At the end of the day, the beer does the talking — not the label on the package. That’s a quote from Garrett Wales of 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in the video above. And nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that some 70 percent of consumers choose their beer at time of purchase, according to Nielson’s recent 2017 Craft Beer Category Design Audit, and that means the label is usually more important than the taste of the beer.
Wales should know this (and does know this, or he wouldn’t be bitching), and so should his fellow compatriots in Anheuser-Busch InBev’s The High End (AB InBev’s umbrella business for faux craft and maybe real imports), but it’s just one of the many misguided arguments in the embarrassing video above. 10 Barrel Brewing Co. was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014 (the world’s fattest and, most would agree, dirtiest beer rollup) and has been fighting a public image battle with “independent” brewers ever since.
Now, 10 Barrel and the other nine brands in AB InBev’s The High End are taking umbrage with the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers (there’s an actual definition for “craft,” if you were wondering). The BA recently launched a new certified seal that authentic independent craft brewers can tout on their labels — to further distance “craft beer” from “corporate beer” like 10 Barrel and brands owned by investor-run beverage corporations like AB InBev, which currently owns nameplates like Goose Island, Blue Point Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Four Peaks Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery, Virtue Cider and Devils Backbone Brewing. This video explains.
In the top video titled “Six Viewpoints from The High End,” 10 Barrel and friends tell us why the BA’s seal is nonsense. Consumers don’t necessarily care about independence — says Felipe Szpigel, The High End — it’s about the impact small businesses have on their communities. To be truly punk, you follow your own rules, says David Buhler from Elysian. Wine and spirits are the real enemy, explains Walt Dickinson from Wicked Weed. Why should 10 Barrel and friends be punished for being owned by a big, publicly-owned global business? Are their beer brands different now than they were when they were independently owned? Why should any of this matter to you, the consumer, who just wants a quality product?
Vainly, these arguments are a gross oversimplification of the debate raging right now between beer buyers and beer makers in the craft market. What’s missing from this argument is the fact that AB InBev is notorious for its nefarious business tactics against competitors — controlling distribution channels, bullying smaller business, monopolizing venues, buying off legislators — all with the aim of marginalizing competitors as much as possible (i.e., small, independently-owned craft businesses). Let’s look at some examples of how Beer Voltron controls U.S. distribution, pushing around smaller brands:
- Anheuser-Busch was (is?) being investigated for its distributor incentive programs. Distributors aligned with AB InBev are contractually required to spend a certain amount each year to advertise AB InBev beers. Under this supposed incentive plan, AB InBev refunds 75 percent of this money if its beers make up 98 percent of the distributor’s sales, according to documents provided to lawmakers by AB InBev.
- Yet another example comes from North Carolina and a wholesaler out of Raleigh called R.A. Jeffreys that sells products by Anheuser-Busch InBev (cue Beer Voltron theme music), Corona, Sweetwater Brewing Co. and other brands across 36 counties in the Tar Heel state. According to local craft brewers and The Charlotte Observer, a 1997 franchise agreement has been unearthed between Anheuser-Busch LLC and R.A. Jeffreys that gives AB InBev products “priority over all other products.” From the article: The wholesaler “agrees that its primary effort will be to sell the (Anheuser-Busch) Products, that it will devote greater effort to the Products than it devotes to any other products,” according to the equity agreement.
- AB InBev was charged with “undue influence” last year on the Showbox, Showbox SoDo and Marymoor Park. These are three music venues in Seattle owned and operated by AEG Live NW, with food and drink services provided by Wolfgang Puck Catering. Apparently, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) performed an undercover investigation of these rock halls and found they only sold AB InBev products (that’s not illegal though, right?). On further inspection, the LCB found that the local distributor had entered into sponsorship contracts at the venues to achieve a monopoly (ah, that’s pretty illegal).
Now, AB InBev is expanding into regional markets big time via destination breweries with craft brands it already owns or brands it’s creating from scratch. So basically, corporate-backed franchises will be adding competition to local markets, hoping to steal market share from small, local brands. Dig this:
- Since Golden Roads’ acquisition by AB InBev in 2015, LA’s biggest brewhouse has been aggressively expanding its distribution all over the United States and its brewing destinations all over California. The brewery is currently constructing a brewing outpost in Anaheim, has already secured space in LA’s Grand Central Market and even opened a restaurant at LAX (its Point the Way Café). Golden Road has also announced new destinations in both Sacramento (last year) and (now) in Oakland.
- Beer Voltron is opening a chain of pubs based on its Goose Island Beer Co. brand in the Euro community. AB InBev is planning two Goose Island pubs in London, along with a third destination in its home country of Belgium.
- AB InBev recently announced it was adding another brand to its High-End portfolio with the launch of Veza Sur Brewing Co. in Miami this summer. The beverage rollup has turned to two of its properties, Colombia’s Bogota Beer Co. and Oregon’s 10 Barrel Brewing, to make it all happen.
AND … Here’s some more examples of Beer Voltron fucking with everything else. Ug, it gets utterly exhausting writing about all of this shit.
- Remember that time AB InBev pushed for a law allowing distributors to give retailers leased coolers in Missouri, so as to help push its brands?
- Remember how it plays dirty in other markets (like China) with its American craft brands like Goose Island?
- Remember how it recently invested in RateBeer.com and other media outlets to try and control the voice of beer news and beer reviews?
With just these very few examples, we can understand why independently-owned craft breweries feel the need to differentiate themselves from these corporate brands. The company that owns 10 Barrel and friends is aiming to take away independent brewers’ businesses and livelihoods, and these jokers in this video — David Buhler from Elsyian, Walt Dickinson from Wicked Weed, Andy Ingram from Four Peaks — have some obscenely inflated egos to go on video acting all indignant over a seal the BA is creating for its members (see ass image above). Don’t you guys have money beds to roll in? Cigars to light with $100 bills? Basically, don’t you have something better to do than bitch about the tiniest of advantages smaller breweries have over you? A little seal on their bottles? [Insert small dick joke here.]
In the end, it’s a misguided attempt. Seth Farquharson in the comments puts it perfectly:
See that’s where you guys get this wrong. People care about who is behind what they buy. AB actively pursues legislation that directly influences independent craft brewers. Why would any of us support that? Why would you support that? Why even bother with this video? The only people who care enough to watch this garbage is the people you betrayed. So suck it guys. You guys are about as craft as Kraft Mac and Cheese.