The Chron has a Q&A with beer aficionado Jenn Litz that raises an interesting question.
Q: How are the major breweries responding to the craft beer trend?
A: Mostly through the acquisition route. They know the milliennials are drinking craft, and the margins are good with craft beer. The majority of craft beer drinkers either don’t know or don’t care if the label is owned by MillerCoors or Anheuser-Busch. A lot of these craft breweries don’t have succession plans, and they’d be open to selling to a big company.
As we know, one strategy the major breweries have adopted is to create brands that imitate craft-brewed beers. I’ll be honest, I’d have a hard time with it if my favorite craft beer were to be acquired by one of the mega-brewers. For one thing, I would not trust the big boys to maintain the quality of any craft brew they’d acquire. I mean, in any other industry, how often does a small startup retain its defining qualities when it gets bought out by a bigger competitor? Generally speaking, the idea is to “integrate” the newcomer into the brand of the buyer, which is to say make it more like what the big company does. I don’t see how that could be a good thing. Second, while I’m not a fanatic about “buy local”, all things being equal I’d rather spend my money on a company that’s based here and that invests here. Finally, to the extent that brand identity matters, I’d rather identify and be identified with something small and independent than something big and corporate. Obviously, your mileage may vary. I fully expect that there will be some consolidation in the beer industry – the big brewers can see what the trends are, and they like making money – but I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.
On a side note, Scott Metzger of Freetail Brewing is busy posting again. See his thoughts on the start of the session and of the Alcohol Working Groups hosted by Sens. John Carona and Leticia Van de Putte that have been going on for several months. He’s sounding optimistic about the way things are going for microbewers, which is good to hear. Check it out.