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It’s bad enough that the goliaths of Big Beer are consuming each other in a new round of mega-mergers, meaning fewer choices and higher prices for consumers – but the really bad news is that they’re also going after the one bright spot on tap in bars all across the country: Craft beers.
These are not merely beers, but jewels of the brewers art – yeasty, hoppy, and malty local delights with unique, deep flavors that put the “fizzy yellow” suds of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors to shame. And, not surprisingly, while the sales of Big Beer’s fizz are declining, the craft brewers are up by 17 percent last year alone. And the number of craft brewers has nearly doubled since 2010.
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The giants have noticed… and are responding. By making better beer? Don’t be silly. Instead, they’re trying to co-opt the good name of local beer makers and dupe consumers by pretending that the likes of Bud and Miller are “craft” brewers, too. How? Two ways.
First, they’ve created false fronts like Blue Moon Brewing Company, Tenth & Blake, and Green Valley Brewery, pretending to be upstart independents. You won’t see the name of MillerCoors, or Anheuser-Busch on the labels – but those are the macro-brewers that own and make such ersatz micro-brews as Blue Moon, Killian’s, and Shock Top.
Second, the deep-pocketed beer behemoths are simply buying up small craft brewers, including Goose Island (Anheuser-Busch) and Leinenkugel (MillerCoors). Again, they’re co-opting the imagery of cool independents, but – shhhh – it’s the same old Big Beer hiding behind the small guy labels.
When all else fails, the giants get thuggish, using their marketing muscle and political punch to knock the craft beers out of bars and off the shelves. But the independents are scrappy – and it’s up to us quaffers of real beer to stand (and drink) with them. Cheers!
“Monopolizing Beer,” The New York Times, October 8, 2014.
“Pay-to-play infects Chicago beer market, Crain’s investigation find,” www.chicagobusiness.com, November 22, 2010.
“Big Beer dresses up in craft brewer’s clothing,” www.fortune.com, November 15, 2012.
“Bud and Miller Are Trying to Hijack Craft Beer – an It’s Totally Backfiring,” www.motherjones.com, July 30, 2014.