Creating Their Own Demise: How the Craft Beer Community is Ruining Craft Beer
The day is November 26th, 2015. Craft beer drinkers are finishing up eating Turkey with the family in their metro Detroit home and they’ve made one of two decisions. They’re going to take the five or so hour drive to Chicago Illinois to wait in line at Binny’s or they’ve decided what store they’re going to camp out for tomorrows Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island. They’ve saved up money for this day as prices range from the lowest around $10.00 to the highest over one hundred dollars for a Goose Island Bourbon County Rare. There are a lot of factors that go into how this one release is extremely hurtful to the community.
Each store with an extremely limited supply of each beer, and even more extremely limited supply for the variants including this year’s well sought out after variant, the Bourbon County Coffee will get customers coming in all day, asking for the beer, and leaving empty handed as they had already sold out, or haven’t gotten in their shipment yet.
Starting off with the basic knowledge that Goose Island not considered craft beer in the eyes of the Brewers Association, the reason for that is because the entire company is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, known for its American domestics like Budweiser and Michelob, its subsidiary Grupo Modelo, and as mentioned before, Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, IL. The sale (completed in 2011) had 58% of the stake sold to ABI from Goose Island, and the remaining 42%, owned by the Craft Brew alliance, was also purchased by ABI giving full ownership of the company to ABI, and causing brewmaster Greg Hall to step down. The only thing not sold to ABI were the Goose Island brewpubs. This reaches the conclusion that any profit that Goose Island Brewery stands to make will go to ABI.
So now the pill to swallow is that not only are people chasing beers that are not craft, but the profits created by selling this beer go directly to the largest macro brewery in the world, a brewery that people will hate blindly, but will not talk with their wallet, just behind a computer monitor.
ABI has been in the news as of late with a potentional merger with SABMiller and ABI creating an incentive program to have distributors carry more ABI beers and less craft beers. A lot of people have voiced their opinion on it, but still choose to support these breweries by purchasing their beers, be it Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian, and Golden Road. They also own a large minority stake (32.2%) in Redhook, Widmer, Kona, Omission, KCCO, and others. This group of breweries is also known as Craft Brew Alliance.
There are two unspoken issues that is necessary to bring up, as many beer store owners cannot say themselves without potential backlash which people will actually speak with their wallet by not going as there are plenty of places to purchase beer in most areas. The first issue that it’s seen that when people are attempting to grab this beer, they are chasing the distribution trucks from store to store to buy their allotment (typically one or two bottles), and mostly not buying any other product from that store. The large issue is that these beer enthusiasts typically have their three to four beer stores that they go to, depending on what they’re looking for, how much they’re looking for, and a slew of other reasons. On this day though, people will start driving all over the area, go to every liquor store, walk in, ask if they have BCBS, and buy as much as they can and walk out, or buy nothing and walk out. This was seen at one store that had one whole case of BCBS, and it was observed that 23 of the 24 bottles being sold without anything else purchased. This was even a full blown liquor store with soda, snacks, and cigarettes, but nothing else was bought, and potentially because the people who bought it typically do not shop there normally, but found about it online, drove there, and left with either their single bottle or nothing at all. This has caused a strain as, at least in the state of Michigan, someone cannot require a person to buy other products and someone cannot save a product for a customer whom which the owner deems to be a more regular customer in which they’d want to reward them for their patronage by giving them the opportunity to purchase these hard to find beers.
The second issue is the entitlement of said craft beer enthusiasts as they feel that if they’re not getting a deal, or getting the lowest price possible, they will call out price gouging and a full on hate-filled post against the store, which was probably a store they never go to anyways. The issue is that these prices, which are higher than most stores typically gone to, are caused by by the craft beer enthusiast themself. In a free market, prices are determined by competition between owners, and the supply shortage caused by fellow craft beer enthusiasts, causes a higher demand, and causes the price to rise. Sure, some places will still charge the MSRP, or may get lucky and find it at a major box store like a Costco or Kroger in which beer in a tiny fraction of their sales for a decent price, but basic economic understanding will tell the consumer that the problems start, and end will the purchaser causing these issues.