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 Hunting: Watch 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 PorchDrinking: Last 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
The Empire Strikes Back
Felipe Szpigel, president of High End, the “craft” division of AB InBev, composed an OpEd for the Chicago Tribune:
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:
- Adam H. Callaghan, Eater-Seattle Updated: Anheuser-Busch Fined $150,000 for Pay-to-Play Deal in Seattle: Caught in a good old fashioned sting operation.
- Dave Eisenberg, Good Beer Hunting: California Fines Anheuser-Busch Wholesalers for Pay-To-Play
- Dan Adams, Boston Globe: Bars and packies got free equipment to push Budweiser, state says
- Jim Morrill, The Charlotte Observer: Craft brewers say this document shows the distribution system is ‘rigged’
- Suzanne Barlyn, Reuters: AB InBev to pay SEC $6 million to settle bribery charges
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.
“Today, ABInBev reminds us that “the amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.
AB InBev’s goal is not to win the argument, it’s to exhaust us by forcing us to refute an endless stream of bullshit.
AB InBev’s goal is to make it easier to say “fuck it” than to care. It’s a deeply cynical strategy that is employed by the very worst people.”
Reaver Beach Brewing produced a parody video titled, Six Viewpoints from the Deep End
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
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.