Craft beer is in demand. There’s no doubt about that. In the last few years more and more craft breweries have come into prominence and their beers have been showing up everywhere from grocery stores to restaurants. Craft beer continues to outperform the overall U.S. beer market, where it makes up 11% of volume. Because of this obvious interest, large beer corporations want in on the action. This makes sense, of course, because as demand for craft beer goes up, interest in mainstream brews takes a fall.
Corporate beer giants like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are dealing with the interest in craft beer in a few ways. They have made a point to take on successful craft brewers with expertise in their local markets in order to create their own craft brews. Another method to deal with potential profit erosion from craft competitors is to buy corporate rivals. Anheuser-Busch has already taken on several well-known craft breweries such as Goose Island Beer Co., Blue Point Brewing Co., 10 Barrel Brewing Co., and Elysian Brewing Co.
The LA Times references Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Assn., a trade group for craft brewers, by quote as saying, “Growing a business is expensive, so many small brewers that are growing rapidly and taking on a lot of debt are looking to finance.” More deals with huge payoffs could follow, but brewery owners must also grapple with customer backlash against them “selling out” and giving up a measure of control over a company they’ve nurtured.
Even though some craft breweries have been acquired by the giants of the beer world, many still produce the same quality product. This leads to the question of whether customer backlash is justified. I think it’s quite trivial really, but regardless of my opinion, the facts remain. The growing demand for craft beer will lead to more and more artisan breweries to thrive, and although some of them will fall into the net of corporate beer giants, there are a good portion who will remain independent. At the end of the day though, so long as I have a good tasting beer I can appreciate and enjoy, who owns it isn’t my concern. What do you think?