The Arizona craft beer community is abuzz with the latest news that Anheuser-Busch InBev has reached a deal to buy Tempe, AZ brewery Four Peaks. In response to the acquisition, the Arizona Craft Brewer’s Guild has issued a statement. Of course, with any news of this type, we also hear that big beer is taking over and ruining local breweries. While it may seem that big beer is taking over, it must be noted that the reason the beer conglomerates are buying up the smaller breweries is really an act of desperation and their acknowledgement for the success of microbreweries/craft beer. Craft beer has been taking more market share from the larger breweries, at the same time that beer sales overall are about flat, growing only 0.5% in 2014.
I would also like to highlight that consumers are voluntarily driving the craft beer growth, meaning they are choosing to purchase higher quality and pricier beers over those offered by breweries such as Budweiser and Miller. With that being said, the brewery conglomerates need to get into the craft beer market in order to keep their beer sales up. Having the larger brewers buy out the smaller companies is preferable to the alternative, which is the entrenched brewers lobbying for more regulations to shut down the smaller brewers. Thankfully, in states such as Arizona, the beer laws are being liberalized to allow for the smaller brewers to grow more easily.
It is my plan in future posts to analyze how the alcohol distribution system and regulations make it harder for smaller breweries to compete with the established, larger brewers and distributors.