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The Beer Circle » Anheuser-Busch, Blue Moon, Craft Brew Alliance, Fordham Brewing Co., Grolsch, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Kona Brewing Co., Lost Rhino, MillerCoors, Old Dominion Brewing, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell, Redhook Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing » Is Major Brewery Ownership of Craft Beers a Bad Thing?

Is Major Brewery Ownership of Craft Beers a Bad Thing?

Is the move of major brewery conglomerates like AB/InBev and Miller Coors into the craft beer segment necessarily a bad thing?

It all depends, really, on how you want to look at it. A few years ago that answer would’ve been unequivocally been a YES. But that is starting to change as the big boys are learning more and more about the tastes of craft beer drinkers.

Most of those living in northern Virginia fondly remember Old Dominion Brewing when it was based in Ashburn, Va. In 2007, Fordham Brewing Company bought Old Dominion and moved operations to Dover, DE. Sadly, the quality of the Old Dominion beers went downhill.  A silent backer to Fordham in this purchase was AB/InBev, which took a 40+% stake in the combined brewery. Old Dominion is still hanging on but they have become a tired company that doesn’t appear to put much thought into the beer. Basically, they are a major brewery without the size. The unfortunate demise of Old Dominion has even lead to the original owner/founder setting up shop back in the old Ashburn facility and brew beers under the Lost Rhino brand in 2011. Early impressions are very good.

Craft Brew Alliance

I’m not convinved that it was AB/InBev’s fault with Old Dominion because at the same time they took a 35% stake in the Craft Brew Alliance. CBA was formed back in 2007 when Redhook Brewing and Widmer Brothers Brewing merged. Kona Brewing Company was added to the mix in 2010. All three brands are solid but not exceptional. Of the three, Widmer produces the most memorable beers. I don’t get the feeling that the beers have gone downhill at all. If other regions are able to taste quality beers then perhaps I should give AB/InBev props. AB/InBev took this one step further with the purchase of Goose Island Beer Co in early/mid 2011. They are taking a 58% stake with the CBA taking the remaining 42%. If that means I can get Bourbon County then I’m solid! It does remain to be seen how this would affect Goose Island’s beers in the future.

Miller/Coors, on the other hand, is stuck in a rut. Of all the “craft” beers in their portfolio only one can truly be considered a craft brewery: Leinenkugel. The rest are just major European brands  Grolsch, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell) or a pretend craft beer (Blue Moon). Miller/Corrs decided to move all these brands under the Blake and Tenth Beer Company umbrella back in August, 2010. Nothing special from these brands. Miller/Coors is late and playing catchup.

I’m not saying to blindly boycott or ignore craft breweries if they sell out to the majors. And I’m also not saying to stick by them. After all, the small companies are still companies. The owners may be closer to the end product and most all have a great passion for what they do but, in the end, it is still a business. What matters in the end are the beers. As made famous by President Regan, “Trust but verify.” Don’t be afraid to vote with your feet.

What do you think?

Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

Filed under: Anheuser-Busch, Blue Moon, Craft Brew Alliance, Fordham Brewing Co., Grolsch, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Kona Brewing Co., Lost Rhino, MillerCoors, Old Dominion Brewing, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell, Redhook Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,