To say that a lot is going on in the world of brewing has to be the understatement of the millennium. From breweries merging together to form giant worldwide conglomerates, to the ongoing hop crisis, to the rise of home brewing and even home hop growing, the happenings of the beer industry are scattered throughout the internet and the pages of newspapers around the world.
Obviously the biggest news occurred only a few weeks ago as Belgian/Brazilian brewer InBev announced that it would purchase its major U.S. rival, Anheuser-Busch, for $52 Billion, or $70 per share. Originally, InBev proposed $65 per share, a $46 Billion buyout in mid-June, but it was rejected by the shareholders. The new name, according to the Anheuser-Busch website, will be Anheuser-Busch-InBev and it will be the fifth largest corporation in the world.
This brings us to a huge question. What will become of the brewery and headquarters located in St. Louis, Missouri as well as the breweries scattered throughout the U.S.? I read a recent Time Magazine article that pretty much hints that without Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis is doomed to follow in the footsteps of Flint, Michigan, a once proud city, that has never been the same after the loss of motor vehicle manufacturing.
The statement on the Anheuser-Busch corporate website claims that St. Louis will continue to be the U.S. and global headquarters of the company. Also, all twelve of the breweries will remain open. Everything on the surface seems like it’s going to remain the same, but for how long?
Forbes.com is one of many sites that say that massive job-cuts are imminent as the company attempts to centralize operations. How can they not be? As soon as it makes more sense to brew in Belgium and/or replace corporate big-wigs, they will. Also, should we be concerned that one of the largest and oldest (150ish years) American companies has been purchased by a corporation based in Europe? Does this merger make August Busch IV the new Benedict Arnold?
Should we be annoyed that they are still playing T.V. and radio advertisements calling Budweiser, “The great American Lager”? Is it un-American to buy Budweiser now? Will customer dissatisfaction bring the rise of microbreweries to the forefront? Will we eventually just forget about all this and keep buying Budweiser, the world’s biggest selling brand? There are more questions in this merger than in an episode of “Lost.”
The consensus emotions from the common man seem to be anger, sadness, and disbelief over this merger. There are many websites dedicated to the anti-InBev sentiment. SaveBudweiser.com has on online petition asking Anheuser-Busch not to go through with the merger. At the time I wrote this article, 66,947 people had signed the online petition.
The website DrinkAmerican.us has a simple message at the top of the main page, “Declare independence from Budweiser and drink American.” The site has started some commotion, even being mentioned on CNN’s “The Situation Room” as well as in the New York Post.
David Lauterbach and his friends run the website BriansBelly.com, a website dedicated to beer, food, and good times, but when they heard about the possible purchase of Anheuser-Busch by InBev they created the sister (er…brother) site, DrinkAmerican.us. He says that the site wasn’t and isn’t about the Budweiser boycotts that have popped up all over the internet.
“At first, we wanted to inform the public about the possibility of a takeover and help with the boycott movement.” He added, “But after I did so much research into ‘who owns what’ I became somewhat obsessed with finding out what beers were truly American.”
He says that he and his buddies have nothing against imported beer. Some of their favorite beers happen to be from other countries. “But the Budmilloors of America are no longer owned by Americans, and that’s what hurts the most.”
Anheuser-Busch-InBev isn’t the only major U.S. brewery merger making headlines, but it is the highest profile. A South African company purchased the Miller Brewing Company in 2002 and is now SABMiller. Molson Canada also purchased the Coors Brewing Company and now goes by Molson Coors brewing company. So what is the biggest American owned brewery operating in the U.S. now, Pabst? I really don’t have any idea. I tired to do some research to find out, but every site I looked at ended up being about InBev. Also, I just wanted to mention Pabst somewhere in this article. Got to love those Pabst Blue Ribbons.
We complain about high gas prices (the gas where I live in New York has increased over a dollar since last year at this time) but, few people seem to know that there is also a worldwide hop shortage that is driving up the price of beer substantially. Due to an increase in the price of Barley, a decrease in U.S. hop production in recent years and crappy weather in Europe, hop prices are getting higher and higher. Some more common hop varieties have and will increase around 20% in price, while specialty varieties have and will increase to between 70-85% in some places.
This is a difficult time to be a beer enthusiast. If we don’t want to drink any of the brands that seem un-American and we lean more towards the craft brew industry, we will be paying a lot more than we are used to. What should we do? Maybe we should just switch to hard liquor? How about Southern Comfort?
They are owned by the Brown-Forman Company, based in Louisville, Kentucky and are one of the largest U.S. owned spirit and wine companies operating today. What’s more American than Southern Comfort? Maybe I’ll start a website hyping SoCo as, “The true American whiskey flavored liqueur with peach, apricot, orange, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon that will make you think about apple pie and baseball.” I think that’s kind of catchy.
“Osburn on Tap” appears monthly in THE FATHER LIFE. For questions, comments, or if you have a story idea for Chris, visit his website http://www.chrisosburnwrites.com.