beer, blah, blah, blah.
Logically I should only judge them for what's in the bottle, but logic is
not always right. Besides, I don't trust A-B. They have a proven track
record that's not to my liking. After taking over Goose Island Brewing,
they undercut prices, selling kegs of beer at deflated prices to saturate
the market to push out local brands.
Elysian's mainstay beers will probably now be brewed at various InBev
breweries across the nation, just like Goose Island. For the time being,
the specialty/seasonal beers will stay local but ,eventually InBev will
brew those too. The new owners might even allow the current workers
to stay in place for a bit however, like all mega-corporations, their
management will fully take over. They will look at every aspect of the
facility, and how it is supposed to make money for them this quarter. If
they find that there is a specialty beer out there that isn’t made for
profit then they will kill it. It's what they do.
Many small and independent breweries make it their mission to cater to
the likes and preferences of craft beer lovers; AB INBEV doesn’t give a
hoot about what that relatively small group would really wants. Their
eye is on their bottom line.
What the big boy take over companies like to do to independent
companies who are solely signed to their distributing arm is push them
out of the market if they refuse to be bought up (see Firestone Walker
and Ninkasi). This isn’t just bad for those wonderful independent
brands, but it’s also bad for our other favorite labels who are signed to
smaller distributors because AB INBEV has the ability to buy up shelf
space from them at your local grocery store.
I'm not going to be a hypocrite since I find it hard to believe that
anyone, me included, would turn down the tens of millions that InBev
offered for Elysian but that doesn't mean I have to like the idea.
Here's my fantasy guess at a good outcomefrom all of this for the beer
industry if the trend continues. All of our favorite craft breweries would
“sell out” to Anheuer-Busch. They would then be free to start new
breweries. People would continue to drink independent craft beer. A-B
would then continue to purchase these breweries. We would continue
to drink that beer and eventually A-B will bankrupt itself by purchasing
the craft guys. Ha!
And lastly, file under ironic but still a true sentiment, the fact that
Elysian Brewing once said on the label to their Loser Pale Ale:
Corporate Beer Still Sucks!
Well said, Sam. Have to admire you passion. I understand and support
much of what you say but my bottom line has always been a basic one -
how good is the beer. Still, without the craft revolution, I doubt of the
big brewers would have ever considered making anything but their
standard offerings. Thanks for sending!
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer/drinking/booze just as Sam did. I select the best and
publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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