In many industries, through increased sales and overall globalization, multi-national corporations end up absorbing many brands under their umbrellas. This helps many companies distribute their products to the masses at lower costs, and tends to give consumers greater reach when choosing what to purchase. Through economies of scale, products become cheaper and more accessible.
Of course, there are negative sides as well. While bigger, more established companies experience many of the pros, smaller companies have a lot of trouble catching up and keeping up. Carrying any sort of overhead cuts you down at the knees. And for the consumer, even one who may desire to purchase locally, the local economy suffers.
With that being said, let’s talk about beer.
As craft beer drinkers, we talk about buying local, supporting the local brewery, and teaching our friends, loved ones, and random passerby on the street about craft beer. We revel in telling someone that “oh, actually, Blue Moon is made by Coors, so it’s not really craft”, and enjoy arguing whether or not Sam Adams counts as craft anymore. We watch Beer Wars and I Am A Craft Brewer, and get all amped up to join forces and fight the man.
I remember when the whole Monster v Rockart fiasco happened, I saw Hansen Beverage Company’s brand portfolio. Then I went and looked at Anheuser Busch’s portfolio. And it was shocking at just how many brands these big companies own.
Throw in international law, differences between national and multi-national corporate portfolios, and the difference between what “public knowledge” means and how accessible it actually is, and your head starts to spin.
This all came about when my buddy Tyler goes “Did you know Coors owns La Fin du Monde?!” earlier today. Well no, I did not know that. Is that true?
It’s hard to say.
I tried to find out through some simple scouring of corporate websites, and couldn’t find the information. I turned to Wikipedia for a little help, and they suggest that no, MolsonCoors does not own Unibroue (the brewers of La Fin du Monde). But Sapporo does.
Sapporo’s website doesn’t list Unibroue anywhere. But they do list Guinness. Which is actually owned by Diageo. Which also owns Red Stripe and Smithwicks.
I guess this just poses a few questions, more than answering anything in particular. As a brewery grows, does it have a choice? Can a brewery maintain the quality and passion, yet still distribute to 47 states and 17 countries? Or is it more of a “I knew them back when you didn’t” mentality, and once they break a certain production level, they’re no longer loved? If, somehow, MillerCoors came out with a stout that rivaled , or Sapporo started shipping a barrel-aged lambic blend that could fit in with Lost Abbey’s portfolio, would you like it?
Sam Adams is publicly-owned. New Belgium is employee-owned. Most small breweries are independently owned. Some are public. Do you care?
For me, I like to know someone made the beer. I realize that all beer is made by someone. But I like to know that there is some brewer working his or her ass off to make something special, not just plugging in the same recipe day in and day out to some massive machine. Maybe I’m romanticizing it a bit, but that’s where I differentiate between Great Divide and Anheuser Busch. I know the brewers at Great Divide. I’ve seen them cleaning out the mash tun. I realize that there is someone at AB doing that, but it feels more like a factory than a craft to me. And in a blind taste test, I’m pretty sure I could differentiate Bud Light from a Yeti. Hopefully…
It’s not entirely a scale issue, is it? Sam Adams makes some pretty decent beers, and they make a lot. Granted, there are more barrels of Blue Moon sold than pretty much all the barrels in the craft beer segment combined. But at the same time, I’ve also had some pretty gross beers made on a 10 barrel system.
I want to know what you think. But before you go bashing the big boys, stop and think about what I’ve said. Then, you may bash away.
For your reference, here are some brand portfolios. I’ve listed New Belgium, Sam Adams, MillerCoors, SABMiller, and Anheuser-Busch InBev.
(Source – http://www.newbelgium.com/beer)
Fat Tire, Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle, 1554, Mothership Wit, Abbey, Trippel, Ranger IPA, Mighty Arrow, Skinny Dip, 2˚ Below, Frambozen, Hoptober, Le Fleur Misseur, La Folie, Dunkelweiss 30˚, Dark Kriek, Abbey Grand Cru, Biere de Mars, Dandelion Ale, Transatlantique Kriek, Fall Wild Ale, Dark Heather Saison, Trippel IPA, The Trip II, Trip III
Sam Adams – Boston Beer Company
Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Sam Adams Light, Noble Pils, Summer Ale, Octoberfest, Winter Lager, Old Fezziwig Ale, Cranberry Lambic, Holiday Porter, Boston Ale, Cherry Wheat, Cream Stout, Hefeweizen, Pale Ale, Scotch Ale, Black Lager, Brown Ale, Honey Porter, Irish Red, Blackberry Witbier, Coastal Wheat, White Ale, Double Bock, Imperial White, Imperial Stout, Utopias, Chocolate Bock, Millennium, Triple Bock, Imperial Pilsner 2005 Harvest, Hallertau 24
(Source – http://www.millercoors.com/news/facts-and-resources/miller-coors-brands.aspx)
Domestic: Coors, Coors Light, Extra Gold Lager, Hamm’s, Hamms’ Golden Draft, Hamm’s Special Light, Icehouse 5.0, Icehouse 5.5, Icehouse Light, Keystone Ice, Keystone Light, Keystone Premium, Magnum Malt Liquor, MGD 64, Mickey’s, Mickey’s Ice, Miller Chill, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, Miller High Life Light, Miller Lite, Milwaukee’s Best, Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Light, Olde English 800, Olde English 800 7.5, Olde English High Gravity 800, Red Dog, Southpaw Light, Steel Reserve, Steel Reserve Triple Export 8.1%, Steel Six
Import: Águila, Cristal, Cusqueña, Grolsch Amber Ale, Grolsch Blonde Lager, Grolsch Light Lager, Grolsch Premium Lager, Lech, Molson Canadian, Molson Canadian Light, Molson Golden, Molson Ice, Molson XXX, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell, Tyskie
Craft: Blue Moon Belgian White, Blue Moon Full Moon Winter Ale, Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale, Blue Moon Honey Moon Summer Ale, Blue Moon Rising Moon Spring Ale, Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager, Henry Weinhard’s Belgian Style Wheat, Henry Weinhard’s Blonde, Henry Weinhard’s Blue Boar, Henry Weinhard’s Classic Dark Lager, Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen, Henry Weinhard’s India Pale Ale, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss, Leinenkugel’s BIG BUTT Dopplebock, Leinenkugel’s Classic Amber Lager, Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark, Leinenkugel’s Fireside Nut Brown, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, Leinenkugel’s Light, Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest Lager, Leinenkugel’s Original Lager, Leinenkugel’s Red Lager, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat, Sheaf Stout
(Source – http://www.sabmiller.com/index.asp?pageid=315 )
Aguila, Aguila Light, Arany Ászok, Arequipeña, Atlas, Balboa, Balimi Extra Lager, Barena – El Salvador/Peru, Barena – Honduras, Barons, Blue Moon, Bluetongue Alcoholic Ginger Beer, Bluetongue Premium Lager, Bluetongue Premium Light, Bluetongue Traditional Pilsner, Bohlinger’s Lager, Bondi Blonde, Brutal Fruit, Carling Black Label, Castle Lager, Castle Lite, Castle Milk Stout, Chairman’s Extra Strong Beer, Chibuku, Ciucas, Club Colombia, Club Pilsener, Club Premium Lager, Club Premium Lager – Ghana, Club Shandy, Conquer, Coors Light, Costeña, Cristal, Cusqueña, Cusqueña Malta, Dębowe Mocne, Dorada, Dorada – Ecuador, Dorada Especial, Dorada Sin, Dreher Bak, Dreher Classic, Dreher Premium, Dreher 24, Eagle Extra Lager, Eagle Lager, Foster’s, Frisco, Frisco Dry, Fusion, Gambrinus, Gambrinus Dia, Gambrinus Premium, Gingers, Golden Light, Golden Pilsener, Gran Riserva, Grolsch, Grolsch Blond, Grolsch Weizen, Hamm’s, Hansa Marzen Gold, Hansa Pilsener, Haywards 2000, Haywards 5000, Haywards Black, Henry Weinhard’s Belgian Style Wheat, Henry Weinhard’s Blonde, Henry Weinhard’s Blue Boar Pale Ale, Henry Weinhard’s Classic Dark, Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen, Henry Weinhard’s India Pale Ale, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Huadan Dry Beer, Icehouse, Imperial, Indus Pride, Kilimanjaro, Knock Out, Kőbányai Sör, Ksiazece Tyskie, Laurentina Clara, Laurentina Premium, Laurentina Preta, Lech Free, Lech Lite, Lech Mocny, Lech Pils, Lech Premium, Leinenkugel’s Amber Light, Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss, Leinenkugel’s Big Butt Doppelbock, Leinenkugel’s Creamy Dark Lager, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, Leinenkugel’s Light, Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest, Leinenkugel’s Original, Leinenkugel’s Red Lager, Lion Lager, Löwen, Maluti Premium Lager, Manica, MGD 64, Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Miller Chill, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, Miller Lite, Miller Midnight, Milwaukee’s Best, Milwaukee’s Best Ice, Milwaukee’s Best Light, Mosi, Moya Kaluga, Ndovu Special Malt, New Three Star, N’GOLA, Nile Special, Olde English 800 Malt Liquor, Peroni, Peroni Leggera, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsen, Pilsen Callao, Pilsen Polar, Pilsen Trujillo, Pilsener – Ecuador, Pilsener – El Salvador, Pilsner Urquell, Poker, Port Royal, Radegast Birell, Radegast Original, Radegast Premium, Raffo, Raiz, Redd’s Apple, Redd’s Dry, Redd’s Premium Original, Redd’s Red, Redd’s Sun, Regia Extra, Rhino Lager, Royal Challenge Premium Lager, Safari, SalvaVida®, San Juan, Šariš Dark, Šariš Light, Šariš Premium, Sarita, Shengquan, Singo, Siroco by Tropical, Skelter’s Straight, Smädný Mnìch, Snow, St. Louis, Stejar, Stone Strong Lager, Suprema, Timisoreana, Topvar, Tri Bogatyrya Svetloye, Tropical, Tropical Premium, Tusker, Tyskie Gronie, Ursus Premium, Velkopopovický Kozel, Velkopopovický Kozel Cerny, Velkopopovický Kozel Premium, Velkopopovický Kozel Svěltý, White Bull, Wojak, Wührer, Zero, Zolotaya Bochka Klassicheskoye, Zolotaya Bochka Platinovoe, Zolotaya Bochka Razlyvnoe, Zolotaya Bochka Svetloye, Zolotaya Bochka Vyderzhannoye, Zorok, Żubr, Zambezi Lager, Zambezi Lite, 2M
(Source – http://www.ab-inbev.com/go/brands/brand_portfolio/local_brands.cfm)
Alexander Keith’s, Antarctica, Aqua Fratelli Vita, Astika Fine Quality Lager, Baisha, BagBier, Bass, Belle-Vue, Boddingtons, Bohemia, Boomerang, Bud Light (U.S.), Bud Light (Canada), Caracu, Castlemaine XXXX, Chernigivske, Diebels, Diekirch, Dimix, Dommelsch, Double Deer, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Hell, Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel, Franziskaner Weissbier Kristallklar, Gilde Ratskeller, Guaraná Antarctica, Guaraná Brahma, Haake-Beck, Harbin, Hasserõder, Hertog Jan, Hoegaarden Citrons, Hougaerdse Das, Jinling, Jinlongquan, Julius, Jupiler, KK, Klinskoye, Kokanee, La Bécasse, Labatt Blue, Labatt Blue Light, Labatt Family, Labatt Ice, Labatt Sterling, Lakeport Pilsener, Liber, Löwenbräu, Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier, Löwenbräu Original, Marathon, Michelob Lager, Mousel, Murphy’s, Oranjeboom, Paceña, Permskoye Gubernskoye, Piedboeuf, Phoenix, Quilmes Cristal, Red Shilliang, Rifey, Rogan, Safir, Santai, Sedrin, Sibirskaya Korona, Skol, Spaten Original Munich Beer, St. Pauli Girl, Sukita, Tolstiak, Vieux Temps, Yali, Yantar, Zizhulin, Zhujiang