UPDATE (dated 04.07.18): For the sake of clarity and transparency this post will remain active on our blog, but the sentiment it conveys is no longer one that I stand by. All the things I have experienced, seen, and heard these past three years leads me to firmly believe in, and fully align with independent business values and independence-supporting practices, and consider big beer to be anything but benign in its intention to infiltrate and dominate craft beer.
. . . . .
So I've tried a lot of beer this trip. In fact I've tried a lot of beer in general. What I care about most is flawless beer that's also delicious, that intersection of art and science is where the most exciting experinces lie. I don't care how cool the brewer is, or even whether they're particularly nice on face value (I really enjoy beer by folk that are said to be really nice once you get to know them).
Since arriving in the US nearly a couple of weeks ago I've heard, with reference to Elysian, but also to 10 Barrel here in Bend, warnings that tend to go as follows "So you know they're owned by Anheuser-Busch right?!"
Yes, I know that, and I care not one bit. The way I see it is that it's not bad for the market sector referred to as 'craft'. Besides, it's none of my business that some folk get to retire well from an industry with few practical exit strategies (one way or another you've got to sell out to some folk to make things pay, whether that's by selling part of your business to another company, distributing to macro businesses like supermarkets, or some other means. Someone somewhere will find offence at some point).
The way I see it is that those of us that own our own breweries outright, that are truly independent, and that have put our livelihoods and finances on the line in one way or another, are better off in one way or another because of ABInBev's moves. Whether you've leveraged a start up loan or not, or partnered with angel investors or sold shares to another company, the risk you take in some form of self financing a brewery should not be understated. Oh and for clarity, brewery in this context means a stainless and silicone brewhouse (that incorporates serious investment) rather than a brew company (that tends to start up for between 100-1000 times less than a micro brewery).
Am I mad?! Not so much, but neither am I short sighted. Can you imagine what would happen if ABInBev got serious about hops? Ha! You think it's a pain getting Citra or Nelson Sauvin now (when it's just Brewdog that buy up 80% of all grown Nelson Sauvin), well imagine what it'd be like if Bud was a seriously hoppy beer. We'd be totally screwed. I'm much happier that their strategy is to buy breweries that make hoppy beer instead of brewing it themselves (the same could be said of barrel aged beer too, imagine what would happen to barrel stock if a Bud variant was barrel aged?!). And what if ABInBev don't just teach 10 Barrel brewing science and go on to mess up their brand? No big deal, more room for the rest of us.
To this day, I've never heard a thoroughly rational argument against macro buyouts of micro breweries that can be said to truly pose a risk to the market sector known as craft. Things may change in the future, but for now the big guys are like big ships. They move slow and they turn even slower, and us little guys are more than agile enough to stay many steps ahead.
10 Barrel Brewery, referred to as 10,000 Barrel Brewey by those that dismiss their new ownership structure, have made what remains the most exciting and delicious beer that I've tried since arriving in the States. Their Überweisse Marionberry, aged for a year in Pinot Noir barrels, is supremely delicious, flawless, and an excellent example of a fruited, matured beer. As principled as I am, I'll be damned if my tastebuds be overruled by prejudice.