Recent years have seen a phenomenal growth in what are called “craft beers”: small independent breweries brewing flavorful alternatives to the mainstream thin American lagers. New breweries are opening almost every day and craft beer now accounts for 6.5% of all beer sold in the US, and the number is growing.
Now, you would think that Big Beer; ie, Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors, would be content with over 90% of the market, but no. They want it all.
To that end Anheuser Busch purchased Goose Island in 2011. And Duvel, a Belgian megabrewer, recently purchased Boulevard Brewers, a craft brewery.
And they have been busy marketing their own “crafty” beers: Blue Moon, Leinenkugels, and Shock Top are all owned by the Big Brewers.
And more of the same is bound to follow as craft beers continue to grow. There will be other offers; Lauganita’s, a California brewer of fine beers, has said that Anheuser Busch has made overtures. They refused, but others may not be so principled. After all, to be offered a huge amount of money, so that one could, instead of having all the headaches of running a business, live without a care? That is a temptation that few of us will ever face. Not everyone is a Bill Watterson, you know.
The situation resembles the organic food movement in the eighties, when pure food became popular. There were all sorts of organic companies, small and thriving. Then Big Food took notice, and today you may buy something with a poetic name that sounds like it was made by benevolent hippies, which at one time it no doubt was, but today is owned by Cargill or General Mills. Apparently few organic entrepreneurs could say no to the Offer You Can’t Refuse.
The term “capitalist pig” is an old one, viewed as over-the-top by most, but if you know anything about pigs it is pretty apt.
I know about pigs. I lived on a communal farm when I was a young man. Our cash crop was hogs. I have observed a group of pigs at a trough full of slop. One of them will be, well, hogging out and out of the corner of his eye will notice that the pig next to him is hogging out as well. And he will push the other pig out of the way to get his slop.
And so Big Beer is not content to own over 90% of the market. They, like the hog at the trough, want it all.
Let us hope that small brewers will possess the commitment to resist their attempts, to say no to corporate beer.