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Big Beer, Big Deal

Last week there was a big commotion in the Ohio Craft beer world. One of the fastest growing craft breweries in America, Platform Brewing, got bought out by AB-InBev. Okay, so what’s the big deal? Why do we care?

The short answer is, lots of reasons. 

When Big Beer (brands like AB-InBev, Miller Coors, etc.) makes acquisitions of craft brands, there is a disturbance in the force. Craft brewers are defined as three things: small, independent, and traditional. Small is defined as brewing less than 6 million barrels of beer a year. Independent is defined as less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewery. Traditional is further defined as  brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. When a craft brewery gets bought-out by Big Beer, they no longer fit into this definition, even if their branding remains the same. 

I’ve talked before about the incredible community that is the craft beer industry. Some of this community has to do with the fact that brewers are in general, pretty likeable people. We’re easy to get along with. But the collaborative nature of the industry is also due in part to the fact that we’re not in competition with each other, instead we view ourselves as in competition with Big Beer. ALL of craft beer makes up just 13% of the beer market in America, but each year we’re closing that gap.

When Big Beer acquires a craft brewery, most consumers don’t notice anything at first. The branding remains the same, and sometimes even the owners remain in place. Suddenly though, the consumer will start to see that former craft brand in a lot more stores. They’ll see a huge price drop on that particular brand. At this point I’m sure you’re thinking, “more beer for less $, seems like a win, Kristin.” And, you aren’t wrong. What you don’t see though, is that it begins to change the perception of worth in the minds of the consumer.  

A good analogy for me is fast food. Just like major fast food chains can sell you a burger for $1, your favorite food truck makes a burger from scratch and sells it for $7.50. Buying from that food truck is way more expensive, but you’re getting a product that is oftentimes made locally, by an entrepreneur who chasing their dreams. When you buy from a chain, you’re getting a product that is mass produced by a big company. 

Shelf space is another thing that suffers as Big Beer acquires more breweries. These brands have the ability to buy a LOT of shelf space. Craft beer often has a tiny section, and what you see changes based on the distribution model that the craft breweries are following. 

I’ve talked before about the Brewers Association’s push for craft brewers to use the craft seal. This upside down beer bottle appears on a LOT of packaging now for craft brewers. When you’re in a grocery store, and you spot this logo, you can be sure you’re drinking something made by a small, independent, traditional brewery. 

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When you “seek the seal” you’re supporting small and local. You make a difference in the lives of real people that live and work in your communities. John and I hope you know how much we love getting to know each and every one of you, and how much we love building those connections with you from across the bar. We love that we’re making a difference in Licking County, one beer at a time. 

We hope you’ll come in soon and chat with us. Come, join our journey. It’s #worththeTrek.