It was announced on Wednesday that one of the more popular craft breweries in the country, Wicked Weed Brewing out of Ashville, North Carolina, was acquired by Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest producer of beer. Interestingly (but not surprising if you follow the craft beer industry) the announcement was met with significant backlash from the craft beer community. The acquisition garnered significant criticism on Twitter, with many accusing Wicked Weed of “selling out.” The deal even generated a statement from the North Carolina’s Craft Brewers Guild, saying that they were “disheartened” by the announcement. In another example, when Elysian Brewing Company out of Seattle announced its sale to Anheuser-Busch in 2015, the owner reported that customers were buying beers and dumping them onto the floor in protest of the sale!
Why are craft brewers treated so differently in the business world than other startups? Why are they accused of “selling out” when in other industries, startup companies are celebrated and their founders turned into celebrities when they successfully sell off their company for millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars?
The answer is not so simple and there seems to be reasonable arguments that can be made on both sides of the issue (beyond just pouring out a perfectly good beer). Customers and craft beer enthusiasts often express concern that the takeover by a large, international corporate giant is going to impact the quality of the beer. In some cases, this seems to be a justifiable concern. The article from Thrillist cites a number of examples including Goose Island and Ballast Point where, after the acquisition, the original ownership left, recipes were changed, and in one case, a coveted batch of beer had to be recalled because of a non-toxic bacteria that infected the beer required its recall. These issues were all blamed on the takeover and many people swore off drinking these beers as a result. Continue Reading Double (IPA) Standard for Craft Breweries?