On Anheuser-Busch buying 10 Barrel

I had been working on a long post on the buyout of Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing by Anheuser-Busch but ultimately I think there’s been quite a lot written on all sides by people already that I feel like it would be redundant.

10 Barrel Pumpkin LambicHowever I’m the Bend Beer guy, and everyone wants to know what I think about it (it’s quite the topic of conversation in Bend these days, as you can imagine), so here’s my shorter answer:

Whether we like it or not, growth and consolidation is the future for craft beer, in whatever form it will take. The principals behind 10 Barrel are businessmen and they’ve worked hard to grow that business (you can read about it in Bend Beer, of course), so for them at this moment in 10 Barrel’s history this is a smart move. I was very surprised at the announcement, but not really surprised that it happened.

That being said… there is a lot of real anger and backlash in the community right now towards them. From afar it must be easy to dismiss this backlash as simply “haters,” comment trolls, “scorned beer geeks,” jealousy or what have you, but here in the middle of it, talking to real people (not just reading Facebook comments), it’s none of those things. At its heart Bend is still a small, fiercely local community that supports local (and especially supports craft beer), and by itself 10 Barrel being sold would not be a problem—but they sold to a multinational megacorporation whose policies and practices are antithetical to the craft beer industry. And the community is not reacting well to that for a variety of reasons.

My own point of view is, I think it was a smart decision by 10 Barrel to grow their business as it’s where the industry is trending, and it was likely the right move at the right time for them. But yes, I am also unhappy that it was to Anheuser-Busch for several reasons, particularly because of the community backlash I’m seeing first hand. 10 Barrel will survive and probably thrive in the long run, but in the short run we need to remember that 10 Barrel is not just the name and image and beer, it’s the people, the brewers, the employees who work there—they are the ones who will be affected (directly and otherwise) by the anger and animosity the community is feeling right now. And that sucks.

Additional reading/food for thought:

  • According to the Brewers Association, 10 Barrel will no longer be defined as a “craft brewer” as they will be wholly owned “by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.”
  • Local television news station KTVZ has a story about other local brewers’ reaction to the sale. Most of the brewers contacted didn’t want to go on record. “Many didn’t want to go on-camera but told me the move is a bit of a sensitive subject.”
  • Angelo at Brewpublic has scored the first interview with 10 Barrel’s owners, and the first part of that interview is online now.

One comment

  1. Anheuser-Busch has a long standing history of deliberate market manipulation (going all the way to the hops growers). From stocking/extortion to outright command and conquer market dominance practices. Anheuser-Busch will dilute and undermine the original presentation so as it makes for a more easily distributed product. Don’t agree research what Anheuser-Busch did to Stella Artois. Diluted and totally lost it’s original presentation etc. Nice thing is that there are tons of companies who will modestly sustain. I liken Anheuser-Busch to comparing McDonalds to smaller mom and pop hamburger joints. When people are fed a steady diet of feces, eventually they become feces connoisseurs. One could present them with a choice steak, but they won’t like the taste as it does not resemble feces. Anheuser-Busch caters to the feces connoisseurs and Budweiser is proof.

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