Peel the Label – Sold Now but Down the Road?

Each time that a craft brewery decides to sell to SABInBev, there is a flurry of social media, blog posts decrying the move and then deeper dives. With the selling of Wicked Weed, there has been some great reading like THIS and THIS.

We now know that the plan is to hide amongst craft and muddy the water of price and quality. And quite possibly cash in a little to raise their slumping sales numbers.

But all of that is near term and as important as the current struggle is, the long term future might be even more interesting to ponder and predict.

Here are some of the questions that percolate for me:
1. What happens when one of the craft brands of the “high end” stumble?
Money has been invested. Not only in purchase price but in expansion of brewing facilities and locations, people and ingredients. If one of brands consistently loses money will they be booted out or left to wither and die?

2. What happens when the original owners/brewers leave?
Whatever claim of staying true to the core beliefs and core beers might well leave with them. And what made that brewery a success no longer has a face. This is a problem that will vex all of craft beer but will bite SABInBev the hardest because they need to hold onto whatever craft cred they can buy.

3. Craft has really local ties, an L.A. brand and a NY brand might not work nationally.
There is a large group of people who make purchases based on locality. And we have seen that the breweries that are trying to grow nationwide have hit some tough patches. I think those items are linked. And again, a problem for craft beer could very well be a problem for even a large company.

These breweries were bought for a specific reason and it wasn’t the beer. Geography probably ranked higher. Which means that no matter the beer or the people, they could be shut down if a new action plan is implemented. Those that sold to the “high end” did not buy long term stability.

Peel the Label is an occasional series where I opine about the big picture of craft beer and blogging without photos, videos or links. (except for the two links this time)