The two largest beer companies in the world, AB InBev and SABMiller have agreed to a takeover of SABMiller by ABInBev. Freelance writer Jason Notte wrote a reaction piece 5 ways the A-B InBev-SABMiller deal will ruin your beer. I thought it was an interesting, if alarmist take on the situation and tweeted the link.
Notte replied to my tweet and them mention tweeted:
I corrected Notte and told him that I never said what he accused me of saying. Will any “good” come of this proposed merger for craft beer? Probably not. Will it change my drinking habits? No. Do I think it will change the options available to me at local bars and bottle shops? No.
I can’t imagine big beer doing anything to make the barrier for craft beer higher than it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Back then there was no concept of craft beer or microbrewed beer. A beer darker than Budweiser was almost foreign. Is the growing segment of the population that consumes craft beer going to all-of-a-sudden go back?
Craft beer drinkers will vote with their wallets. I choose which restaurants to go to based in large part on their beer selection. If The Indo copied Buffalo Wild Wings beer menu (which is still passable) I would stop going and would find another bar. Regardless of how this deal may affect beer distribution, I can still buy great beer direct from the brewery at Newburyport, Riverwalk, Cape Ann, Jack’s Abby, Trillium, and The Tap all within driving distance. I can’t imagine local bottle shops like Bogie’s, Depot Liquors, and Steve’s Quality Liquors all of a sudden abandoning craft beer.
Perhaps to Notte’s point, in areas not blessed with as much great local beer and food this will have a tangible effect. Outside of New England there are places where Domino’s is the best pizza in town, Olive Garden is considered Italian cuisine, Red Lobster is considered food, and the only place you can buy beer is at a supermarket. Maybe in those areas there will be a squeeze.
Some are concerned that a new brewing behemoth could corner the market on ingredients and supplies like hops and aluminum cans. There is already a shortage of cans. I guess it is possible, but it would be a publicity nightmare.
I don’t see much of what big beer does affecting my life. I also don’t think of big beer as some malevolent force of evil. If I am at The Outback with my dad, I will thoroughly enjoy a Budweiser. If Goose IPA is the best beer I can find at Gillette Stadium I will enjoy circling back to a beer that I don’t drink that often.
The ultimate hedge is that I can brew almost any kind of beer I want.