Last week the craft beer community went crazy with anger after the announcement that AB-InBev purchased 10 Barrel Brewing, a small craft brewery in Oregon. From the comments online you’d have thought that the CEO of AB-InBev was planning for all 10 Barrel beers to now be made from the tears of orphans and the blood of puppies.
I’m just fine with AB-InBev or any other large conglomerate buying up a craft brewery. Why? Because Goose Island. The craft beer world went through this same rage fest when AB-InBev bought a stake in 2006, then acquired the Chicago based brewery in 2011.
Most of the rage stemmed from a fear that beer quality would suffer and that this was a move for big brewing conglomerates to dismantle or destroy craft beer. So what was next in Big Beer’s dastardly plan to destroy the craft brewing world? Well it was pretty damn sneaky.
AB-InBev’s next move was to use their vast distribution system to more efficiently deliver delicious Goose Island beers straight to my local bar and beer store. They also increased production, and for the most part, they kept the beers exactly the same as they had been for years.
Most importantly Goose Island’s more rare beers like Sophie, Matilda, and Lolita are now available pretty much any time I want them. Right now I can walk into half a dozen stores and bars within a five minute walk from my house in Maryland and buy several great Goose Island beers. I can also do that in Texas, or Georgia. This would not be the case without AB-InBev.
So calm down craft beer fans. Most of you have never even heard of 10 Barrel, much less have had the opportunity to try one of their beers. Now be patient and soon you will have a chance to taste these beers at your local watering hole.
Where the concern should be placed is in these large conglomerates leveraging their supply chains to squeeze out smaller breweries. Technically large brewing corporations like AB-InBev can’t own in distribution companies in most US states. However, the reality is that they can leverage their size and money to put their brands ahead of smaller breweries. So don’t expect the quality of small breweries like 10 Barrel to suddenly take a dive, but pay attention in case large breweries begin using their new craft beer acquisitions to push small breweries to the side at the distribution level.