In a disappointing – but not necessarily surprising – move, Terrapin Brewery in Athens, Georgia sold a majority stake to Miller SAB aka MillerCoors. Miller had already owned a minority stake of Terrapin since 2011. But, Terrapin finally made the plunge to sell them the majority share. Any time a craft brewery sells out to Big Beer, some local beer lovers get bent out of shape.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some advantages to having the resources of a behemoth national beer company. Namely, marketing and distribution. But, as in the video below from The Craft Beer Channel, I would also argue that strong national distribution and having a bottomless advertising budget isn’t a win-win situation. It will ultimately push out other terrific craft brewers trying to grab a share of the market. Most restaurants only have a few taps available (excluding awesome bars with walls full of exotic beers on taps). Imagine if every restaurant only has 4 beer taps: Budweiser, Miller Lite, Blue Moon and Terrapin. That’s it, nothing else. The couple taps designated for “craft beers” will be homogenized. No more variety or discovery, trying beers you’ve never heard of. No more delight when you find your favorite hard-to-find beer is on tap. Grocery stores also only have a limited amount of shelf space for beer. Beer selections will be increasingly predictable. I suppose some people might prefer that predictability, I’m not one of them.
The scenario I’ve described is a bit hyperbolic and won’t happen any time soon. It’s like the old saying about how to eat an elephant; one bite at a time. Every time an individual craft brewery sells out to Big Beer, it won’t be a big defeat, but it will eventually water down the entire craft beer industry (pun intended). Especially if the MillerCoors and InBev merger is completed! Our favorite brews won’t be ruined forever (Hopsecutioner isn’t going anywhere), but this trend will cut out all the small-business qualities and sense of fight and discovery that is so endearing about the craft beer industry.