Awhile ago I wrote a post about 10 Barrel’s sale to ABInBev, basically telling everyone to stop acting like the sky was falling.
And then AB bought Elysian. The ensuing public conversation brought to light a few things that has made me reconsider my stance.
First: the business practices of ABInBev are pretty shitty. This is probably true of most mega corporations and I think that knowing this can and should influence the purchasing decisions of the consumer, beyond ‘does this taste good’.
Second, and this is the big one: this generation of craft brewers doesn’t have an exit strategy. That is to say; the men and women who started up these new, awesome and eventually successful craft breweries haven’t figured out, and I don’t think have a narrative for, how to pass the brewery along to the next group in a way that holds true to the founding philosophies of the brewers.
Let’s face it: The brewery that made Loser with it’s “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” tagline is not going to have the same values as the one owned by the largest beverage conglomerate in the world. And while the day to day operations may be managed by the original owners of Elysian, eventually, they are going to rightfully retire and their successors won’t have the same values.
Which means that inevitably, the product will suffer. The beer just won’t be as good and risks will no longer be taken. It will be corporate, shiny and very, very safe.
And I think this is going to happen in part because the people who own those breweries a) don’t have a way to reasonably grow their business under the current model–something I think ABInBev wants to protect, because they profit under it, and b) don’t know or have a method to impart that business to the next generation of brewers who, rising up in the craft beer world, might hold to similar values and have a local stake in their communities.
What this means is; I was right about 10 Barrel’s sale- the beer likely won’t change at first- but also wrong, because it will, someday, and not because of the vision of people who love craft brewing, but because of corporate marketing strategies. That, to put it bluntly, fucking sucks.
It is the way of the world, I know, but it bums me out.