No one reads this right? Just checking because I’m almost certain beer geeks everywhere will automatically disagree with me if they did so once again I am just using this as a semi-public way to vent. Today I read a lengthy piece about why breweries that sell out to large conglomerates like AB Inbev (well actually solely AB Inbev from what I read) are “capable of devastating the craft brewing industry”. (https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/05/the-straw-man-arguments-of-craft-beer-sell-outs.html). Like a lot of people that appreciate beer I really don’t like it when subjectively “good” regional breweries sell out and most of the time I avoid their products out of principal. However some of the arguments cited in the article really don’t hold water. Specifically I still believe an owners decision to sell THEIR company is a fundamental right. In fact if the business has investors there might be a fiduciary duty to consider all offers regardless of who the potential buyer is. If the brewery is independently controlled and operated and the owners want to take what is perceived as a moral high ground then that is their prerogative and I applaud those businesses that have have shunned takeovers by giant conglomerates. As a business owner in a completely unrelated field it took twenty years and an initial 75% pay cut to get to where I am now and I would be incensed at the idea of people with no vested interest beyond that of a consumer trying to dictate when I can exit or to whom I can sell. Throughout the article the author focused on ABInbev and suggested there are other ways for owners to cash out. But are there? Is anyone but a giant company like InBev going to pay $1 Bln to get Ballast Point? I doubt it, why would they? He brings up other “alternative routes” that companies like Oskar Blues and Victory have taken and those types of consolidations are great if they make sense and are even available. It’s easy to assume there will be a lot more circling the wagon type joint ventures or less than a majority equity sales in order to remain competitive, but to make it sound like they are easy alternatives to a large sell out is very simplistic.
I also think the author failed to really address “illegal practices”. This should be front and center with regard to reforms nationwide and the efforts of lobbying groups to change local alcohol codes. Stiffer penalties would ideally include expulsion from the marketplace. If bars can be shutdown for a week when caught serving a minor then why cant similar penalties be imposed on purveyors of alcoholic beverages. If an ABInbev distributor is caught trying to force out shelf space in a store chain in Harris County all of that brand is barred from being sold for a week. Strip the shelves of Bud and see if the distributor ever tries that tactic again. Every state has exponentially more breweries than they had and the coffers of every brewers guild should be at record highs enabling them to make strategic contributions to lobbying efforts aimed at eliminating these practices and changing the rules. The US over 5,000 breweries now and there is no excuse for not having a war chest. I don’t like ABInbev but they cannot and will not buy every brewery out there. The pace of their acquisitions is lowing as are the prices they are willing to pay. And as for those sports bars that the writer refers to carrying nothing but ABInbev brands, ten years ago those places would have only carried light lagers made by the same giant companies a decade ago. I didn’t frequent them back then and I don’t today.