Andy Crouch over at Beerscribe.com put together a great article describing observed moves by Anheuser-Busch in relation to trends in the craft beer industry. In the article, Andy sees the recent purchase of 40% of Goose Island by Widmer as history repeating itself.
To give some background, Redhook gave up 25% equity to A-B in 1994. Widmer gave up 27%, also to A-B, in 1996. Both acts gave the breweries access to A-B’s exclusive, far-reaching distribution network. Now, ten years later, Goose Island and Old Dominion have both done the same for keys to the kingdom.
In addition, the article cover’s some of A-B’s various forays into trying to brew their version of craft beer.
Now I have no problem with A-B buying into quality breweries, nor do I think they shouldn’t be competing with craft beer. I do find it interesting that these purchases and courting of the brewing press seem to happen as craft beer sales are eating into A-B’s direct bottom line. It comes down to some larger quality breweries deciding for themselves how bad they want access to A-B’s distribution network to grow their market share.
Andy’s done a good job of aggregating some nice quotes from several heavy-hitters on the subjects, including Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione, Pizza Port’s Tomme Arthur, Sam Adams’ Jim Koch, and Goose Island’s Greg Hall.
What does it all mean? It’s probably nothing more than A-B trying to protect their bottom line, but you can’t deny that A-B’s got some weight to throw around that the small guys don’t.