@hopthirst on Instagram is one of my favorite accounts to follow, not only for the amazing floating beer pictures but also for his stance against “fake craft beer” and came up with this image after being sent a beer from a brewery owned by Ab in Bev. I also got fooled with the beer and didn’t know better until after I posted it. That really opened my eyes and hardened my stance Ive taken against big beer. Give him a follow!
Article by @hopthirst –
As Thanksgiving approaches, the craft beer community is abuzz. Stout Season is upon us, after all, and with it, Black Friday releases; the most noteworthy of which is Goose Island’s annual Bourbon Country Brand Stout (BCBS) and its variants.
There’s conflict here, because the beer itself is (I will admit) phenomenal, but its origins are highly problematic. It’s combination of smooth, rich chocolatey flavor and dense syrupy texture set it apart from many other barrel-aged stouts, in addition to it’s relatively friendly price tag compared to similar quality BA stouts on the market.
The source of the conflict comes from the fact that Goose Island Beer Co is owned by Anheuser-Busch/InBev, (ABInBev), a massive mega corporation which owns Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Brewing, Shock Top Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery, Devil’s Backbone Brewing, Wicked Weed, and many others. As a gigantic business entity, this allows ABInbev to wield enormous power – their distribution networks are far-reaching, prices more competitive than local breweries, and quality is maintained at a high standard.
Defenders of Big Beer (AB Inbev, SAB Miller/Coors, Constellation, Florida Ice & Farm Co.) insist that the most important thing is that the quality of the beers remains high. That is, it doesn’t matter if Budweiser owns Wicked Weed Brewing, so long as they continue to produce world-class sour beer. And hey, if they can distribute more widely, even better! Everybody wins, right?
In reality, the more breweries Big Beer snaps up, the more beers on the shelf are controlled by one giant mega-brewery. As a result, choice is replaced by the illusion of choice. Think, all the burger joints in your town have been bought up by McDonald’s, but been allowed to retain their name and branding, just the profits are now going into the corporate coffers, and creativity/innovation/menu changes all need to be approved by corporate. Further, now that McDonald’s owns all the restaurants in town, all the farmers are suddenly competing to sell to the same client, rather than dozens of different clients. This drives the price of beef down sharply, and benefits the corporation, but not the farmer, and certainly not the few stalwart holdout burger restaurants in town who refused to be bought out.
In the craft beer community, we’re talking about the market for malted barley and hop varietals. After AB InBev acquired SAB Miller last year, they immediately also acquired rights to first pick from the South African hop harvest, shutting out other craft breweries. See what’s happened? Even though these hops are going to subsidiary breweries like Wicked Weed, Elysian, and Goose Island, these breweries have all not only jumped to the front of the line to receive first pick for the best ingredients for their beer, but they’re also getting a discount as compared to an actual, local, community based brewer.
So how does this impact me, as a consumer? Sounds like I can get better, cheaper beer if I stick with the Big Beer brands! Unfortunately, that’s not really the case. If you continue supporting Big Beer with your purchases, you’re contributing to their ongoing expansion and takeover of the industry as a whole. The larger and richer they become, the more influence they have over hop and grain markets, and the more rigorous their lobbying attempts in congress will become in attempt to suppress the ability of smaller breweries to get started in the first place.
As true independent craft breweries are choked out of the marketplace, Big Beer consolidates power, and then as any large, multi-national business does, they make their product more and more generic, aimed at a broader and broader consumer base. As Big Beer gains control, the beers on the shelf in your local supermarket change to Ab/Inbev beers. Next time you visit the surpermarket, take note of how many beers on the shelf are owned by Budweiser. likely, it’s close to 50%.
Independent Craft breweries are essential in resisting this phenomenon. Beers like BCBS only exist because of the thriving craft beer community and Big Beer’s desire to capture its attention and dollars. But for every palatable beer that AB InBev produces, there are countless more from the thousands and thousands of local, community-based craft breweries across the country and across the globe, which work tirelessly to produce wonderful, unique beers full of character, creativity, and local flair. This year, let’s vote with our wallets to keep it that way. Skip the Big Beer offerings, and choose local, independent craft beer.