Category Archives: A-B InBev

The Confusion of Truth

Face it, most of the major brewing companies have become in essence, beverage manufacturers. So it is not all that surprising that many of the new beers offered are essentially fruit infused concoctions.sidecar A phenomena that extends across many brewing styles, from IPA to Stout to Helles to Porter: Reinheitsgebot be damned! For someone like myself, who loves the purity of recipe and tradition, this is indeed a sorry state of affairs, partially brought on by the unrelenting demand of the capitalist system to always sell more product, whatever that product is.
samjuice It would come as a bit of a shock for those who still buy into the illusion of craftiness to discover that the concerns at a board meeting of Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, or Anheuser-Busch InBev have very much in common when it comes to the sales of their products. Add to that the Big Board demands of the stock market,  and it is not difficult to grasp that much of the essential aspects of brewing culture, will be surrendered in the name of increased sales. At this point marketing becomes a holy essential, which is why Boston Beer was deeply disappointed  by the failure of Samuel Adams Hopscape to move as an early seasonal, which I reviewed as a pleasant wheat ale but did not tickle the flying fickle finger of fate of the consumer. Then there is the latest seasonal:Samuel-Adams-Fresh-As-Helles-960x533
Where to begin with this? It is a pleasant enough drinking experience if you enjoy having a natural flavour orange in the finish. But I fail to grasp the utility of the graphic design. Skull with orange slice eye sockets?  What looks like honey dripping down from the top of the skull? Surely, hasn’t that skeleton concept been overly used, from Rogue Dead Guy to Heavy Seas? Then there is the declarative on the carton that seems somewhat disingenuous from a company concerned with Angry Orchard cider, Coney Island hard soft drinks, and alcoholic seltzer water:

Samuel Adams was a bold & determined rebel. He masterminded the Boston Tea Party and was among the first patriots to call for American independence. He united our country in rebellion against the British Empire in pursuit of the American dream. Oh, and he was also a brewer. We proudly named our beer after this hero.

The “Oh, and he was also a brewer” seems to me to encompass the cynical attitude so prevalent these days. Never mind that the billionaire titans of the beverage industry will use patriotic gimmicks to sell more product until the numbers drop. Now repeat after me: I do believe in craft beer, I do, I do, I do!

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The Tried And True

Recent acquisitions by Anheuser-Busch InBev (or ABI, as it is conveniently called in Australia) has brought up once again, the craft beer/ or not arguments about who is selling out. This has become a very sorry subject in a neoliberal, monetary driven universe, where a gigantic corporation has the option to actually lose money, in order to abolish any competition (a level playing field? I must look and laugh).
You have Jacob McKean of Modern Times Beer, throwing down the gauntlet on all the misinformation presented about increase production through wider available malts and hops, after being acquired by the Macro Brewery Behemoth. Along with this there is that old saw about increasing their brand’s presence, which, in final analysis, is basically bullshit.
Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, I am reminded of musicians 40 years ago, who embraced overt commercialism in the name of greater communication. So be it. Everyone makes their own choices.
As I once infamously said: “The recipe is the thing that will catch the conscience of the Beer Doctor”. This, for myself, still holds true. Which is why I can enjoy beers across the cultural and economic spectrum. But this is also why when a beloved recipe is ruined by ABI, I must point this out.
It might seem odd, but instead of arguing about what is craft beer or not, it might be more to the point to ask: what exactly is beer? The total abandonment of reinheitsgebot by many breweries in the United States has produced an astonishing portfolio of brews fused with fruit juice, molasses, and even pork scrapple. In this context, beer becomes a basis for the latest alcohol concoction. Purity? Purity be damned.
Market pressure has prompted many established breweries to abandon time-honored recipes, in order to accommodate the obsession with Humulus lupulus flower cones. This has lead many people to believe that this is what good beer is all about, which tends to dull the palate to more subtle styles. A good smack in the face IPA is simply that.
Sadly, market driven greed has pushed aside many tried and true recipes that no longer roll with distribution projections for the future. Thus, you see The Matt Brewing Company having to semi-retire their delicious schwartz bier Saranac Black Forest. Luckily this wonderful beer appears in their German roots Fall Pack, along with Octoberfest, Marzenfest, and Keller bier.
It is ironic that the explosive growth in American brewing has made it more difficult to find classic beer styles imported from other countries. This proves that the stupidity of American exceptionalism has found its way to convince consumers that the United States produces the greatest beer in the history of the universe. Period.

Last Refuge Of A Corporate Scoundrel

 

Well if you haven’t heard, those enterprising folks at AB InBev have decided to seize a marketing opportunity from this year’s tumultuous election year by renaming Budweiser as America, starting on Memorial Day weekend, all the way through to November, with the cleverly snarky motto:  America is in your hands.

The Brazilian Belgian Beverage Behemoth has been trotting out faux nationalism for quite some time, attempting to provoke consumer tribalism by claiming that Bud is “brewed the hard way” and they “won’t back down” by attacking other breweries as elite snobs, while at the same time acquiring successful upstarts (Goose Island, Breckenridge, etc.), but maintaining their St. Louis, Missouri American veneer.

What is truly ridiculous about all this, is that most devoted drinkers of Budweiser are not even aware that Budweiser is not even an American company. I discovered this several years ago when I was verbally accosted for buying some Samuel Adams, and was told by the Bud devotee that he only buys American beer.

Many of these hard core Bud drinkers seemed to have missed the memo about how August Bush IV revealed that the last heir of the Anheuser- Busch dynasty was indeed a party hardy screw up that wound up selling the entire company to Carlos Brito’s InBev.

The sale of Anheuser-Busch to InBev for $52 billion was a stock market bonanza that common folks like Warren Buffet could lend his pick axe too. The immediate result of the merger was that 1400 people lost their jobs at A-B. We all know the cost-cutting drill about being leaner and meaner, in the case of the great American lager, this meant that broken rice grains could be used, and expensive Hallertauer Mittelfruh hops were no longer necessary.
Which is par for the course for an outfit like AB InBev who took pride in saving $55 million by this hop substitution. Perhaps this is the ultimate meaning of their Proudly A Macro Beer motto.

In their never-ending quest for more market share, AB InBev has revealed that even politics is fair game for their ubiquitous cereal beer branding. I can hear those sirens calling: Make America’s Bud Great Again, from a global corporation whose only gospel is the bottom line. So much for patriotism. That is just another marketing ploy that Samuel Johnson had something to say about, centuries ago. This rebranding is authetically delusional.

ONE BREW TO RULE THEM ALL

Concerning the A-B InBev SABMiller merger, let me say that although the subject involves the production of beer, this is not about beer. It is all about money. Which is par for the course whenever speculative Wall street and entities such as JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs become involved. Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev summed it all up with: “We believe this combination will generate significant growth opportunities and create enhanced value to the benefit of all stakeholders.” Envisioning this merger as a way to create “one of the world’s leading consumer products companies.”

The go-ahead for giving birth to this behemoth was made possible when the two largest shareholders of SABMiller , Altria the tobacco giant that once owned Miller Brewing when it was called Phillip Morris, and the Santa Domingo family of Colombia agreed to the merger, with a discount of the stock’s cash price, which was done, the New York Times observed, “in order to avoid a huge tax bill from the sale of their holdings.”

In order to pass through U.S. regulatory hoops, the Miller brand in North America will be bought by MolsonCoors. Making Miller Lite and Coors LIght under their control. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out: “taking complete control of MillerCoors would still benefit Molson, which could cut as much as $500 million in costs from the joint venture by eliminating breweries along the US-Canada border, reducing staff and improving procurement, according to analysts.”
The WSJ should know. Just ask the staff at National Geographic, when Rupert Murdoch bought their company.

Why the merger? The two main reasons cited are that A-B InBev wants to have greater presence in the continent of Africa and that they want to get a presence in China, with that holiest crown jewel of beer sales, the number one in volume, SNOW.

The purchase of the SABMiller portfolio involves an accumulation of a huge chunk of world beer culture, something that the money driven mainstream media tend to ignore. What will become of Dogbolter dark lager, the Australian beer dry hopped with cascade hops? What are the plans for Rhino Lager, Zambia’s “the pride of the copperbelt“, or St. Louis from Botswana. Will Impala the cassava based beer in Mozambique, undergo a reformulation? What about Trophy in Nigeria? Or Sheaf Stout in Australia, will they still use Nelson Sauvin hops in Fat Yak Ale?

Breweries from Romania, Slovakia, Peru, Columbia, Honduras, El Salvador, Italy, India, Hungary, Canary Islands, Uganda, Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic, are involved. If you do not believe that there will many people who will lose their jobs, then obviously you are puffing on a Neoliberal pipe dream.