Yes, there have been some fears expressed over the prospect of big breweries buying little ones, especially in the wake of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s purchase of Chicago’s Goose Island and Molson Coors’ buy-out of Sharp’s in the U.K. But really, such worries are overblown.
How do I know? Because after over a year of trying, Japan’s Sapporo still hasn’t been able to find a brewery in the U.S. to buy! Their search has been so frustrating, in fact, that the company has expanded their interest to include wineries and makers of alcopops, as reported here.
Note this line in particular:
“They are either too big or too small and often when something is suitable it can’t be bought, for example if the founding stakeholders don’t want to sell,” Mr. Mochida said.
6 Replies to “About Those Craft Brewery Takeover Worries?”
Let me see if I understand this: there are 1600-odd breweries in the US, many started by home-brewers looking to cash in on the “craft” beer frenzy and now, not a single one wants to sell to a huge Japanese distillery (which presumably is making reasonable offers)?
There is something really wrong with this picture.
Note the “too big or too small” part of the quote, Mike. That would eliminate a lot of those 1600 (actually over 1700 now).
Fair enough. However, if we assume the income distribution of micro-breweries (a far more obvious and sensible term than “craft”) follows a bell-curve, how many breweries would that eliminate? Not so many, I would think.
Sapporo in 2010 reported US$6 billion in sales. That they could not find a single brewery among what must have been at least many hundred, simply beggars belief.
Sometimes I get as depressed as you when I hear of these shenanigans, like with Goose etc. I feel you. But here is another view.
I am completely happy for big breweries to buy out craft breweries as often as they like for the following reasons:
1. If the brewery is for sale, then the craft brewer’s dedication to craft is clearly waning or unsustainable in any case — they are rarely in it for the riches
2. One thing the unlikely surge of good beer over the last two decades of otherwise rampant corporate expansion has taught us is that an appetite for good beer and a desire to make it will always come out on top. Even if every craft brewery in the country sold out tomorrow, they be replaced by a league of exciting start-ups within a month.
3. If a craft brewery is bought out it will either turn shit and become corporate beer and therefore irrelevant, or, as with Unibroue, quality brewing will be allowed to continue. It’s a win win.
I don’t get depressed over developments like Goose Island, Dan. In fact, I was quite happy for the halls since, as you note, their beers will either stay real and be better distributed or lose credibility and vanish from the craft beer radar.
Incidentally, as a freelancer myself, I maintain my sanity by keeping in mind a salary number I would require in order to depart my current lifestyle, just as I’m certain there are brewers out there who think “I’d only sell if someone offered me x amount.” And I’m pretty sure no one is going to offer me such a salary.
I think we’re all concerned about the future and more to the point, the continued availability of craft beer. The issue I have with BMC is similar to my criticisms of most large corporations: Their aggressive and punitive marketing tactics a la ‘Beer Wars.’ I don’t shop @ WalMart for similar reasons. I’ve enjoyed GI beers in the past but I’m now on the fence leaning away although I probably never would have had any without AB-InBev’s distribution.