Two years ago Jennie and I went on an epic road trip full of beer and baseball. In addition to passing through Atlanta, North Carolina, and Delaware we spent a night in Asheville. Out of all the places we hit in the area, Wicked Weed was my favorite. I brought back a couple of bottles to save for a special occasion. About a year later Wicked Weed started distributing to Massachusetts.
Last Tuesday night we were sorting entries for our club’s upcoming competition. As we sorted all of the entries we received we shared several bottles of Wicked Weed. Wednesday morning Wicked Weed announced that they had been acquired by The High End, AB InBev’s craft division.
I have been more ambivalent than most in regards to these type of acquisitions. However I have found when it comes time to buy a beer I have a hard time pulling the trigger on purchasing beer from brands that have “sold out”. Last September I was at Fenway Park I was all set to buy a Goose IPA until I saw cans of Harpoon IPA in a case.
Likewise I haven’t purchased anything from Northern Brewer since their acquisition. I’ve received numerous discount emails offering 10%, 15%, and even 20% off of my purchase, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to spend my money there.
Working at Modern Homebrew Emporium every week mitigates the convenience of buying supplies online. When I do spend money on ingredients and supplies there is something to be said for spending it at a place that finds it in their heart to pay me! If there is something I couldn’t get at the shop I think I would still prefer to support another vendor that isn’t associated with AB InBev.
I can’t blame anyone who creates something and then decides to sell it when offered an inordinate amount of money. I still unapologetically enjoy Leinenkugel’s, and will probably buy Bourbon County on Black Friday. Still, I find that when I dig into my wallet more often than not I choose to support independent businesses, especially local ones.
There is some gray area as far as “selling out” goes. Brands like Redhook, Widmer, and Kona do not meet the Brewers Association’s criteria for craft beer because their parent company, the somewhat ironically-named Craft Brew Alliance, is 31% owned by AB. Brooklyn Brewery sold 24% of their company to Japanese macro-brewer Kirin. The Brewers Association has to draw the line somewhere, but should that 7% difference make a huge difference to a consumer?
One of my favorite breweries Founders sold 30% ownership to Spanish macro Mahou San Miguel. As far as I know Mahou San Miguel doesn’t partake in some of AB’s more questionable business practices.
I have no particular animus toward any of these brands that have been acquired by AB or another macro-brewer. When I buy beer or buy brewing supplies I go with my gut. I don’t buy a lot of sour beer. Maybe I’ll pick up a bottle every couple of months. Next time I see Wicked Weed on the shelf I certainly won’t feel the same way I felt that night we walked into the Funkatorium.
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