How do the “big boys” fit with Craft Beer and the Craft Beer Business?

Anheuser-Busch InBev's Holiday Gift to Revision3

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Holiday Gift to Revision3 (Photo credit: dlprager)

I’ve been thinking about the Big Beer companies, the big and the getting-bigger companies.

The story starts a few weeks ago. I had been watching a thread on a forum where a homebrewer started off by saying something like “I can’t drink macro lager anymore. I can’t believe anyone who like craft beer can stand to drink that other stuff.” There were a lot of comments like “I can’t drink that swill,” or “there’s no substitute for flavor.” There were some comments to the tune of “yeah, but at the ball park or the beach on a hot day,” or “I still have a macro beer at a party now and then.”

So here’s my thinking: Whether you like their product or not, you have to give credit to the breweries that are turning out light american lager on a global scale. Any homebrewer that has tried to do it can tell you that Light American Lager is a *very* difficult style to brew and brew well. Yet, here are the massive companies turning out millions of gallons of the stuff all over the world and achieving flavor and production consistency that most small commercial brewers can only hope to emulate. Clearly, these macro breweries know their business and have the brewing down to a science. Folks like AB-InBev, MolsonCoors/SABMiller have developed, used, re-invented, and forgotten more beer science than most people will ever know. They have their process control tight and their Quality Control tighter. They know how to brew beer.

And they’ve got money. And they’re not stupid – they’re watching the steady growth of craft beer year over year. And they’ve got to want in. Examples of attempts include everything from AB-Inbev’s Shocktop and Amberbock to MolsonCoor’s Blue Moon. Some forays are more successful than others (Budweiser American Ale anyone?).

So: (1) they’ve got the money (i.e. capital to invest), (2) they’ve got the science know-how, (3) they’ve got creative people (surely out of those hundreds of thousands of employees, someone’s got to be creative right?), and (4) they’ve got the marketing and desire to do it. Why aren’t they bigger players in the craft beer segment. Some have turned to buying up craft breweries to help augment their foothold, but these guys are science and marketing juggernauts, why do they struggle with getting into craft beer?

This seems like a conundrum from the outside. I have my thoughts on why this is, I’m sure you do too. My question here is, what do you think the long term role of the marcro beer companies is going to be in the craft beer market segment?

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