Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Rise Of Craft Beers Explained

Hops - No IPA is compete without it
Everywhere you turn, someone is starting up a brewery to produce beer that has more taste than the flavored water that passes for beer at the big conglomerates. The young, who have the stamina to drink enough beer to make a difference in the market, are turning up their noses at the offerings of Anheuser-Busch InBev or SABMiller. And they're wise, too, very much aware of the brand names used by those big conglomerates to make a person think they're buying a craft beer when in fact it's just another mass production out of a massive factory.

The big brewers are losing market share to the countless little start-ups, and so the suits look to cut costs as they attempt to work their way back into the hearts, and stomachs, of Millenials. Bigger is better, so the thinking goes, bigger means more efficiency and more synergies to be realized.

And for those who get themselves synergized out of work, they can always just go start up their own little craft beer brewery, right?

Anheuser-Busch InBev is making a lot of noise these days about buying up its nearest competitor, the equally massive SABMiller. The two corporations are themselves the product of several mergers of smaller operations, with each acquisition meant to reach the top of the beer market. What happens when one large entity controls a market? That's called a monopoly, and when a corporation grows into a monopoly, it gets to largely set the price for its goods and the buyer can either do without or pay up.

Wouldn't it be grand, the corner office holders were all over it, increasing profits and boosting a sagging bottom line. If only they were not looking over their shoulder at SABMiller, they could raise the price a bit and wouldn't the Christmas bonus look a bit more cheery.

You might think you can fight back by not purchasing Budweiser, but a long string of mergers has put most of the major brands under the umbrellas of the two biggest brewers. The only way left to show that you won't accept cheap beer sold at a premium, considering the quality of the product, is to buy from a craft brewer who is local to your area so you know they aren't hiding their parentage.

Time to get creative and maybe get rich?
Small craft brewers understand the desire of beer drinkers to quench their thirst with quality products, beverages that are made in small batches with someone who is genuinely interested in the quality of the product keeping an eye on the vats. They play up their smallness and local origins, offering tours of the facilities and touting their local roots. The brew master could be someone you know, or someone you met at university. He or she is not just another factory hand toiling for SABMiller in obscurity, with no real stake in how the beer tastes after it leaves the factory.

Instead of improving the goods, which would be cost-prohibitive, the top two brewers snap up craft houses that are keen to expand because their product is so popular but they lack the facilities to meet demand. Then the drinkers get wise, insist that InBev or whoever has just ruined their favorite brew, and move on to the next latest small brewery.

What's left? Decrease costs by merging and shrinking the population of employees, with their expensive salaries and benefits.

Meanwhile, the next generation of beer drinkers discovers that there are more tastes to beer than a Budweiser or a Stella Artois. There are recipes that are best in small batches, and if it costs a little more, it's worth it to drink one good beer rather than five poor ones.

Whether the proposed merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will pass muster with the U.S. anti-monopoly authorities remains to be seen. The two titans may be relegated to battling it out, snapping up craft brewers who can take their windfall and set up another craft brewery that will out-compete the industry giants because the craft beer is what the public wants these days.

Maybe it's time that I gave up the writing and started inventing beer recipes?

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