Amid plenty of recent news of craft acquisitions—Lagunitas by Heineken, St. Archer by MillerCoors, Virtue Cider by Goose Island/AB-InBev—comes serious talk of a big beer merger. Like, really big beer merger. This morning, news broke of Anheuser Busch-InBev’s interest in acquiring SABMiller, which would fold together two of the world’s largest beer companies. Naturally, a deal of this size would require federal regulators’ approval to make sure anti-trust laws are not violated.
The Brewers Association’s concern is what this would mean for its craft brewer members. BA director Paul Gatza issued a statement, published in full here, addressing the news. He admits that he has more questions than answers, but he thas two major points. First:
“In terms of impact on craft, my first thought is that most craft brewers operate in a different sphere—their communities and regions primarily. They serve the roles/purposes of being parts of and building communities. Many craft brewers would look at a potential deal of Anheuser Busch-InBev and SABMiller as not relevant to their businesses and will keep on doing what they do—make flavorful and high quality beer, engage beer drinkers and serve the community through jobs, involvement and serving as a place for people to gather and discuss the events of the day. The American public continues to respond by sampling more new craft brewed beers and buying more of their favorites. Those societal trends won’t change because of this deal.”
A large issue, though, is distribution networks, and whether brands will change distributors as a result of this potential deal. Gatza closes with a look ahead:
“It is hard to see the retail landscape changing much because of the deal. Will it matter to the beer drinker? Can the beer drinker relate to news of a global megamerger about beer? There have been an increasing number of craft brewer transactions inside and outside of craft lately. To what degree will this giant merger and other deals, some of which may impact beer drinkers’ relationships to specific brewers, impact perceptions of beer to where it becomes less of an item of personal passion or more of an item of personal passion? Will future transactions in and from the craft space hurt the brand of craft? Time will tell all.”