Article written

  • on 05.12.2010
  • at 10:24 AM
  • by Shane

Fool Me Once, Shame On You…17

Ever since I’ve become an admitted “beer snob” my tolerance for macrobreweries has become horribly thin. So much, in fact, that I won’t purchase anything remotely owned or operated by them. It’s a new trend the big guys at Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors are trying to get on, craft beer imitation and deception.

While perhaps they shouldn’t feel entirely threatened by the microbreweries, they should feel threatened by the passion put into the craft beer. Traditionally, macrobreweries have focused on one or two different styles, both of which are weak and light compared to their smaller competitors. Since the rise of the craft beer industry, really within the past year or two, macrobreweries have been staging a strategic marketing ploy to lure in unsuspecting consumers to buy what they believe to be “craft beer.” And I have to give it to them, they’re good at it.

The biggest strategy is using a small, unheard of “brewery” to hide their name. For example, take Blue Moon, a Belgian-style Witbier (hardly, though but that’s their claim). While Molson Coors Brewing Company actually produces the product, they go under the name “Blue Moon Brewing Company” in a feeble attempt to conceal their real identity. And the problem is: people buy into it. The lies, deception and otherwise bad product. Have I had a Blue Moon before? Absolutely. But until you try a Witbier that is made true to style by a craft brewery, you haven’t had a Witbier.

Now, to my story. I was recently fooled by the demon that is Anheuser-Busch InBev. And I was pissed. One Saturday night at a reputable pub that serves up a wide variety of craft beer on draught had something on their list that would make it seem legitimate. The Franziskaner Weissbier was on draught and listed as a German import. I made the mistake of ordering it and couldn’t help resist the urge to Google it on my iPhone. Wow. Holy shit. It’s an Anheuser-Busch InBev product. You’ve got to be kidding me…

I was more than upset to know my money just went towards one company I make every chance I can to not support. After taking one sip and looking them up, I didn’t drink any more. In fact, I didn’t even let anyone at my table finish it. It sat there and they got my money. I never thought they would get me, but I’m not surprised they did. I rarely drink imports and the one time I do, I was fooled.

I think this event really goes to show how far the conglomerates go to hide their name and turn anything they can into a profit for themselves. They don’t care about the quality, it’s all about quantity. If they could infiltrate and buy out every single microbrewery in America, they would. But it’s up to us, to stand up for the craft breweries and keep the quality at the level we’ve come to expect and cherish.

Fool me once, shame on you; you won’t fool me again.

Shane Holland is the Editor-in-Chief for Passion Beer.

He is a self-proclaimed craft beer geek and an all around lovable dork. He loves homebrewing, everything Philadelphia, traveling and enjoying the pleasures of life.


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  1. Matt Smylie says:

    Blue Moon is Coors? Well, there’s another beer I’ll never have again!

  2. Lisa says:

    I think there’s a distinction to be made between entirely fake craft breweries (e.g. Blue Moon, Green Valley) and actual breweries bought by InBev and the like. Franziskaner is still brewed in Munich, and while it may eventually go the way of Hoegaarden and become a shadow of the beer it once was after purchase, it’s still (at present) the same as it was pre-takeover (although I’d argue that some within the Spaten portfolio are heading in the Hoegaarden direction, which is unfortunate – but another reason to choose Allagash White!). It’s also worth noting some small breweries are kept afloat through distribution (e.g. Kona, Red Hook) and ownership deals with the big guys – Leinenkugel has been owned by Miller for ages, but they still get a lot of leeway and are largely family-run. I certainly agree that consumers should know what they are really drinking (and it’s always preferable to support a great, local craft brewery over a huge conglomerate), but a few good brands sometimes get caught up in our usual (understandable) rejection of all things corporate.
    But in any case, this list is always helpful in checking who *really* owns what:
    http://brookstonbeerbulletin.com/the-big-brewers-brands/

  3. Shane says:

    Lisa, I see your point. For me though, I can’t stand to see two or so companies dominate one industry I care very passionately about. And I’m not saying I use this logic over everything, because I don’t. But beer is different.

    Over time, even though it may still be brewed in Munich, there is no doubt in my mind that perhaps someday they’ll want to maximize profit from the brand. And how do macrobreweries do that? They cut costs in the ingredients.

    To take another, what once was (and perhaps still is) great brewery and turn it into another crappy subsidy of an InBev brand is what I don’t want to see. And as of now, the way personally I can see doing my part in stopping that from happening is to simply not support them with my money.

    Great post, by the way, Lisa.

  4. Craig McGill says:

    Surely if you like the product that’s the only thing that matters regardless of where it comes from? I like BrewDog beers but at the same time I can drink Tennents no problem.

  5. Shane says:

    It’s a different mindset, I believe, Craig. I’m not saying it applies to everyone; however, it applies for me. If a macrobrewery is getting my money, it’s a no-go boycott from me.

  6. Dan says:

    I think you’re just being a beer snob here when you exclude any beer made by the macros, regardless of the beer’s merits. You are promoting them simply going out of business vs. Change since you won’t drink their beers anyway.

    AB owns shares (usually 25%) of a few craft breweries: Goose Island, Red Hook, Magic Hat too I believe. Are you really going to turn down a GI Bourbon County Stout?

    It’s great to buy local, but by boycotting all AB and MC products, what do you hope to accomplish?

  7. Shane says:

    I’m not promoting letting them go out of business, I’m promoting that the macros stay away from them. They will taint the craft brewery sometime, somewhere along the line and the quality of product will decline.

    If other people want to drink and support them, so be it; that’s their prerogative. This piece was an editorial with my perspective. I’m not naive and believe everyone will agree (in fact, I hope they don’t!). Debate is key and getting this issue discussed is the whole point.

    I do appreciate your thoughts, Dan – thanks for reading!

    :)

  8. Gina says:

    Thank you for the article! I have certainly been in your shoes myself. I wouldn’t dare consider myself an expert on anything, but I share your passion for craft beer and I wanted to offer some thoughts.

    Don’t give up on Franziskaner just because it is a subsidiary of AB. They are not one of the fake craft breweries that the macro guys have tried to push off as something real. Their roots are German, the beer is made there, and though they may not technically be considered “craft” by definition, they still make a fine product (in my book anyway). Plus, imports are often responsible for being a gateway to local craft beer (one of my gateways was Warsteiner Dunkel, for example).

    So sure, AB got your money this time. It may seem unfortunate to you now, but if you think about it, you still used your dollars to vote for something else. And this is something that the big guys are taking notice of, just as you stated. In the long run, if enough people do the same, it will end up better for all of us by giving us more options in more places.

    Keep up the good work. Exposure and education are the surest way to help craft beer.

    Anyway, thanks again!

  9. Matt says:

    I find myself having a similar opinion and viewpoint to you Shane. After watching Beer Wars I had comes across the website that Lisa posted and decided that I was going to purchase my beer from companies not owned by In-Bev or Miller-Coors.

    That being said, I am not boycotting their beers, it is almost impossible. However, I am making a conscious choice to stock my fridge with beer from local brewers and other smaller microbreweries. It doesn’t hurt that I live 15 minutes from the Dogfish Head Brewery either!

  10. Dan says:

    Ok, but one key item:
    Beer geek: good connotation
    Beer snob: bad connotation

    The sister of the Alstrom brothers (of beeradvocate fame) wrote an excellent article describing this.

  11. Shane says:

    Gina – awesome response, and duly noted. I think you’re on the right track here. I guess, in the long run, my issue lies with the profits they gain from getting money from a once “craft brewery” goes towards making their crappy, watered-down American light beer.

    If; however, they can prove or state that the profits they get from that “craft brewery” will solely go back into them and they take a laissez faire approach, I think that’s fine. Unfortunately, I can’t prove what they do with the profits (one way or the other) so until I can, they simply aren’t getting my money.

    And remember, I’m one person. Others may do so as they wish!

  12. Mike says:

    I agree with Shane, and most everybody else here, that getting tricked sucks. I side with Shane in that I don’t want my money going towards the macros, I don’t like their beer or their business practices.

    As for brewers that were simply acquired and “untouched” you really have little way of knowing if things really have remained the same. And in the end you are still funding, even in some small way, the big boys. Yeah sure you could pass it off as voting with your wallet and buying something different, but why not do something totally different and get a real craft beer instead.

    I’m of the opinion that if I can avoid paying them, I will. If I do wind up buying a beer that is distributed by AB or similar I won’t be happy about it but I won’t beat myself up over it.

    If I’m faced with buying a craft beer or a brand of a macro that they bough I will ALWAYS buy the craft beer. If I’m faced with buying an obvious brand (ie Miller Lite, Coors Lite) or a bought brand (Franziskaner) and I really really want a beer I’ll reluctantly choose the Franziskaner.

  13. Nick says:

    I feel required to weigh in on such a decision. I have purchased ‘Wild Blue’ in the past in anticipation of trying something new at the time. I was not only shocked that it was distributed by In-Bev, but more appaled by the flavor. It seemed really force, and no beer should be purple.

    I am of a different mindset from Shane and Mike. I went through college learning why spend a lot when I am going to throw it up at the end of the night anyways? However my mind set is changing. I don’t mind supporting whomever it may be. If the beer is of good quality I will buy it again and again.

    My small disclaimer has to be if I am faced with buying something that I haven’t tried from a micro or a macrobrew, I will almost always go for the micro. I like to know that I am giving the ‘little’ guy a chance.

    You can NOT judge the quality of the beer by who brews it but how it tastes.

  14. Shane says:

    Nick – in all honesty, once you watch “Beer Wars” you’re opinion will change. I almost can guarantee it.

  15. Daniel says:

    I admire your support of craft breweries, but I feel you might be a bit misguided.

    Franziskaner’s brewery dates back to 1363. Now, I don’t know the history or the reason they sold to InBev, but I’m sure it was a business decision that enabled them more profits. What if these profits allowed Franziskaner to keep turning out great beers?

    After all, you said that you avoid buying macro so as to “keep the quality at the level we’ve come to expect and cherish.” Well, who’s to say that Franziskaner didn’t “sell out” to do the same?

    I give money to breweries who make good beer. It’s that simple. And Franziskaner makes a great Hefeweizen and a really nice Dunkelweizen. In fact, I haven’t had a craft Dunkelweizen that I’ve liked as much (I’m sure they’re out there, though).

    I can see if you don’t want to support InBev, and that’s admirable to a degree. But shouldn’t breweries that make good beer be rewarded for doing so, no matter who owns them? Also, they had your money after you bought the beer; why not at least drink the beer and enjoy it?

    I’ve seen Beer Wars, but it really doesn’t change my buying habits. I do support craft and rarely will I buy an InBev product, but I buy based on what I like — not who makes it.

  16. Shane says:

    Daniel -

    Thanks for the comment. I do agree with you to a point, which I did clarify in one comment I made:

    “If; however, they can prove or state that the profits they get from that “craft brewery” will solely go back into them and they take a laissez faire approach, I think that’s fine. Unfortunately, I can’t prove what they do with the profits (one way or the other) so until I can, they simply aren’t getting my money.”

    So, in a sense, if InBev would say all the profits earned from Franziskaner go back into Franziskaner, I have no problem with that. My issue really lies with using those profits to make more of their crappy American “light” beer. That’s my issue.

  17. Daniel says:

    Gotcha.

    The problem, then, is that they’re not really forcing anyone to buy those crappy light lagers. Well, they are to a degree in their advertising and through some of their distribution, but if people really want to get out of their comfort zone, they can.

    I think films like Beer Wars, as well as the countless other craft beer media sources, are leading people in the right direction.

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