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Supporting First Coast craft beverages.
With all of the flack and fallout surrounding Budweiser’s superbowl ad poking fun at the craft beer world, AB-InBev is reaching out to popular regional craft breweries in the hopes of buying back some market share. Facing a dramatic decline in Budweiser sales (50 million barrels production in 1988 vs. 18 million barrels production today), the international behemoth headquartered in Europe that now owns Budweiser’s iconic brand is looking to add to their portfolio by strategically purchasing popular craft beer breweries from coast to coast. With the recent acquisitions of such notable micro breweries as Goose Island, Elysian, 10 Barrel Brewing and Blue Point, AB-InBev is now attempting to increase it’s market share by outright purchasing popular regional brands.
Bought the “hard way?”
The advertising campaign mocking craft brewing on the one hand and outright purchase of craft breweries to increase market share on the other hand may seem a bit schizophrenic. To make matters worse, distributors working to preserve the antiquated 3 tier system in Florida have been heavily funding and working diligently with local, state and federal legislatures to hamper the growth of craft breweries with a flood of new legislation.
Funky Buddha, expect a phone call!
This week, the Tampa Tribune confirms that the much beloved Cigar City Brewing has been approached by AB-InBev. This comes as no surprise, as Cigar City Brewing has grown into a wildly popular brewery in our region. This makes perfect business sense for In-Bev (if you can’t beat them, buy them) but Cigar City Brewing’s owner, Mr. Joey Redner, isn’t interested at this time. It doesn’t hurt to listen to anyone’s offer as a brewery owner, but talk is just that, talk. I’m sure Mr. Redner and other brewery owners would love to gleam some insight into AB-InBev’s overall growh plan but I wouldn’t expect anyone to take them seriously without being offered dump trucks full of cash. I would fully expect that if other Florida craft breweries haven’t been approached yet, they probably will be shortly. Funky Buddha, Cycle Brewing and Intuition Ale Works might possibly be next in the sights of big corporate brewing.
The backlash against the practice of big corporations purchasing regional craft breweries has been pretty dramatic. Fans of recently purchased breweries are not happy and feel as if the brands they’ve helped to grow and enjoy have sold out, completely abandoning them as consumers. Even one of the founders of Elysian Brewing, Dick Cantwell, was solidly against the sale of his own brewery. It appears that in these instances, the lure of wider distribution through AB-InBev’s wholesale networks and an outright cash grab of what is probably obscene amounts of money is all that it took for these smaller companies to sell out. This would be a bit of a sticky wicket as breweries that are perceived to have “sold out” to a larger company will have to contend with a certain amount of backlash from their fan base. What seems to hurt worse is when your parent company spends $9 million on a superbowl commercial also seemingly mocking what you do for a living.
The Struggle is real.
As I see it, large international corporate beer has no love for local and regional craft beer. On the one hand, they seek to restrict and slow it’s growth in the marketplace while in the other hand, seek to purchase successful craft breweries. If you are a fan of local craft beer, the best way that you can help the craft beer movement is to simply drink locally produced craft beer. Be vocal about it and introduce as many people to craft beer brands as possible. Purchase your beers directly from brewery tap rooms or from reputable sources (not from FISA, sorry ABC & Foremost. You suck.).
As a consumer of craft beer, is there anything else I can do?
Yes, there is. Contact your local government representatives and let them know that you support craft beer. Be vocal and visit them. Keep a careful watch on the Florida legislature and get politically involved. Follow the latest information from the Florida Brewer’s Guild and support their indiegogo legal defense campaign. Lastly, consider brewing your own beer. Learning to brew is perhaps the best way to learn about the complexities of beer and what it takes to produce a great adult beverage at home.