Friday, June 9, 2017

I have played along for too long now. Enough is enough.

{June 9th, 2017}

The craft beer boom has been a real thorn in the side of crap beer producing mega-conglomerates for a while now and none of them are taking action more aggressively than AB-InBev. Through brewery acquisitions, supply chain disruption, and control of beer related press AB-InBev is waging a war against small independent breweries across the world. For many of us, craft beer is a large part of out lives and we must decide how involved we are in the realm of craft beer.

"If the beer is good, I'll drink it." -my old view

I tried to stay out of the politics of my hobby for a long time. But recent moves by AB-InBev have forced me to re-think my position. At first, AB-InBev started getting into the distribution of craft beer; at some point, they realized that the trend was here to stay. I was ok with that. Soon after, they released some "craft beers" of their own. Some of them were actually really good if we're being honest. Many of the great beer lovers wouldn't buy it and crap beer drinkers wouldn't try the new offerings. The AB-InBev "craft" brands failed with a few exceptions. AB-InBev then started buying up small craft breweries. I was ok with that at first. Breweries are businesses after all. When Elysian sold I started to be a little concerned but it wasn't that big of a deal. AB-InBev purchased Northern Brewer, a homebrew supply shop, and the alarms started sounding for me. That is when I realized how far the conglomerate was willing to go to disrupt the craft beer movement.

Craft beer nerds went into full meltdown mode when AB-InBev purchased Wicked Weed Brewing out of Asheville, NC. Frankly, the reaction was ridiculous and over the top. Soon after AB-InBev purchased the hop yards of South Africa and immediately cut off the South African hops hop supply to any company that was not affiliated with them. This was and is a direct disruption of the supply chain. Northern Brewer touted the South African hops in their latest catalog with an over priced grab bag of hops and expensive homebrew kits. I wasn't much of a fan of Northern Brewer to begin with. I always found their shipping times to be too slow compared to their competitors such as MoreBeer, Adventures In Homebrew, Label Peelers, Great Fermentations, and others. Now Northern Brewer is dead to me.

The latest AB-InBev news is about their purchase of part of popular beer rating website Ratebeer.com. In fact, the purchase was made months ago but only recently announced. Many of the craft brewing industries leaders are voicing their concerns about AB-InBev owning RateBeer. Not only does AB-InBev have their foot in the door in the ownership, supply chain, and distribution of craft beer, now they are in on craft beer related journalism. Sam Calagione,
the well known President of Dogfish Head Brewery, is leading the charge against this latest acquisition. Citing conflict of interest and issues with journalistic integrity. Dogfish Head has asked RateBeer to remove all of their beer reviews and mentions from the site. Many other breweries are following suit. You can read Sam's letter be clicking HERE. PASTE Magazine posted a good article about this that you can read by clicking HERE. RateBeer is reportedly ignoring breweries requests to remove them from the site. Personally, I have always preferred Beer Advocate and Untappd. Ratebeer is a meeting place for trolls and fanboys and those who thought they were a cicerone but can't tell the difference in a hoppy pale ale and a double IPA.

I'm ok with playing hardball business. What I am not ok with is using power and slimy tactics to snuff out small businesses just to appease stockholders. In a perfect world, AB-InBev would realize the potential of small craft breweries and instead of trying to squash them AB-InBev would capitalize by helping with distribution. I have drawn my line now. I will no longer knowingly purchase AB-InBev affiliated or owned products whenever possible. No more purchases from Northern Brewer, or Goose Island, or Elysian, or Wicked Weed, or Devil's Backbone, or any of their other affiliates. I'm not arguing that everyone should boycott AB-InBev products or even care. I am saying that everyone should draw a line in the sand and stick with it. If you're are against AB-InBev be sure not to line up for Bourbon County.

I could cite more to back-up some of these facts but a quick Google search will lead you to good sources.