JUST 10 years ago, the proposed merger of SABMiller and Molson Coors into MillerCoors would have worried craft brewers. Back then, “American beer” was thought of as a cheap product with very little beer flavor. But today the United States has by far the most exciting beer culture in the world, and America’s 1,500 craft brewers are undaunted by the prospect of a juggernaut that would have 30 percent of the domestic market. The age of American industrial brewing is over.
Craft brewers used to be called “microbreweries,” but many of us are not so micro anymore. And the people who once thought the craft brewing movement was a fad can now see it for what it really is — a welcome return to normality.
Industrial beer is still the vast majority of the American market, and it’s not going away tomorrow, but there is no future in it. While industrial beers suffer flat or declining sales, craft brewers are experiencing double-digit growth. The big brewers now try to copy craft beers. European brewers, who once laughed at watery American beer, now look to the United States for inspiration.
MillerCoors is not a threat to craft brewers but a warning: we should not walk the road of overexpansion or be tempted by the lowest common denominator of the mass market. Miller, Coors and Anheuser-Busch were once small breweries making fine local beer, too.
If we truly want to restore the vibrant beer culture that flourished in this country before Prohibition, craft brewers need to retain the values and goals — creating beers that are flavorful, interesting to drink and made from proper beer ingredients — that put us on the map in the first place. Let’s not undo American beer again.
Of course, I agree with this sentiment. Big beer is not a threat to those of us seeking a quality brew. The only threat is the craft brewers taking their eye off the ball and start using rice in their beer because it's cheaper (ok, that was a cheap shot at Budweiser). We are always going to seek out the quality in the market, and right now that quality is in the regional and microbrew market. Big beer is catching on and trying new things, they're not oblivious, but there are just too many local brewers and there's only going to be more. So keep seeking quality and we'll having nothing to fear from big beer.