Today’s article for the 500 Words is a great blog post from Modern Times founder and CEO Jacob McKean. He finally got fed up by all the p.r. misinformation Anheuser-Busch puts out about its craft beer acquisition and took apart a Serious Eats article piece by piece.
McKean debunks two main things that are common to all the articles written from the AB perspective about its acquisitions. First, that AB is some kind of benevolent beer Daddy Warbucks out to help poor struggling brewers by providing them with enough money to expand out of their garages. Second, that the money will brewers improve quality and distribution by giving them greater access to capital.
Both are equal lines of bullshit ignoring the fact that if they were just honest most people would shrug and move on. AB (and Miller Coors and Constellation and etc) is buying breweries to squelch competition and these brewery owners are selling because they are being offered more money than they ever thought they would make brewing beer.
I understand why AB has to pretend that they are extending their largess to the wretched poor, but the brewers who sell? Why are they participating in this lie?
For breweries like Golden Road and 10 Barrel, why perpetuate the AB story? Maybe they need to believe it. However, in Golden Road’s case everyone in the craft beer world already believed that brewery was created solely to be sold after a few years, so keeping up the story is curious.
Personally, I don’t care what you do with your business whether it is a brewery or a lemonade stand. I greatly prefer independent and locally owned breweries in the purchases I make for the bar, but I also want to provide good liquid in the glass for my customers. That means occasionally I will buy something from a craft brand owned by a large beer company. However, here is the problem for those companies I don’t have to 98% of the time. The only brand that falls into that category that we buy regularly is Ballast Point, but after the dreadful Watermelon Dorado this past year, that may be about to end. Other than that, I can think of only one other keg in the last year that would fall into that category.
All I want is for those involved in these purchase to not lie about why they bought and why they sold. We are adults. We get it. This is a business. Again, I understand that AB is trying to keep the government’s anti-trust lawyers off their back. For the brewers who sell, that was your statement and to pretend otherwise is an insult to everyone reading and listening.
I’ll let McKean’s last line by mine here, “Here’s the truth: selling to a macro-brewer is the fastest, simplest way to turn equity in a craft brewery into cash. That’s the only reason to sell to them. Anyone who claims otherwise is full of shit.”