2006 | FEATURES | EDITORIALS & LETTERS
|Consolidation Blues : Take My
By Tom Dalldorf
The craft segment of the beer industry is on a tear, showing
the only positive growth in overall lackluster domestic beer
sales. The big breweries, stung by falling profits and pressured
by wholesalers for higher-margin products, are looking for
more profitable, upscale brands to fill the slack in sales.
The recent gathering of beer-industry professionals in Seattle
was awash in rumors of mergers, acquisitions and distribution
deals in the works.
Of the big three, Anheuser-Busch is the most proactive, introducing
brands and styles never before offered by the brewing giant.
A-B has also been successful in past investments/alliances
with craft brewers (Widmer and Redhook). The brewer has even
targeted the niche market with its Jack’s Pumpkin Spice
Ale, Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale and wit-style Spring
Heat Spiced Wheat. Most recently, Grolsch and Rolling Rock
have been added to the A-B roster. We can assume there will
be more of these in the future.
Foreign-owned SABMiller and Molson Coors have made similar
arrangements. Miller's acquisition of the Czech Republic's
crown jewel, Pilsner Urquell, has resulted in the "original"
pilsner now being made in Poland and Russia under contract.
While you may hear Czech hearts breaking, Miller hears increased
sales. Canada's Sleeman Breweries purchased famed Unibroue
The consolidation on the distribution tier of the beer industry
is brutal, leaving some very large markets with only one or
two distributors wielding massive books of beer, wine, spirits
and such. Faced with diminished access to market, some small
breweries look at alliances or acquisition as their only hope
InBev (formerly Interbrew) of Belgium is notorious for its
own role in "consolidation," buying up struggling
breweries and shutting them down to enhance its own market
share. Most recently, InBev announced that it would shutter
the famed Hoegaarden Brewery in its namesake town and continue
producing the beer at its Jupiler Brewery. Pierre Celis, who
reintroduced the extinct wit style in his hometown and named
it Hoegaarden some 40 years ago, was understandably outraged.
Brewery consolidation in some cases may be beneficial and
necessary, but in other situations it can be a travesty to
the character and quality of the beers we so admire. This
is a time for beer lovers to pay attention to the business
side of beer appreciation. The Brewers Association recently
released statistics that indicate that nearly every American
lives within 10 miles of a brewery. Find the breweries, frequent
them and let your local brewers know that you care about what
you are drinking. Respect for the flavors and traditions of
brewing begins with production and ends with consumption.
Lack thereof can lead to the loss of your local brewery. Let’s
keep it real in this, the age of good beer.
LETTERS | Our
readers in their own write...
If your letter is accepted for publication, you
will receive a gift, ranging from a free subscription (or
sub extension) to a Celebrator T-shirt. What's on your mind?
I recently had an unfortunate beer
experience that necessitated the addition to the beer
lexicon of a new word: beerbarian (noun), one, or more
than one, who feels free to invade another's house and
consume the craft beer found in the refrigerator, either
replacing it with Bud or not replacing it at all. Take
a lesson from the pirates and consider burying a fridge
in the back yard with your liquid treasure safely secure
from the greedy, bony hands of the foul beerbarians.
I hope to warn others so that these marauding predators
cause no more harm than they already have.
The beauty of craft beer is that it is not so
expensive that we can’t share it with the taste-challenged
"beerbarians." I like the concept and hope
you will join us in converting them. That way, when
you go to their house, you can return the favor. —
During my long drive back to Wyoming after the ’06
Craft Brewers Conference, I got to thinking about the
people I saw at the conference. Ralph Woodall came to
mind. You can always count on seeing Ralph at any major
event, even small ones. He's everywhere. The GABF, the
CBC, the North American Beer Awards, the Mountain Brewers
Beer Festival, the Oregon Brewers Festival and many
others. What is amazing is that Ralph never seems to
tire. He is always smiling, jolly and full of good jokes.
I asked myself, "How does he do it?" I am
almost convinced that Hopunion has made a scientific
breakthrough and is cloning Ralph. Let's all raise a
hoppy pint of brew and give "cheers" to Ralph…
Or should I say Ralph's?
Bottoms Up Brewing Company
Thank you and John Rowling for the flattering article
on our business, the Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company,
in “Pubbing Around B.C.,” Celebrator
Beer News, February/March 2006. We are writing
to correct an omission regarding our brewing operation.
Our brewery is actually run primarily by two talented
brewers. Fabian Specht joined Franco Corno in our operation
over a year ago. Fabian brings a wealth of brewing knowledge
and makes a huge contribution to our facility. Thank
you again for your interest in craft brewing in Squamish,
Deborah Laishley & Dave Fenn, Owners
Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company
Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
Once again, the necessity of including such far-flung
brewing scenes as Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Tampa;
Atlanta; and Oakland in Don Erickson's "L.A. Scene"
column conclusively proves one thing: There is no L.A.
brewing scene. It still sucks. I remain your loyal,
"half-in-the-bag on San Diego beer" foot soldier.
Los Angeles, California
||I feel your pain, brother. I'm just back from Seattle
and Portland (Craft Brewers Conference and Spring Beer
Fest). Talk about an active beer scene! I sure hope L.A.
comes along. Also, because of Don's real job, he gets
to travel a lot and loves to write about new beer finds.
Please let us know if you run across something that doesn't
suck in the L.A. area, and we'll include it. — Ed.
Read with interest your article on Vietnamese beer-making.
I saw you made mention of 333 beer. We had a beer called
Ba Muy Ba 33 Bière when I was stationed in Vietnam.
We were told it had formaldehyde in it. Secondly, do
you ever make comparisons of non-alcoholic beers? Do
any of the microbreweries make non-alcoholic beer?
||Don’t know about the formaldehyde but could
believe it. A lot of older Vietnamese seem well preserved.
The NA beers are done via an industrial process too expensive
for small beer production. Our favorite non-alcoholic
beers include Erdinger Alcohol Free and Clausthaler. —