If you’ve been around the craft beer scene for the last 4-5 years or so, you can’t help but notice – and be dismayed by – the increasing number of corporate brewer buyouts of small, craft brewers.
- Ballast Point Brewing Company, which was bought for $1 billion by Constellation Brands (owners of Corona)
- Lagunitas Brewing Company being bought by Heineken
- Goose Island being bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev
- Mill Street Brewery being bought by Labatt’s
The reasoning behind these purchases, and others like them, is simple: after big brewers felt threatened by the growing craft beer industry, they tried to introduce their own take.
They failed. Miserably. So, do the next best thing instead – buy your competitors.
Since then, more craft brewers have fallen under mega-brewer ownership, which has led to the ongoing discussion of what defines a craft beer.
To Craft or Not to Craft
While there valid arguments on both sides of the coin, and several topics up for debate, the main one that keeps coming around is this – can craft brewers still be called craft when they’re part of a multi-national corporation?
The line of thought on both sides is this:
- Corporate owners: Yes. If the brewing method and ingredients, etc., remain the same, it’s still craft. Only distribution has changed.
- Craft brewers: No. it’s an unfair advantage, with bigger scale, bigger marketing dollars, and wider distribution.
We have a roundtable coming up in the next few weeks where we’ll have guests from both side of the coin to discuss this.
In the meantime, as a primer for that conversation, we’d love to hear your take – can a craft brewer remain so after a multi-million dollar buyout, or do they lose that status through association with their corporate owners?
Share your thoughts in the comments, and any questions you’d love to be asked in the roundtable, and we’ll look to include where we can.