RSS

Tag Archives: InBev

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.

 

 

 
Leave a comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Reaction to the Wicked Weed sale to Anhueser-Busch

PubOutsideThe Internet blew up yesterday on the news of Asheville, NC brewery Wicked Weed’s sale to brewing behemoth Anhueser-Busch. The reactions ran the gamut from utter outrage to disbelief to acceptance. Put simply, it was polarizing news that caused Twitter and other social media outlets to virtually explode with opinions on the matter.

Dumping beers from breweries acquired by A-B was a common theme among craft beer bars, package stores and restaurants. Brew Studs, a Twitter account linked to a popular beer blog of the same name tweeted:

Texas sour and funky beer brewer Jester King regularly collaborated with Wicked Weed and even carried Wicked Weed beers in their taproom. But, with the news that broke yesterday, that all changed.

“This has been a difficult day for us. The news that our great friend Wicked Weed Brewing was acquired by AB In-Bev came as quite a shock,” wrote Jester King founder Jefferey Stuffings on his brewery’s website. “One of our core principles is that we do not sell beer from AB In-Bev or its affiliates…”

“Because of this core principle,” Stuffings continued. “It pains us to say that we won’t be carrying Wicked Weed anymore at Jester King. We think Wicked Weed beer is some of the best in the world. Their talent, techniques, and patience produces some of the most beautiful beer we’ve ever tasted. That, combined with their great friendship, is what makes this decision so tough for us. But like we said, our core values must be paramount at the end of the day.”

Denver, Colo. brewery Black Project also pulled out of a collaboration they were working on with WIcked Weed.

“…We will not be able to lend our name to the unfinished collaboration beer currently aging in Asheville, NC.” Black Project owners James and Sarah Howat said on their website. “Additionally, the beer we brewed with Wicked Weed here at Black Project will be blended with other existing aged beer we have on hand to make something totally different which we will not consider a Wicked Weed collaboration.”

Breweries are also pulling out of the Wicked Weed Funkatorium Invitational, a music and beer festival that benefits an Asheville charity that identifies needs in the community and works to resolve them. Both Jester King and Black Project along with Grimm Artisnal, Jackie O’s, Haw River Farmhouse, OEC, Trillium and Wooden Robot have announced they will not participate as planned.

But the shunning from fellow breweries and beer lovers are not the only consequences Wicked Weed has suffered. The North Carolina Brewer’s Guild stripped the brewery of its voting rights and relegated Wicked Weed to only having the ability to be an affiliate member of the guild.

What are your thoughts on the sale? Is it a business move or is it a sell out?

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Beer, Brewery Acquisitions

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Craft Beer Mergers

Over the past 10 years craft beer has been experiencing an incredible renaissance. The beers that were once novelty items relegated to obscure shelves at the local grocery or liquor store now occupy an entire section of the beer section at many stores. But, just like in the stock market, with such phenomenal growth comes the inevitable correction. That means that, because of economic factors some breweries will likely close or seek out other options to remain viable. Today, it is quickly becoming the norm for craft brewers to form coalitions, merge with other breweries or get bought by the big breweries.

Greg Koch, the outspoken craft beer advocate and owner of Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, Calif., secured $100 million in April from a group of “independent investors,” that will be used to acquire “minority, non-controlling” stakes in craft breweries. His finance platform called “True Craft,” is designed to help craft breweries avoid being bullied into selling to the big breweries.

“They can make their own decisions about their future,” Koch said in an article in industry magazine Bevnet. “They can stay independent. They can get financing and flexibility that they need to flourish, while keeping their soul and control.”

In March, Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewing Company used a similar tactic to add Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing Company to their portfolio. Through a Boston private equity firm called Fireman Capital Partners, Oskar Blues has been able to bring Cigar City under the same umbrella as Perrin Brewing, and the Utah Brewers Cooperative outfit that includes the Wasatch and Squatters brands. The coalition strengthens each brewery individually and allows them to retain their own unique presence while providing an influx of financial security and access to surplus production facilities at Oskar Blues’ Colorado and North Carolina breweries.

In February of this year, two prominent East Coast breweries, Southern Tier and Victory announced that they were merging breweries under the title Artisanal Brewing Ventures. Under the new arrangement, both breweries will retain their own identities and creative control, but will join forces for marketing and distribution.

“Like-minded brewers,” said Victory Brewing founder, Bill Covaleski in an interview on TapTrail.com, “Such as Victory and Southern Tier can preserve our character, culture and products by standing together. Allied we can continue to innovate and best serve the audience who fueled our growth through their loyal thirst.”

Finally, there is a growing presence of the big beer brewers in the world of craft beer. And this is a point of much consternation to many craft beer drinkers who fear that “Big Beer” will ruin the innovation and imagination found in many craft breweries. Breweries that do sell to Big Beer are often reviled by many in the craft beer community. But, despite the shouts of “Sellout!” that permeate the Internet when another craft brewery sells, beer connoisseurs still line up for beers such as Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. Goose Island sold to Anheuser-Busch/InBev in 2011. Since then there has been a slew of craft brands bought by non-craft breweries such as Constellation Brands’ purchase of Ballast Point Brewing, Heineken’s purchase of a 50% stake in Lagunitas Brewing Company and, most recently, MillerCoors’ purchase of Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, Ga.

How will all this buying and selling within the confines of craft beer affect the overall industry? The jury is still out, but for the short-term it does mean that brands will be more available to more beer-lovers. And, how could easier access to good beer be a bad thing?

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Beer, Beer News

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

America’s Biggest Brewery – It’s Not Who You Think

English: Yuengling Lager VT Hackney 12 bay sid...

Image via Wikipedia

When you think of beer, which brand comes to mind as the biggest American brand? No doubt you thought of Bud or Bud Light. Maybe you thought of Miller or even Coors. If you did you would be wrong. Recent industry news concerning which brewery is the largest American brewer may come as a bit of a surprise to you. The largest American brewer is G. G. Yuengling and Son makers of Yuengling Lager available throughout Jacksonville and much of the southeast.

It is important to understand this distinction. Anheuser-Busch beers are brewed in the United States and provide Americans with jobs, but since 2008 A-B has been owned by InBev a Belgian/Brazilian conglomerate based in Belgium. And both Miller and Coors are owned by companies based in Britain and Canada. Truly American beer, brewed in the United States, and owned by an American company, is becoming increasingly hard to find.

A breakdown of the amounts of beer brewed by each brewer reveals that A-B is still king of the hill when it comes to beer sales in the U.S. with 99 million barrels of beer brewed in 2011 followed by Miller/Coors with 60 million barrels. The respective market share these to mega brewers own is 47% and 28%.

By comparison, Yuengling only commands 1% of the sales in this country with only two-and-a-half million barrels brewed in 2011. Close on Yeungling’s heels is the Boston Brewing Company makers of Sam Adams beers with less than a hundred thousand barrels less. An expansion into the Ohio market last year seemed to give the country the impetus needed to puch past Boston Brewing to grab the title for 2011.

Yuengling was founded in 1829 in Pottsville, PA by David G. Yuengling from Wurtenberg, Germany. The brewery was first established as the Eagle Brewery on Center Street in Pottsville, a sleepy coal-mining town with a thirst for great beer. After a fire destroyed the original brewery in 1831, David rebuilt his dream in a new brewery on Mahantongo Street. The company cruised along nicely and in 1873 Frederick, David’s son, renamed it to D.G. Yuengling & Son. In 1895 Yuengling began bottling its beers for better distribution and freshness. During prohibition the brewery ceased beer-making activities with the exception of near-beer and opens a dairy. After prohibition, the brewery returned to making beer and began building steam again as a brewing force.

The brewery was afforded a singular honor during the United States Bicentennial year of 1976. Yuengling was placed on both state and national registers as the oldest continually operating brewery in the United States.

The most familiar of the brewery’s beers, Yuengling Traditional Amber Lager is reintroduced in 1987 and becomes the flagship brand for the brewery. In the years since then, Yuengling has expended its offerings to 14 beers, but the Amber Lager remains its best-seller.

The remarkable thing about this brewery is how it achieved the distinction of becoming the largest American brewery even though it does not distribute nationally. Nor does it have plans to do so. In an article published on The Bottom Line on MSNBC’s website, David Casinelli, chief financial officer for Yuengling said, “We are a regional brewery. We will grow as we feel we can handle it. But we’re not going to run across the U.S. and become a national brand.”

As an American icon in the brewing industry, Yuengling – which means “young man” in German – has been going strong for 183 years. And with two breweries, one in Tampa that has daily tours, the brewery continues to grow. The strength of the company is not in question.

“We’re a fifth-generation business.” Casinelli said. “Most don’t make it past, what do they say, two.”

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Beer, Beer Education

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A-B Employees vs. In-Bev

Anheuser-Busch

Image via Wikipedia

It seems that the In-Bev take over of AB is ont sitting well with the company’s long-time employees. The massive cost-sutting is causing employees in the North American division — a division that garners the company nearly 43% of its profits — mutter not-so-nice things about their new bosses.

This article in the Wall Street Journal last week details the tension.

http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2011/05/02/bitter-brew-the-continued-budweiserinbev-culture-clash/

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Beer, Beer News

 

Tags: , , , , , ,