A Special “Corona” Edition

For BeerNexus.com

Sorry I couldn’t resist… Well I had a topic for this month’s article but after the last few
weeks I guess that can wait.

I think we all knew that if the economy had a major hiccup, which many said wasn’t a
matter of if but when, that our beloved craft beer industry would definitely take a hit.
But who expected that it would be a viral pandemic that would blow the economy up;
had me fooled? And isn’t it ironic that it’s called “corona”virus; although not
specifically named after one of the seemingly popular beers around, but interestingly
enough it didn’t make the top twenty-five 2019 best-selling beers in the US.  

I didn’t realize Corona was a big seller in China (must be because they call it a Super
Premium) and not surprisingly sales have fallen dramatically enough for AB-InBev to
say they lost $285M in China. Constellation Brands says Corona is selling well but
that’s because they market/own Corona in the US, not overseas; that’s AB-InBev.

I decided to check into it, and they say Corona sales are bigger than Bud; but if you
read carefully that’s off premise sales. Very tricky Constellation; by the way when you
add all the on-premise draft lines, cans and bottles Bud is the #4 best-selling beer in
US and Corona is not on the list; interesting how you can manipulate numbers if you
try. They could probably fix their beer’s image is they changed the name to
Chihuahua Pee; they wouldn’t get associated with the virus and it would at least be
more accurate.

I’m not really feeling all that bad for AB-InBev’s misfortunate. When I went into the
liquor store to get a couple of six packs to make sure I had some supplies on hand at
home, I noticed the normally six foot piles of cases of the Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors
Light, etc. were down to about a foot so I’m guessing the non-craft beer drinkers also
did some stocking up. Although many of the local crafts were depleted the day I went
in, I did get the Sierra Hoppy 40th Anniversary Ale, which is very good and Long Trail
Limbo IPA which I haven’t had in awhile and I remember enjoying.

I haven’t seen any recent counts on craft breweries but I’d expect it should easily be
up around 8,000+ by now. We’ve all seen and contributed to the rise in breweries as
going to visit their taprooms and sampling their products is one of the things we like
to do. Seen as a growing segment of the economy many states haven’t been overly
strict, allowing breweries to be open multiple hours every day of the week and
charging what they can get. In many cases brewery taprooms charge as much or
almost as much as bars and restaurants. By selling direct they’ve cut out everyone
else and it can account for a good portion of their income which many have grown
very dependent on it. Well now with taprooms closed and bars and restaurants
closed or limited in many states for on premise sales many breweries are going to
start dealing with a shrinking income very quickly. Guaranteed this is going to hurt a
lot of craft breweries who don’t have the cash reserves to fall back on. We really
need to see how long this lasts before we see how much damage is done.

And it’s not just the craft beer industry; what about us craft beer drinkers?? We’ve
seen it before back in 2008 when the economy hit the skids many people were out of
work and/or on reduced incomes. As we know people don’t stop drinking but they
adjust and that means high end liquor, wine and beer sales go down and there’s an
increase in the more reasonably priced ones. Absolutely some craft beer drinkers will
no longer be able to afford the current prices and will buy lesser cost beer; please
notice I didn’t say cheaper beer because that’s a connotation that’s its not good,
which isn’t always the case, it’s drinkable if you have nothing else. When we have
less to spend, we need to look at where and what we’re spending it on and make
decisions on where to change our buying habits.

Maybe this is the wakeup call craft beer needs. I’m sure many of us have noticed the
“creep” over the past few years; less pint glasses and more $6 and $7 and $8 beers
in smaller glasses. And guess what we’ve continued to buy so there’s no reason for
them to change. If there’s reduced demand and more than enough product will some
breweries decide it’s time to charge less to be able to sell their products; the old law
of supply and demand? And no don’t offer me a free pint glass or snifter when I buy a
case, as I have so many glasses, I could have stocked a bar, so I’ve been getting rid
of them because there’s no place to put them. Maybe they’ll start frequent buyer
plans, drink ten get one free, although there may be some regulations around that.
But maybe just keep it simple and make sure you have some reasonably priced craft
beers in your rotation along with some of the higher priced ones. If we have to suffer
some pain it would be nice to get something out of it.

Another ripple effect will be that of equipment and space. If breweries fold there will
be a bunch of used equipment available and the space where that equipment is. I’m
sure for some who’ve been waiting to open their own brewery and who still have the
means when this is over there could be some good cost savings for start-ups and
also for already established breweries to improve and/or increase their equipment.
Looking on the lighter side I do see an interesting commonality here. They want us to
“shelter in place” whose acronym is SIP. Hell, we craft beer drinkers SIP all the time,
especially when drinking a high ABV Russian Imperial Stout. We’ve all learned the
hard way that drinking those high ABVs will get to you a lot quicker than you expect. I’
ll bet as a group we’re better SIP-pers!

If you’re working from home you might have a little more free time, but if you’re
furloughed or laid off you might have a lot. There’s always the reading, binge
watching and projects you’ve never gotten to, but you could intersperse some other
things also. How about a virtual beer tasting or happy hour with your friends? I
haven’t tried it yet but it’s a way to hang with the gang, have a few laughs and stay

When it’s time to sit back and relax and watch something how about the new reality
show on MTV; The Busch Family Brewed. Are you seriously telling me these folks
don’t have enough money (estimated at $13+B back in 2016) that they need to
further embarrass themselves by doing a realty show and convincing us of their
dysfunctionality?? There are already six episodes plus cast member interviews plus
bonus clips so what are you waiting for??

Maybe this is their new enterprise after initially launching the William K. Busch
Brewing Co in 2011, when they announced they were entering the craft beer
business. Their website says they were brewing Kraftig and Kraftig Light; a real
catchy name. And they’re showing they won a bunch of medals every year from 2013
through 2018; I guessing it wasn’t the GABF.  But in July 2019 (wow completely flew
under my radar) they announced they were shutting down “due to market demand.” I
find that very interesting as the number of new breweries has been steadily climbing.

Maybe I’m misinterpreting their statement; maybe it means the market was
demanding they stay the hell away from craft beer; now that makes more sense.
Sorry I missed trying this one…NOT!

And if you have some free time to read, the book Bitter Brew chronicles the rise and
fall of the Busch empire; it’s a good read and you’ll love how their own generational
incompetence brought them down, but I’m giving too much away.

So, everyone be well, stay home and drink some craft beer. Liquor stores are either
open or doing pickup and/or delivery. And if their selection is depleted or not all that
good, most breweries are selling take out/pickup and some are even delivering, so
you can still be a loyal craft beer drinker and enjoy yourself.

Trust me, craft beer will help us get through this!

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing thebigG@beernexus.com.

***   ***   ***
Glenn DeLuca
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