The money. The distribution. The marketing prowess. The buying power. All of those tantalizing attributes that come with selling a craft brand to one of the world’s giant beer conglomerates also comes with a small downside — you gotta get the fuck out of the club. Over the last few months, associations, guilds and even festivals are beginning to ostracize craft brewing businesses that “sell out” to the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Constellation and beyond.
Just last Thursday, MillerCoors snatched up the Texas-based Revolver Brewing, marking the third such deal in less than a month. MillerCoors is on a crazy shopping spree before the AB InBev merger goes final. Just as lightening quick, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild released a new set of requirements for membership, giving Revolver its I-know-it-was-you Judas kiss. From the press release:
The new definition has three main components for a brewery licensed to operate in Texas:
- Small — Annual production of 2 million barrels of beer or less. Production includes any beer produced by or for this brewery, both within and outside of Texas.
- Independent — No portion of the brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that does not otherwise qualify under this definition.
- Traditional — A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild had already seen what problems these acquisitions create for local guilds after the Colorado Brewers Guild broke up in June amid concerns of the recent AB InBev purchased Breckenridge Brewery being on the board. Fourteen craft breweries split from the guild to form a new trade advocacy organization, called Craft Beer Colorado, with brands like New Belgium, Oskar Blues Brewing and Left Hand Brewing leading the charge. The new guild put it simply:
“We felt if we are going to be a craft brewers guild, then there really isn’t any place for international mega-brewers in our organization,” said Doug Odell, founder of Odell Brewing Co.
Seems reasonable, right? Not only are those craft brands being kicked out of guilds, but they are even being tossed from festivals — festivals they helped found. Since Devils Backbone Brewing Co. was recently purchased by AB InBev, it’s been announced that the brewery won’t be eligible for any awards at the fifth Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, even though the brew bash is held at Devils Backbone’s Basecamp Brewpub in Roseland, Va. Oh yeah, this is the last time the fest will be held at Devils Backbone. Sorry guys, you’re out of the club.
The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild that runs the fest issued a statement reaffirming that membership would be strictly defined by the Brewers Association definition of a craft brewery. From the Washington Post:
“When a small brewer sells to a large company, they choose to willingly, and should expect their position in the brewing community to change and customer relationships to change,” says Julia Herz, the Brewers Association’s craft beer program director. “These companies no longer face the same issues of access to market, access to money or access to ingredients. As we have seen the number of former small brewers sell to the large brewers, that is a matter of concern to guilds in the state where these sales have occurred.”