Musing the future of craft beer (3) – Buy yourself into beer

Interesting times these are, for sure. Great beers are available in abundance, and more to come. Beer aficionados must feel as if they’re in Walhalla and should be happy. Or should they worry? I don’t know for sure. Interesting times, and sometimes we get interesting news. Read the below and make up your own mind on how to look at the future of craft beer.

Buy yourself into beer

This Heineken brewery in Manchester is NOT where Lagunitas will be brewed.

Ever so silently, however, large companies are buying their way into small beer. There are now no big stories like Heineken buying Lagunitas (who, by the way, are building their first European brewery as we speak near Manchester, UK) or ABI buying Goose Island, but stories nonetheless. When Mahou San Miguel’s bought 30 percent of Avery Brewing, it meant that five of the top ten US craft brewers are now, at least, partly-owned by international brewers. Think about that.

Sure, breweries are bought by one another constantly, but now the grip is tightening on distribution too. Remember: grip on distribution is, next to grip on raw materials, what small and independent breweries fear most about Big Beer. And now Brau Union, the Heineken operation in Austria, acquired a 70% stake in Rudolf Ammersin GmbH, the country’s largest independent beverage distributor and torchbearer of craft beer in Austria. The takeover of the 120 year old family business is still under debate by the Competition Authority but there’s little reason to think it will not go through. And what this will mean for beer, regardless whether it is craft, crafty or industrial in Austria, I don’t know.

With both Heineken and ABI owning craft beer web shops, and them now stretching into proper distribution too, the landscape is once again changing. It will be interesting to see if any other distributors will be bought in the near future.

It will also be interesting to see what the response will be by those breweries now being distributed by these companies. Will all partners of Ammersin stay in the cart, or will they leap out like frogs now it’s Heineken wheeling it? I don’t know.

What I do know is: these are interesting times for beer.

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