The most recent slate of craft brewery acquisitions by global beer conglomerates is generating a good deal of dialogue and debate in the craft beer community. The pending sale of San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits to Constellation Brands and the December announcement that Anheuser-Busch has purchased Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery have elicited mostly negative reactions in the forums on beer-centric internet sites.
While a smattering of commenters maintain they will continue to purchase Ballast Point and Breckenridge products provided there is no drop in quality, a large percentage of the posters are adamantly opposed to supporting craft breweries owned by huge corporations.
Anheuser-Busch, the U.S. arm of AB InBev, operates 17 local breweries, 21 distributorships and 23 agricultural and packaging facilities across the United States and is the world’s largest brewer. Constellation Brands is the world’s largest wine producer and owns more than 100 brands of beer, wine and spirits.
Adverse reactions to these acquisitions no doubt stem from the fact that many in the craft beer community have perennially viewed the mega corporate breweries as enemies hell bent on stemming or destroying the craft beer resurgence. I have not agreed with that extreme point of view but the recent brewery acquisitions combined with AB InBev’s other tactics are prompting me to rethink my position.
According to an article in Dow Jones Business News, AB InBev recently introduced a new incentive program that could offer some independent distributors in the U.S. annual reimbursements of as much as $1.5 million if 98% of the beers they sell are AB InBev brands. AB InBev is also in the process of acquiring more distributors and is working on a merger with rival conglomerate SABMiller.
“Even the new, ultra-powerful AB InBev-SABMiller super conglomerate can’t buy them all out, one would think,” Brad Tuttle wrote in a recent article in Money.com. “But the global beer behemoth can strategically purchase key craft brewers and use them to make it extremely difficult for independent little guys to be successful in the marketplace.”
I have no doubt that we will see more acquisitions of American craft breweries by global conglomerates in the upcoming year. What long term effect these acquisitions will have on the craft beer resurgence in the U.S. remains to be seen and will continue to be the subject of a long term debate.
New and Returning Beer
- New Belgium Glutiny Gold, $1.69/12oz - "Hoist your pints to the mutiny against gluten, and toast to Glutiny Golden Ale, our new uncompromised gluten-reduced beer designed for the discerning craft drinker. For this new year-round release, we dosed the beer with colorful Nugget, Goldings and Cascade hops, and then turned around and dry-hopped it again with Cascade, lending bright grapefruit and subtle herbal notes to the wash of bready-sweet malts; additions of oats adds a layer of smoothness to the mouthfeel. Finally, we used a special enzyme during the brewing process, which breaks down the gluten. The result is super sessionable, flavorful golden ale that starts sweet and finishes crisp. Ready to join the uprising? Taste the Glutiny" (source).
- New Belgium Glutiny Pale, $1.69/12oz - "There’s an uprising in the craft beer world, a mutiny on gluten, and the movement’s invaded our brewhouse, demanding we finally brew an uncompromised gluten-reduced pale ale fit for the most adventurous hopheads. Our response? This is Glutiny! For this new year-round release, we armed the beer with a hefty dose of exotic Equinox hops, lending breezy guava, papaya and stone fruits to a wash of sweet, slightly herbal malt flavors. We then employed a special enzyme during the brewing process, which breaks down the gluten. Like any delicious pale ale, expect swift bitterness in the swallow and an assertively dry finish, just how we like it. Ready to join the uprising? Taste the Glutiny" (source).
- New Belgium Citradellic Tangerine, $1.69/12oz - "This hop profile really lends itself to that big citrusy, juicy fruit nose, so the next logical step was to riff off of that with actual Tangerine,” said Assistant Brewmaster Grady Hull. “The result is a brightly citrus, slightly bitter, and pleasantly balanced IPA" (source).
- New Belgium Side Trip, $1.69/12oz - "Sometimes it’s a side trip that makes the journey. During our last anniversary retreat to Belgium, brewmaster Peter Bouckaert embarked on a sensory excursion to find the perfect yeast strain for his next creation: Side Trip Belgian Pale Ale. A beer from Brouwerij Van Den Bossche led Bouckaert to the brewery’s family Buffalo yeast strain, which they happily shared, and the foundation was set. Additions of Belgian Chateau Abbey and Cara Ruby malts from Castle Malting, the oldest malting plant in Belgium, as well as Belgian Magnum, Saphir and Target hops builds a bready, caramel-sweet wash with traces of stone fruits, and a balanced herbal bitterness for a pleasantly dry finish. Take a break from your journey with a Side Trip" (source).
- Oskar Blues Hotbox Coffee Porter, $3.09/12oz - "Rich, Robust with obscene amount balinese coffee" (source).
- Blackrocks Mint Stout, $1.99/12oz - "This Foreign Extra Stout is brewed with fresh mint leaves, adding a subtle hint on top of the roasted malts" (source).
- Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree, $4.49/12oz - "We actually took the Crooked Tree recipe and doubled all of the ingredients except the water, just the way a DOUBLE should be made. Big hops balanced with tons of malt give this beer a huge body. Enjoy right away or let it mellow and smooth with some age" (source).
- Founders Rubaeus, $2.99/12oz (Now Year Round) - "Optimizing the flavor of fresh raspberries added at multiple stages during fermentation, this stunning berry red masterpiece is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. No question about it, with a hefty malt bill and 5.7% ABV, this beer is 100% Founders" (source).
- Founders Azacca, $1.79/12oz - "A new ’tropical’ IPA starring Azacca hops, an experimental hop variety from Roy Farms" (source).
- Latitude 42 Lucifer's Cuvee, $2.39/12oz - "Dangerously devastating, Lucifer’s Cuvée is our Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. Intense hearty rye, along with a decadent gourmet of chocolate essence, and balanced by the addition of Cascade hops" (source).
- Sierra Nevada Ovila Plum, $3.29/12oz - "Ovila Abbey Quad is heady with aromas of caramel, rich malt, and dark fruit balanced by the spiciness and delicate fruity notes of a traditional Belgian yeast. This complex beer is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux. It features sugar plums grown on the grounds of the Abbey and harvested by the monks in Vina. We hope you enjoy this collaboration ale" (source).
- Sierra Nevada Otra Vez, $1.69/12oz - "On our search for the perfect warm weather beer, we wanted something light bodied and thirst quenching, yet filled with complex and interesting flavors. We stumbled across the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, native to California. This tangy fruit is a great complement to the tart and refreshing traditional gose style beer. Otra Vez combines prickly pear cactus with a hint of grapefruit for a refreshing beer that will have you calling for round after round" (source).
- Crankers Old Siberian, $10.49/22oz - "Old Siberian is a beer that tames the brutish northern winter with it’s full rich flavors of caramel and dark fruit. It is rich and expressive, malt forward, and begs to be enjoyed in front of the fireplace. This is a terrific beer to drink this season, or age in your cellar and allow it to develop further for years to come. Let Old Siberian become on of the bright spots amid our long frigid winters" (source).
- Breckenridge 25, $27.89/750ml - "The recipe starts with an Imperial version of the brewery’s ever-popular Vanilla Porter giving it a more prominent ‘porter’ flavor as well as the boosted ABV. The beer then rests for ten weeks in rum barrels imported from the Caribbean island of Barbados. Added to each cask is ¼ pound of incredibly rare, fresh, wet vanilla beans from the Veracruz region of Mexico. Even the vanilla beans carry a unique story, coming from small family farms where they are hand pollinated and hand picked. This exotic beer is full of flavor with notes of rum, raisin, and an oaky vanilla finish. Twenty Five is packaged proudly in 750 ml cork-and-cage bottles, and at 9.8% alcohol by volume, it’s one to be sipped and shared" (source).
- Old Nation Ten Penny, $1.69/12oz - "Tastes of biscuit, caramel and toasted bread. Just enough Michigan hops to balance" (source).
- Old Nation 2 Crow, $1.99/12oz - "I passed two crows on a branch in a field, still and calm. They seemed natural and out of place, all at once. Two Crow Black Sugar Stout is like that; black as night with something hard to define in its’ nature. Dark Malts, noble hops and two kinds of house caramelized MI beet sugars combine to create a beautifully balanced high gravity stout. Strong stout with caramelized Michigan sugar. Not overly sweet or heavy for the ABV" (source).
- Old Nation Detroit Dwarf, $1.69/12oz - "Inspired by the legendary “Nain Rouge”(French for Red Dwarf), our signature beer is full in flavor while remaining very balanced and crisp. It is our pride and pleasure to provide you with one of the finest Alt beers brewed in the United States" (source).
- Old Nation Grand Pale Rye Session Ale, $1.69/12oz - "Summer on the water, the leaves turning in the fall, snow on the river and the riotous rebirth of spring. We love it outside, and we made our go-to ale to honor our home river and the seasons that give it life. The snap of cold climate rye, the floral bite of the hop and the best brewing water in the world against the harvest-sweet backbone of pale and caramel malt" (source).
- Tapistry Rice Reaper, $11.09/22oz - "Double Rice IPA" (source).
- Tapistry Batch 200, $11.09/22oz - "Belgian Golden Strong Ale" (source).
- Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout, $4.79/22oz - "Brewed with boatloads of roasted coffee in each batch for that extra Krunk… this Mondo Coffee Stout will leave you wondering whether you're coming or going. Available in 22oz bombers mid-winter…ish" (source).
Video of the Week | Bell's Two Hearted Ale
If there's ever a hall of fame for craft beer, Two Hearted should be inducted first.