Beer Wars | The Empire v. The Craft Beer Revolution

AB InBev’s recent purchase of Wicked Weed, followed by the news of its partial ownership of RateBeer.com, and the subsequent craft-beer industry reaction has turned a once “under the radar” beer fight into full-fledged war (of words). What started as a few internet jabs here and there, has now turned into OpEd pieces, video productions, Twitter debates, and lenthy interview pieces by beer publications. Here’s a breakdown of what has been written and produced the last two months.

Much like the Star Wars franchise began with “Episode IV, the brewing rivalry enjoys a backstory that predates 2017. And, it also didn’t start in 2011 with the AB InBev purchased Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. Indeed, anyone that’s read works such as Maureen Ogle: Ambitious Brew, knows this fight has existed since the 1870s. But, the purchase of Wicked Weed sparked an onslaught of marketing and social media battles between the multi-billion-dollar AB InBev Empire, located in Leuven, Belgium, and American Craft Beer.

One note: I’ve decided to refrain from adding my own writing to this list — although, to be honest, I’ve done very little. I think it is best to showcase what is being said throughout the beer world. 

The Beer Wars

AB InBev buys its tenth craft brewery: Wicked Weed

Jeter King Brewery reacted:  “On the Wicked Weed Brewing Purchase”

Chris Herron, CEO/Co-founder of Creature Comforts wrote at Good Beer HuntingWatch the Hands, Not the Cards — The Magic of Megabrew

Jim Vorel of Paste Magazine offered his thoughts: The BS Arguments of Craft Beer Sell-Outs: How Brewery Buyouts Hurt Craft Beer

AB InBev & hop farms

Elk Mountain Farms, the world’s largest contiguous hop farm

Tristan Chan, of PorchDrinking.com, reported: Hop Harvest at Anheuser Busch’s Elk Mountain Farm


Video: Mathew Powers, Elk Mountain

South American hops

(March, 2017) Agriculture News: SABMiller, AB InBev to increase South African hops production and export

(May, 2017)  Tristan Chan, of PorchDrinking, wrote: Anheuser-Busch Monopolizes South African Hop Supply from Craft Breweries

Jeremy Fultz, of BrewStuds.com reported: The Great Hops Blockade Of 2017: U.S. Craft Breweries Speak Out

AB InBev purchases brewing publications

AB InBev develops relationship with Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting 

AB InBev’s ZX Ventures to launch October : New Beer and Culture-Focused Website October Launches,

AB InBev reports in June it purchased part of RateBeer.com in October, 2016. 

Tristan Chan, for PorchDrinkingLast October Anheuser-Busch Acquired Minority Stake in RateBeer

Dogfish Response to RateBeer.com purchase:
A message from Sam on current RateBeer changes

Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales provides strong response to AB InBev & RateBeer purchase: Response to AB InBev.

Colorado breweries ask to be taken off RateBeer.com, too, as seen in this news clip:

The Brewers Association looks for a solution: The Independence Seal

Jess Baker, of CratBeer.com: Independent Craft Brewer Seal Unveiled by the Brewers Association

BAIndSeal


The Empire Strikes Back

Felipe Szpigel, president of High End, the “craft” division of AB InBev, composed an OpEd for the Chicago Tribune:

‘Big beer’ working with craft brewers: What’s the argument?

AB InBev produce a video in response to the BA Independence Seal

Tristan Chan, of PorchDrinking: Budweiser’s “The High End” Responds to Brewers Association’s Independent Label

AB InBev, in the video, doesn’t mention its history of being fined for illegal distribution and business tactics. A sample of articles:

For that matter, the High End video, while noting that the common enemy is spirits, or even the Brewers Association, it seemed to forget its infamous SuperBowl Ad.


The Return of the Craft Brewers

Brewers Association defends Seal of Independence

J. Travis Smith, of HopCulture, wrote: Brewers Association CEO Talks ‘Independent Seal,’ Responds to Critics: Making progress, however slowly.

Modern Times Beer voices its opinion via Twitter on June 30.

Reaver Beach Brewing produced a parody video titled, Six Viewpoints from the Deep End
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Freaverbeach%2Fvideos%2F1714327015261312%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Modern Times sells 30% of its ownership to its own employees: 

The story, from Tristan Chan of PorchDrinking: Modern Times Beer Further Cements Independence with Employee Ownership Program


What’s Next?

Unlike Star Wars, a neat and tidy ending seems unlikely in this brewing battle. And, as we have witnessed the past two months, the debate is as fluid as the beer that’s brewed. One can assume that AB InBev will continue to spend — deep pockets allow for that. One can also surmise that the Brewers Association will have to continue to preach to its 5,000-strong legion of breweries (and fans) that an industry-first approach is necessary to succeed.

Who will win? Well, that story hasn’t been written, yet.

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