I've coined a phrase, Shareholder Beer, for what I am seeing develop in the Craft Beer world. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a Socialist or a Communist or even any other type of ist. What I'm seeing however should worry everyone and make you think before you purchase. InBev, the parent company to Budweiser, along with Miller/Coors have been on a spending binge of late. Purchasing the likes of Wicked Weed, Terrapin, Devil's Backbone and many more. If you can't beat them, join them. While the purchases themselves take some significant craft brewers off the field, its the distribution part of the equations that is doing the most damaging to the small craft breweries.
When a craft brewery sells to the big two, its not just for the money. It's mainly for the distribution. Here's how it works. Devil's Backbone has good distribution where it is located and the surrounding areas. But it can't crack large nationwide or even large regional distribution. Here it needs the help of the large distributors, where nationwide they distribute Budweiser, Miller and Coors. These distributors, while all independently owned, owe their success not to the craft breweries but to the big brands. They have the power through incentives, large sales and distribution forces and sometimes out right deception to push any brand they want. And they are strongly motivated by InBev and Miller/Coors who are controlled by, yes, shareholders to do so. Shareholders really have no stake in growing a business category or an industry. They only have a stake in growing the value of their shares.
So next time you purchase a shareholder beer remember that you are making a conscious choice to support a company that cares little about the industry they are in. Most Budweiser distributors also distribute vitamin water and energy drinks. Keep it local craft beer drinkers. That's where the fun is and that's where you will find your own personal greatest return. Tom