Why A-B InBev Suddenly Chose to Go After Homebrewing
Many proud homebrewers felt slighted when Northern Brewer & Midwest Supplies revealed their acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev this month, but what seemed especially curious for the beer brewing community was the underlying question – why a homebrew supply store? Beer fans have been well aware of craft brewery acquisitions by large conglomerates like A-B InBev (for example, those of Shock Top, Goose Island, Elysian Brewing, Devil's Backbone) for years, to the point where shock has diminished. Many homebrewers feel protected from any malicious beer industry dealings in their choice to make beer from home. So, naturally, it seems like a massive violation that the business they purchase their ingredients and equipment from is now just another front for a beer giant like A-B InBev.
What's the appeal?
Why a homebrew supply store? Two reasons. The first and primary reason being that one of the stipulations of their $100 billion merger with SABMiller in September of this year was that they'd have to stop trying to control their craft beer competition. No more buying up craft breweries and their distributors. The second reason is that successful craft breweries start with homebrewing. Meaning that the next best way for A-B InBev to oversee the progress of their craft beer competition would be to have charge of the source of their success, in this case homebrewing supply stores.
Homebrewing as a Stepping Stone
Of the more than 4,200 craft breweries running in the U.S. today, many if not most of them started with homebrewers – brewing in their own garages, basements, or kitchens and sharing their brews with friends and family. This is the story for Dogfish Head, New Belgium, and countless other top craft brewers. Big timers like Boston Beer, are known to ship 4.2 million barrels and generate nearly $1 billion in revenue in a year. It's no surprise that the American Homebrewers Association reported 815 local homebrewing stores sold $764 million worth of supplies in 2015 to an estimated 1.2 million homebrewers. This hobby has the potential to generate serious profit, and folks all over the nation are trying their hand at it. Northern Brewer is reported to make $50 million in annual sales, so naturally they were Anheuser-Busch InBev's first pick. While Northern Brewer's founder, Chris Farley, wrote to consumers recently in a blog that independence would be maintained, homebrewers aren't keen on their money eventually ending up in the hands of A-B InBev.
Brewing Your Own
Admittedly, the main goal is to create delicious, craft, small-batch beer by any means. But when all parts that contributed to that beer were purchased from an A-B InBev subsidiary, it starts to feel like this greedy corporation has their hands in everything – even the homebrewed beer folks mean to call their own creation. Curious about Mr. Beer and Coopers' take on acquisitions? Be sure to read our last blog, "The Freedom to Brew You Own Way."