The Brewers Association, of course, has a board of directors made up of brewery owners. The current chairman, Rich Doyle, owns Harpoon Brewing in Massachusetts. In a recent article in the Patriot Ledger, Doyle ruminates on what the InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch will mean for smaller brewers. (And I’m going to adopt Harry Schuhmacher’s “ABIB” to refer to the new company.)
Like me, Doyle doesn’t think the ABIB merger will do small brewers any favors. “When you read in the paper that 80 percent of the beer sold in the United States is now controlled by two companies, that’s a pretty sobering fact.”
From the Patriot-Ledger article:
Doyle said most independent beer distributors in the U.S. have a contractual arrangement with one of the big brewing companies. He said that as those companies gain clout, small craft brewers worry they could be squeezed out by the big conglomerates if they provide financial incentives to the distributors to focus on their big-name beers.
“The small brewers are concerned that these contracts will be even more constraining on the somewhat independent wholesalers to be able to handle products like ours,” Doyle said. “Ultimately, this is about the consumer having access to the brands they want and the choice they want.”
The article goes on to quote Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Co. (who makes Samuel Adams beers) as not being nearly as concerned. Of course, Boston Beer is the largest craft brewer in the country and is already well-established in virtually every market. But I continue to believe that for smaller, newer and less middle-of-the-road brewers, the challenges in getting their beer to market will only increase.
Rich Doyle, leading a toast after giving the keynote address at the Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego earlier this year.