Another late start to the day. I’m working on my reviews and columns for the next issue of Gravity Magazine and working a full-time job and working on new blog post ideas for this website and trying to keep up a good reading schedule and studying for the Cicerone exam. So, there is sleep and work of some kind. The only relaxing thing I do is read and actually write. Anyway, on to the Five Articles.
In their rush to buy craft brewers, the big brewers didn’t take into account how craft beer drinkers would react. Craft beer people are really territorial and we really hate mass produced beers and see ABInbev as the evil empire. What I think AB is betting is that by buying these craft brewers and putting them in grocery stores where most normal people buy their beer, they can shave off enough of craft beer’s gains in order to hold onto their market share. Essentially, they are trying to ignore hardcore craft beer drinkers. They have to know, most craft beer people won’t go to this place. What they are trying to do is pick off the tourists who want to try “that craft beer.”
There are people I know and work with who need to read this. If I can accomplish one thing with my writing about beer, it would be to successfully talk about beer like a normal person while also explaining how cool and complex it is. Too often I hear bartenders go into these pretentious discussions about beer in order to show off how much they know while not actually giving a damn whether the person they are talking cares.
Here is some Charlotte beer news. These guys were some of the first in the country to make the idea of delivering beer/alcohol to your doorstep. There are people who love this service, but I still love wandering through a beer store hoping to find a couple of awesome deals that the people who own the place didn’t even know they had.
The Friday before Christmas means many, many Christmas parties. We had 4 at once last night. If you’ve been to Craft, you know it’s not that big. Anyway on to the Five Articles. It is the end of year and writers are looking back at the year in beer.
A view of Queen City Q’s stance against AB from the west coast. This what AB didn’t understand. First, they didn’t understand their “incentive” program would see the light of day. Second, they didn’t understand that many retailers are not beholden to their brands. Finally, somehow, they still don’t understand the antipathy the craft beer world has for them. Yes, they have bought craft brands, but they have not allowed any of the ideas that fuel the craft world to enter their way of thinking. They have the same belief many do: We exist and have for a long time, therefore, we will always exist. History is full of businesses and governments that seemed ubiquitous and unkillable. They were all wrong.
Distribution and distribution rights are not sexy. Multi-billion dollar mergers and big excise tax bills that bring people to Washington, DC are sexy. They get you on CSPAN and news networks. However, it is distribution where the biggest issues that brewers face are located. Fighting AB and keeping them from buying or bribing distributors and chain restaurants/grocery stores is where the action is. That should be the focus of brewers and their state guilds as well as the Brewers Association during this next year.
This is where the fights have to take place. On the state level in state legislatures and state courts. Yes, they are treating beer wholesalers unfairly in Indiana. That doesn’t mean the law is illegal. It means you have to change the law at the legislative level which is often difficult since in many states some of the most powerful politicians and/or lobbyists are alcohol distributors.
Back to the story of Colorado and grocery store beer sales. I don’t think the claims the side that wants grocery beer sales are true. There will not be some explosion of jobs and revenue from this. Consumers, in theory, will get easier access to craft beer and grocery stores will see an uptick in sales. I predict, the liquor stores that cater to the craft beer crowd will see little if any difference in sales. They will probably lose some of the ABInbev sales, but that is about it. The stores that sold primarily from the big brewer’s portfolio will be most affected, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt craft brewers.
It’s Tuesday, and I’m a little late today because I stayed up to watch the worst football game I’ve ever seen that didn’t involve playing in a monsoon or a blizzard. It was like watching a slow motion train wreck. I couldn’t look away.
Probably once or twice a month someone will come into the bar and we will talk. They see I know a lot about beer and a little bit about the beer business and they ask, “Why don’t you start a brewery?” They see two things. First, they see being a brewer as fun. You’re making beer how can that not be fun? Second, they see all these breweries and think, these guys must be making money. Ballast Point just sold for a $1 billion. They are wrong on both parts. Brewing is way too much work and I want to be a writer. Also, those big brewery sales are few and far between. Remember, there are over 4000 breweries in the US and maybe 5-10 a year sell for any significant amount of money. This article tells you little more about what starting a brewery is about.
Happy Monday morning folks. No soliloquies on creativity this morning. I’m putting it in a separate blog post. Today’s Five Articles slog through the latest information on the merger and takes a trip to Canada for a couple of stories.
Here is a better look at the hearings from someone who understands antitrust laws. It does have an unfortunate and unnecessary Star Wars reference. It is also refreshing to read an article about the merger that doesn’t solely focus on the number of brands that this gargantuan company will have, and sees the distribution and retail strategy of this company as the real problem. They could sell all this crap as one brand, Budweiser, and the real problem would still be how they are trying to limit the distribution avenues of smaller breweries. Of course, most of these senators will focus on the size and forget about the details.
If an industry in your state has changed significantly during the time the laws regulating that industry was written, shouldn’t you try to update the laws to reflect these changes. Oklahoma’s alcohol laws have not had any significant changes since they were enacted in 1959. The bad thing is, Oklahoma is not alone in this. This article does look at all the different moving parts and different constituencies who want to a hand in writing these legal updates. This will take at least a year if not two to get any changes enacted.
A breakdown of what is happening with the merger now that it is a go. I know, it seems that I keep minimizing the effects of the merger. On one hand, I don’t think it will have much effect on American craft beer drinkers. On the other hand, I’m not stupid and I see the numbers and I see the industry reach this behemoth will have. It will have an effect for many years. However, I got into craft beer in 1995, when I turned 21. There were less than 1000 brewers in this country at that point. Craft beer has been through worse from prohibition to the claustrophobic consolidation and spread of American light lager from the 1950s to the 1980s. Craft beer will survive no matter what happens.
Speaking of which, the big companies are already playing with the price of their brands, thereby increasing the price across the board for beer. One thing I didn’t see in this article was if the price of craft beer brands increased at the same rate as the big beer brands over the same time period. Did Boston Beer Company or Sierra Nevada or New Belgium have similar price increases, did they stay steady, or did they decrease relative to economic growth?
Here is a little article about beer and Thanksgiving dinner. That is a great idea if you can get enough people at your Thanksgiving to give a good craft beer a try with dinner or dessert. Anyway, my Friday after Thanksgiving will be great and beer filled. For the first time in 8 years, I won’t be working and will get to sit around either at home or a craft beer spot of my choice and drink beer and watch whatever college football comes on that day. Yay!
I woke up this morning thinking it was Friday. I don’t know why, but for a good hour I kept thinking today was Friday and kept looking for podcasts that I follow updating their Friday feeds and waiting for blog posts I normally read on Friday. Weird. Anyway. Here are the Five Articles. There is some merger news, mostly because people are moving past “the sky is falling” into let’s wait and see what will actually happen.
Here is an article with actual facts. It does a great job of pointing out what the deal actually means and why it actually occurred. This will affect beer in the United States and Western Europe, however, this was about Africa, South/Central America, and Asia. The emerging markets in the beer industry. The effects on the US and European markets is the most unknown. I think this will give the new company the ability to rebrand some of its brands to a new generation of beer drinkers. Will it work?
This is a nice primer on nitro beer. We have a nitro tap on Craft and I often get the question as to what is it? I usually explain it as this is the kind of tap you find Guinness on to give it those small bubbles that makes it creamier. This article is a much better explanation.
Naming a beer is hard. There are 4000 brewers in this country now and they all brew multiple beers. So, you end up with names that either badly non-descriptive or offensive. Let’s make fun of all those stupid names.
Wednesday is here and, if you are in North Carolina, so is the sun. The week is winding down and your mind is turning to what you plan on doing when Saturday arrives. Of course, this week you are getting a weird mid-week break with Veterans Day falling on today. So, in honor of you not working today, tip back a beer or two in honor of the veterans you know and all the ones you’ve never met, and read a little before you are too far into the water, malt, hops, and yeast. Beware, this gets a little wonky.
This is an interesting but ultimately meaningless graphic. The raw numbers of how many “craft breweries” per country lose meaning when you compare countries of vastly different sizes. What is the per capita rate of comparison across countries? What is the rate of growth over the last ten years in each country on a per capita basis? That would yield a great deal more information than just “here are the numbers.” Statistics without context are just numbers and this graphic is just a bunch of numbers.