If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em

ABInBev is a mega brewery.  Stop. No. They are not a brewery. They are a bucket, based in Belgium, where the money you pay for what you  think is a local beer goes in the final accounting. As an entity, they brew nothing. They just collect the money, and to some degree dole some of it back out in the form of re-investment in the properties they hold.

In the United States they pass themselves off as Anheuser-Busch, makers of a hard work/beechwood infused, corn-based low ABV lager beer. AB publicly poo-poos craft beer as snob beer with stupid ingredients. Yet they seem to want to buy the better craft breweries to show off in their portfolio. Here’s why . . . . .


Taking a page from Microsoft (and others), AB is using the old mantra “if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em” to get some kind of foothold in the craft beer business. While nationwide beer sales declined 1.9 percent in 2013, craft beer sales rose 17.2 percent, according to the Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers.

This all started out innocently enough back in 1994 when AB dangled the proverbial carrot in front of Seattle’s Redhook Brewery for partial (25%) ownership (read that as investment capital) in exchange for national distribution of their brands (or at least some of them). Oh, and you will also contract brew for us (AB). This led to the formation of the Craft Brew Alliance (Redhook, Widmer and Kona breweries) which are no longer consider by the Brewers Association to qualify as craft breweries. AB now owns 32% of the Craft Brew Alliance.

Not happy with that, AB create a faux craft brewery called Shock Top and went to great lengths to disassociate itself with the brewery – why – (1) to make it appear that Shock Top was a “real” independent craft brewery, and (2) to maintain Budweiser as the market leader (King of Beers).

Well, that had not not worked out so well, because knowledgeable  craft beer enthusiasts spotted the ruse almost immediately. So, on to Plan B – buy leading craft brewers in their entirety. Over the past five years, the AB dagger has struck down these great, award-winning breweries:

  • Goose Island (Chicago)
  • Blue Point (New York)
  • 10 Barrel (Oregon)
  • Elysian (Seattle)

No one really knows how many other breweries AB has tried to woo and been told, not so politely, to just go away. Still, ABI is the biggest brewing consortium in the world for a good reason. Here is who they own nowadays. Some dedicated craft beer enthusiasts call this the DO NOT BUY list: