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RateBeer sells minority stake to AB/InBev subsidiary, reactions mixed

ratebeerIn a climate that can only be described as “highly-volatile,” Anheuser-Busch/InBev has made yet another acquisition. But, this time it is not a craft brewery that the beer giant has purchased. This time a division of AB/InBev known as ZX Ventures has taken a minority interest in one of craft beers most venerable institutions: RateBeer.com. The sale took place in October of 2016 and was announced to the public and RateBeer users Friday, June 2, 2017.

For those unfamiliar with RateBeer.com, it is a website were craft beer lovers can document and rate beers they have tasted. Since the site first went online in May of 2000, millions of beer reviews have been posted on what the owners call the, “premier resource for consumer-driven beer ratings.”

ZX Ventures is a “global disruptive growth group, incubator, and venture capital team,” as described by the company’s website. The goal of the company is to gather consumer data to better anticipate their future needs. This goal is accomplished by mining data from various sources including RateBeer and other sources from all over the world.

The question that is on many people’s minds now is whether RateBeer can fulfill the mission it espouses on its website: “Our mission is to provide unbiased, consumer-driven information about beer and breweries and to enhance the image and worldwide appreciation of beer.” According to RateBeer owner, Joe Tucker, they can.

“ZX Ventures,” Tucker said in an announcement about the sale. “Has the utmost respect for the integrity of the data and the unbiased service we offer to the entire community and industry.”

Tucker goes on to explain that the integrity of RateBeer’s computational methods and reliance on crowd-sourced reviews, “Obviously won’t and cannot change.” He says that RateBeer has a large and loud membership and a data transparency initiative to ensure data will not be manipulated in AB/InBev’s favor.

But, at least one craft beer brewer, Dogfish Head Brewing Company’s Sam Calgione, isn’t buying it and has already spoken out regarding RateBeer’s move.

“We believe,” Calgione said via Dogfish Head’s blog. “This is a direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics and a blatant conflict of interest.”

Later in the same blog post, Calgione asks Anheuser-Busch and RateBeer to remove all data relating to Dogfish Head from the website.

“It just doesn’t seem right,” explained Calgione. “For a brewer of any kind to be in a position to potentially manipulate what consumers are hearing and saying about beers, how they are rated and which ones are receiving extra publicity on what might appear to be a legitimate, 100 percent user-generated platform. It is our opinion that this initiative and others are ethically dubious and that the lack of transparency is troubling.”

Calgione fully understands the power that a company like Ab/InBev can wield. In 2011, he had a popular craft beer show called “Brew Masters” that aired on the Discovery Channel. After a short, but successful run of the show that focused on Calgione and his brewery, the series was cancelled. The reason for the cancellation has been widely reported as AB/InBev threatening to pull all advertising on the channel and its affiliated channels if the show continued.

In a Facebook post, the owners of Moonlight Meadery and Hidden Moon Brewing quote ZX spokesperson, Samantha Ross: “It’s really insight. It’s insights into consumer trends. It’s a better understanding of the beer consumer, and the beer markets globally. That’s really going to help us kind of keep our finger on the pulse.”

The Meadery/Brewery’s post then goes on to compare this statement to wartime intelligence gathering.

Among the users of RateBeer, reaction is mixed. Many are condemning the sale, while other congratulate Tucker on working to further the future of the site. Most are conflicted and worry that the site they have loved contributing to for 17 years is now partially owned by a subsidiary of the company they have come to think of as the enemy.

“I do have concerns over impartiality,” RateBeer user The_Osprey posted on RateBeer’s forums. “But, I think the site deserves the recognition and investment and joet (owner Joe Tucker) deserves to put his feet up a bit. I hope the site stays true to what has made it a success so far.”

If, as Tucker has promised, ZX is only interested in the data it can cull from RateBeer, then there is very little for users, brewers and others to be concerned regarding the unbiased nature of reviews on the site. But, as stated in the opening of this article, the craft beer community is in a state of volatility, it feels as if it is under constant attack from market forces exerted by big beer to quash smaller craft producers. The reactions from industry insiders like Dogfish Head and Hidden Moon may be overly harsh, but in this day and age, that is the nature of the game.

Time will tell if RateBeer remains the unbiased source of beer information it has been in the past. This sale inject controversy into an area of craft beer culture that, though accustomed to controversy, should remain pure for the sake of integrity.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Tripel Karmeliet brewer sells to AB-Inbev

tk33_glass_highAcquisitions within the beer world are becoming fairly routine. Whether it is larger craft beer breweries acquiring smaller craft breweries or mega brewing companies purchasing craft breweries, the result is an ever-tightening of the beer market. But also, the buying and selling means greater access to brands that beer-lovers may not otherwise be able to purchase locally. (see my post, Craft Beer Mergers)

But, the brewery purchasing mania does not end with just craft breweries. Over the past five to ten years, foreign brands have been snapped up by various entities, too. This is especially true of Belgian brands that, to many beer enthusiasts, are nothing less than the nectar of the Gods.

On September 8, 2016 Brewery Bosteels announced its acquisition by AB InBev but that Antoine Bosteels, 7th -generation company head would remain at the helm. Bosteels, the brewry responsible for such iconic Belgian brands as Kwak and Tripel Karmeliet sold to the international beer behemoth for €200 million (about $225 million).

In an article for Beer Connoisseur, Sean Knoll, CEO of Artisanal Inports, the U.S. distributer of Bosteel brands said, “The integrity of Bosteels as a traditional Belgian family brewery and the quality of its beer remains unchanged despite the new parent company.”

This in response to reports that some retailers and on-premises sellers had threatened to pull the beers from their shelves and taps.

AB-Inbev already owns Belgian brands Stella Artois, Leffe and Hoegaarden.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Budweiser, Lyft team up to fight drunk driving

bud_lyft

Photo credit: Ben Hider for Anheuser-Busch

Drunk driving is never acceptable. The consequences you face if caught — or even suspected — are severe and rightly so. To get a first hand account of the consequences, read my eight-part series that recounts my experience with a DUI arrest.

To help fight the epidemic of drunk driving now plaguing Florida, Budweiser and Lyft have teamed up to provide safe rides home. Take a few moments to read the press release below and learn how they “Give a Damn.”

NEW YORK (September 14, 2016)

Budweiser and Lyft are coming together to make a bold statement against drunk driving and celebrate people who follow Budweiser’s new responsible drinking message: “Give a Damn. Don’t Drive Drunk.” Starting this Friday, September 16 through the end of the year, Budweiser will provide up to 80,000 total rides* on weekend and holiday nights during peak party hours in New York, Colorado, Illinois and Florida.  

The next step in Budweiser’s longstanding commitment to promoting alcohol responsibility, this campaign marks the largest partnership of its kind between a beverage and ridesharing company aimed at reducing drunk driving.

Each Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, Budweiser will share a unique code on its Facebook and Twitter channels, which consumers 21+ can enter into the Lyft app to claim a $10 free ride credit. This ride credit can be redeemed the following Friday and Saturday, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, designed to be accessed when people are returning home after a night out. The first 5,000 Lyft users to claim these codes each week will have the chance to use them that weekend. This promotion is available to both new and existing Lyft users, and the claim and redemption periods will be extended during certain holidays. Consumers in participating markets should check out Budweiser and Lyft’s social channels each week for these updates. Each code is good for a $10 credit or free ride up to $10.

The partnership kicks off on Friday, September 16, Anheuser-Busch’s seventh annual “Global Beer Responsible Day,” in which the brewer and its partners raise awareness about responsible drinking.  While drunk-driving fatalities decreased 51 percent since 1982 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), there is still work to be done. There are approximately 10,000 fatalities in drunk driving crashes each year, accounting for 29 percent of all traffic fatalities according to the DOT.

“Drunk driving is one hundred percent preventable, and Budweiser and Lyft are dedicated to helping people get home safely,” said Katja Zastrow, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility – Better World at Anheuser-Busch. “As one of the biggest beer brands in the world, Budweiser can play a leading role in the fight against drunk driving, and our program with Lyft will make a positive impact and start conversations about this vital issue.”

“At Lyft, we strive to partner with like-minded, mission-driven brands like Budweiser that are committed to building safer communities and a better world,” says Oliver Hsiang, VP Partnerships at Lyft. “By giving passengers access to 5,000 rides each week, we hope everyone will think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking and look to Lyft as a solution.”

For more information about how to participate, visit blog.lyft.com/posts/lyft-and-budweiser.

*Code good for $10 credit or free ride up to $10.

 

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Beer, Beer News

 

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A-B to host Oktoberfest at six breweries

oktoberfest_logo_ftcOktoberfest is the Holy Grail of beer festivals to many beer enthusiasts around the world. Each year millions of revelers make the pilgrimage to Munich, Germany to eat, drink and be merry under massive beer tents. If a trip to Europe is not feasible for you, Anheuser-Busch is bringing an authentic German Oktoberfest celebration to six of its breweries. The events, full of traditional Oktoberfest festivities, will celebrate authentic German beer, food and entertainment in September and October.

Fairfield, Calif. – September 12

Jacksonville, Fla. – September 12

Fort Collins, Colo. – September 12 and 13

St. Louis, Mo. – September 25, 26 and 27

Cartersville, Ga. – October 3 and 4

Merrimack, N.H. – October 10

In true Oktoberfest tradition, St. Louis will host a wedding ceremony to kick off the celebratory weekend. The tradition of celebrating a wedding at Oktoberfest dates back to the early 1800s when Crown Prince Ludwig, the future King of Bavaria, invited the entire population of Munich to honor his recent marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.

At each location, brewmasters and local dignitaries will kick off the celebration by tapping the first keg and leading guests in a ceremonial toast.

Guests can enjoy a variety of German-style beers, such as Spaten, Franziskaner and other seasonal favorites, paired with traditional German fare such as bratwursts, Bavarian pretzels and gingerbread cookies. Visitors can participate in traditional German games and enjoy live music and entertainment.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit ABOktoberfest.com.

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Beer Festival

 

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A-B settles over Kirin deceptive package suit

If you have been to a Japanese steak house in the past few years, you may have decided to go native an order a Japanese beer. But, if you ordered a Kirin, you may not have realized that you were really drinking a beer brewed in the United States by Anheuser-Busch. If you did not know this, you are not the only one. And, A-B has agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement in response to a class-action suit due to the confusion caused by labeling on the product.

Kirin-IchibanIn October 2014, Miami residents Lady J. Suarez and Gustavo E. Oliva filed a class action suit alleging that, “The defendant has collected millions of dollars from the sale of Kirin beer that it would not have otherwise earned.”

According to officials at Anheuser-Busch, the label on Kirin cans and bottles states, “Brewed under Kirin’s strict supervision by Anheuser-Busch,” but the lawsuit claimed the disclaimer does not sufficiently identify that the product is not imported since it is not visible on the outside packaging of six-packs and 12-packs.

“Plaintiffs paid money for a product that is not what it claims to be or what they bargained for,” the lawsuit said.

Kirin, along with other previously imported beers like Beck’s, is no longer brewed abroad for distribution in the United States. Instead, the beers are brewed by Anheuser-Busch at one of their domestic breweries. In the case of Kirin, A-B began brewing the beer in 1996 at their Los Angeles, Ca. and Williamsburg, Va. breweries.

Under the terms of the preliminary settlement, A-B will have to reimburse customers who bought the Kirin anytime between Oct. 25, 2009, and Dec. 17, 2014, due to alleged deceptive packaging.

Customers will be reimbursed $0.50 for cans or bottles purchased in a six-pack and $1.00 for cans or bottles purchased in a 12-pack. If receipts are produced, they can get up to $50. Those without proof of purchase can still get up to $12 if they register a claim. Claims can be registered by mail or online, starting next week, though the website has not yet been announced.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Beer News

 

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