Monday, March 25, 2019

Craft Beer is Dead... Long Live Craft Beer!

A recent article on the Medium website bemoans past and current depredations of the beer giant, AB InBev, and paints a fairly dark picture of the future of craft beer companies. 

Entitled, "How the World’s Biggest Brewer Killed the Craft Beer Buzz", it perhaps goes too depressingly negative with the following question: "Is the party over for indie suds?" With over 7,000 breweries in operation and a $26 billion market, the answer would seemingly be No. But the author shows how the largest beer company has worked to weaken or co-opt the strength of the craft beer business.

In three ways: 

1) Co-opt key partisans
AB InBev bought up ten respected craft breweries between 2011 and 2017. This led to outcries and boycotts from hard-core craft drinkers. But the majority of drinkers do not really care who owns the beer. In addition, AB InBev does not really tout themselves as the owner -- a lack of transparency is called "craft washing."

2) Supercharge production
The craft breweries bought by AB InBev gain almost unlimited access to ingredients and brewing facilities. They can easily expand production when they need to. In addition, they benefit from a much stronger distribution network.

3) Win the propaganda war
AB InBev bought RateBeer (a beer evaluation website) and Northern Brewer (a large homebrew supply website). It also created the online publication, October and a beer festival, OctFest. These moves allow the company access to information on current trends as well as platforms for promotion on a scale larger than that enjoyed by any other individual brewer.

Sounds pretty bad for your average little neighborhood brewery, doesn't it? Read the article and decide for yourself. 

I feel that craft beer will not disappear. There may be a shakeout coming. In fact, in some places it may already be here (see recent developments in the Portland, OR area). Despite these moves to co-opt the market, craft beer is not going away, and there will likely be even more breweries in your neighborhood (in the near term, at least) rather than fewer.