With Anheuser-Busch’s announcement yesterday that it will acquire Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery — the seventh beer maker to join AB InBev’s ranks, along with Goose Island and others — craft beer lovers groaned, groused and then went about their day. But many of us in Texas have started to wonder.
Is AB InBev coming for Texas breweries, too?
In a word: yes. If it can, that is. The real question is whether Texas breweries will let it.
The brewing conglomerate’s business strategy has become obvious of late, as Freetail Brewing founder Scott Metzger points out in this must-read blog post on Freetail’s website.
“ABI’s goal is to be everything to everyone,” he writes. “They know you are going to drink beer (and by you, I literally mean almost everyone on planet earth), and they want to do everything they can to make sure it’s their beer you’re buying. This is a cutthroat, aggressive business dominance game.”
That’s why AB InBev has made three acquisitions in the past week and why we shouldn’t be surprised when news breaks of another one. These buy-outs are going to keep happening because both AB InBev and the brewery it snags up are, in the end, businesses with bottom lines, expansion goals and shareholders to keep happy. Not all craft breweries are going to be bought because of these things — and the ones that do, Metzger writes, shouldn’t get the inevitable negative reaction from beer fans.
“It’s time to stop calling them sell-outs or traitors. They are people, people who did what was best for them,” he writes.
In his “Why More Sales are Coming” essay, Metzger — who’s an economics wizard in addition to being a stellar brewer with Freetail — analyzes which breweries are probably next on AB InBev’s hit list based on which ones the company has already snatched up, the brewing capacity of the ones remaining and whether those left haven’t already done another kind of deal like private equity. And two beloved Texas breweries are on this list of AB InBev targets: Real Ale Brewing and Saint Arnold Brewing.
“I know a lot of the founders of these brewers personally, and would be absolutely floored in shock if they were ever part of a deal,” Metzger notes — so chances are, Texas beer fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
Still, their focus on staying local is exactly why AB InBev finds them so appealing. Real Ale Brewing, for example, has always made clear that Fireman’s #4, Hans Pils and the lineup of other beloved Real Ale beers are only ever going to be sold in Texas. And this focus on local isn’t unique to Real Ale. Many breweries, from Jester King to Live Oak and far beyond, primarily stick to the state or region where their beers are made, meaning they don’t need the aid of a much bigger beer company like AB InBev to expand, but their limited reach also makes them perfect for AB InBev — the chance to have its hands in the local scene of every state.
That’s the trend we’re going to see next year. Texas breweries might not be among the ones that join the AB InBev craft portfolio, but we’ll nonetheless “start hearing of more dominoes falling soon, and it shouldn’t shock you,” Metzger writes.