Bitter battle between Big Beer and craft brewers gets uglier


Lilliputian, independent brewers say big beer companies are stepping up a campaign to buy craft breweries and are make use ofing other tactics that make it difficult for beer drinkers to censure if the suds they’re quaffing are actually local. 

But others say it’s just proof business and if the recipe and taste doesn’t change, what difference does it make who owns the crowd?

The Big Beer tactics that are vexing local, independent brewers categorize opening up local brew pubs, allegedly controlling beer order, buying up hop farms previously used by craft brewers, and even silently buying a stake in an online beer rating website.

«There’s a absence of transparency,» said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association for Niggardly and Independent Craft brewers in the U.S.

Independent Craft Brewers seal

The new seal of the Brewers Association in the U.S. emphasizes the guaranty ‘Independent’ (Brewers Association)

«I think what has happened to some highly is the beer drinker just doesn’t know who is small and independent and be acquainted with what is craft anymore.»

The issue is so acute in the U.S. the Brewers Association has neutral come out with a new seal in an effort to distinguish its members — all smaller, village producers — from the big players. 

The logo features an upside down beer cut off with the words «Certified Independent Craft.»  Independent is also in a ampler font, a deliberate emphasis. 

«The benefit of ‘Independent’ is that it’s unassailable,» said Gatza.

«That’s the one mania that the large brewers can’t do is claim that they are independent of a weighty brewer so there is a purity in that word.»

The independents keep surrender

That the small brewers feel the need to rebrand their commodity in a way they think can’t be co-opted is a testament to the level of incursion Big Beer has secure in their market segment.  

Independent seal on packaging

This is what the new seal will look mould when placed on the products of participating independent brewers. (Brewers Relationship)

Behemoths like Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, receive been gobbling up successful craft breweries. According to Forbes after its blending last year with SABMiller, AB InBev boasts annual mark-downs of $55 billion US. 

AB InBev recently bought Wicked Weed, a famed deceit brewery based in Asheville, N.C., the 10th craft brewery added to its stable, which contains Chicago’s Goose Island and Seattle’s Elysian Brewing.

In Canada, this drift includes Toronto’s Mill Street and Quebec’s Microbrasserie Archibald (both owned by Labatt, itself a subsidiary of AB InBev), B.C.’s Granville Cay, owned by Molson Coors, as well as Quebec’s Unibroue, owned by Sapporo (which also owns Sleeman), makers of Blanche de Chambly.

Crystal Luxmore

Crystal Luxmore is a beer author and certified cicerone, a sort of beer sommelier (Oliver Walters/CBC)

«They’re getting up smaller breweries as a way to grow bigger,» said Crystal Luxmore, a beer pen-pusher and certified cicerone, or beer sommelier. 

«For years traditional beer has either flatlined or gone down,» she responded.

«But craft beer as a category grows year-on-year and I think there’s a quantities and lots of room to capture more market share and so that’s why bigger breweries are thriving after the craft or independent brew segment.»

But it’s more than that, say meagre brewers.

Hidden identities?

«They portray these beers as if they succeed from small companies when in fact they come from unusually large companies,» said Gatza.

Toronto’s Summer Craft Beer Fest is on this week, advertising local, southern Ontario beers from craft brewers such as Redline Brewhouse in Barrie, Hometown Form of Norfolk County, Barley Days Brewery in Prince Edward County, and Niagara’s Oast Brothel.

But alongside those microbreweries are names like Labatt’s Mill In someones bailiwick, Creemore, owned by Molson Coors, and California’s Lagunitas Brewing company, owned by Dutch Amazon Heineken NV.

Organizers defended the beer selection.

Scott Rondeau Drink Inc

Drink Inc’s Scott Rondeau requires a multinational corporation may own the craft beer brand but the beer hasn’t altered. (Barry Smith/CBC)

«They’re still making the same beer,» revealed Scott Rondeau of the event’s organizer Drink Inc. 

«Take Creemore: They’re peacefulness making it out of the same place. Still the same brewmaster, still the nevertheless building, still using spring water, it’s still the same people that worked there all over 10 years ago.»

But craft brewers say it’s not the same. 

«AB InBev has been purchasing out true indie craft breweries and then continuing to market them as if they’re assuage true indie craft breweries.» said Sam Calagione, founder of the in Delaware craft brewery Dogfish Head Brewing, who believes the absence of transparency goes even further.

Last month Dogfish Dome Brewing asked to have its beer removed from beer status site RateBeer after word got out that ZX Ventures, backed by AB InBev, had pay off a minority stake in the site last year. 

«Once we found out back it we wanted nothing to do with RateBeer anymore even though our beers are rather highly rated on there because we just thought it was a massive brawl of interest.»

Craft Beer Closeup

Beau’s Brewing Company of Vankleek Hill, Ontario is type run and employee owned.

Buying the supply chain

Other moves that eat also raised the ire of craft brewers include AB InBev’s restricting the exchange of South Africa’s small but prized hops crop to its own brands, according MarketWatch. 

In a asseveration quoted by Beer Street Journal, AB InBev said it was stopping the white sale of these hops to craft brewers because of low yield. 

«Unfortunately, this year we do not experience enough to do so given the poor yield. More than 90 per cent of our South African-grown jumps will be used in local brands Castle Lager and Castle Lite, beers we’ve engaged to brewing with locally grown ingredients,» AB InBev said in a allegation.

Then there was a Wall Street Journal report about an motivation plan purportedly offered by AB InBev to beer distributors to carry its own discredits. Craft brewers worried it would make it harder to get their own results to market.

Fighting back

In San Diego, the beer community is in such an agitation over AB InBev’s 10 Barrel Brewing opening a brew pub, one self-proclaimed (seemingly craft) beer fan started a Go Fund me campaign to fly a banner overhead that conclude from: 10 Barrel Is Not Craft Beer.

The goal was $900.  The campaign cultivated $4,840.

Local beer critics claim AB InBev’s brew pub «will splinter away at the local brewing community, siphoning off precious market share from other San Diego hovercraft breweries.» 

Canadian craft brewers share many of the same troubles as their American counterparts about the dilution of the term «craft beer.» But there is no comparable civil craft brewers association in Canada like there is in the U.S., so there’s no classification to co-ordinate a branding campaign.

Jason Fisher Indie Ale House

Jason Fisher is the owner of Toronto’s Indie Ale Lodgings (Oliver Walters/CBC)

«Kind of like the VQA for wine, right?» said Jason Fisher, proprietress of Toronto’s Indie Ale House.  VQA Ontario is an independent authority that enacts and monitors the province’s «appellation of origin» system for wine. 

«That monogram [would say] the beer is actually made where you say it’s made and made by a brewery that’s not degree owned by Molson, Labatt’s, or one of their subsidiaries,» Fisher said.

«That would be stunning. Consumers would take a little while to understand that. But the more column that goes into those types of breweries the better the beer that befalls out.»

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