28 Mar 2011 @ 9:53 AM 
 

The terrifying future of the new Anheuser-Goose.

 

Like every other beer blogger in the world, I’m here to comment on the breaking news this morning of Anheuser-Busch’s take over of Goose Island. There’s a lot of romantic talk around about how this comes on the heels of a week of lovey camaraderie known as the Craft Brewers Conference, but we really should have seen this coming a mile away. Goose Island hasn’t been qualified as a “craft brewer” under the BA’s definition for a while now, precisely because the ownership stake that Anheuser-Busch has had in it has violated the “Independent” clause. It was really just a matter of time before this happened.

Contemplating the possible future meaning of this deal is, however, a little terrifying. Goose Island has been a front runner in quality craft for a while, now. They are technically brilliant and make some of the best known sour and barrel aged beers in the market. Will the quality of the beer go down with financial backing of A-B-I? It seems unlikely, given that most of the people in the company will stay in their place (sans, apparently, Greg Hall).

This gives A-B-I an array of new tools in their toolbox to compete with the ever encroaching craft market. There’s no way that they’re blind to the fact that they’ve been losing market share on their core products while craft has seen double-digit growth each year. This deal shows that plainly.

What really terrifies me is the thought that this is the first A-B-I takover, but I am positive it will not be the last. In the coming years we are sure to see a lot of larger craft breweries get gobbled up by the big players in the market. It’s been happening in Europe for years. Why should America be exempt?

Once that starts happening, what does that mean for the small craft market? We cannot compete, on any level, with the international marketing machines that are the world’s largest breweries.

Something that I think many in the craft market forget: Most consumers don’t care where their beer comes from, even the big beer geeks. The Beer Advocate boards are full of people saying, “So long as the beer is good, I don’t care who makes it.” It’s a lesson that small craft brewers need to sit up and pay attention to. More than ever, especially as A-B-I starts looking for acquisition targets, the enemy of the small craft brewer begins to become the large craft brewer. They’re already the ones coming into each state and taking up hard won shelf space and tap handles. When those large craft breweries start to become arms of the big brewers, who already have undue influence over many distributors, how are we possibly going to compete?

So, indeed, after the love fest of the last week – what will this ultimately mean for our big craft brewing happy family?

Tags Categories: distribution, industry, marketing, news, op-ed Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 28 Mar 2011 @ 12 49 PM

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Responses to this post » (17 Total)

 
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