Wicked Weed Brewing, https://wickedweedbrewing.com
is the latest Craft Brewery to sell out to AB-InBev this past week. They are a wildly popular Asheville, North Carolina based independent brewery. The sale has local fans and craft beer zealots up in arms. In this interview with Wicked Weed co-founder talks about some of the backlash and goes so far as to say he expected it and would be let down if people weren’t upset because it would mean they don’t care.
The backlash to selling to AB-InBev is pretty severe in some areas. According to this article http://www.westword.com/restaurants/craft-beer-bars-cutting-off-wicked-weed-other-ab-inbev-owned-breweries-9033019 many bars have concretely decided against supporting any Ab-InBev owned products on matter of principle.
Is this backlash and ousting of products like Wicked Weed’s beer warranted? Is it practical for establishments? I can understand bars that have built a name for themselves as craft beer bars taking a firm stance against any product related to the beer giants. Craft beer is a culture and the enemy of that culture is conglomerated beer companies.
When it comes to the fan base of these nano/micro and even semi large craft breweries the backlash can and usually is intense. Most craft enthusiasts will simply stop consuming anything that is produced under the big beer umbrella. What will that mean for the likes of Wicked Weed?
I think it means a reputation hit in the hard core beer community for one. I think it’s going to deflate the brand in the craft beer circles and will hurt sales in the short term. However they may thrive once In-Bev takes over their regular lineup and distributes it to a much wider audience.
The problem with that is Craft Beer has become much like the jam band scene were there is hardcore underground support for your local craft brewery. Once they make it big and sell out to a giant record label the pressures are much higher and of a different nature. Big beer doesn’t just give you money to run the brewery as you always have.
Big beer forces contract brewing, massive distribution and a watered down appeal to a mass consuming beer audience. Sure people around the country will buy more Wicked Weed because they won’t know who is producing it and it will probably lead to more sales and revenue for the Wicked Weed founders but their place at the craft round table is most likely been revoked.
Which begs the question, do craft breweries need to sell out to grow? That depends on their goals really. I think some nano and Micro breweries are happy to cater to their local markets and see there beer in person without much thought to cranking out hundreds of thousands of barrels for mass consumption. Some breweries have loftier goals and after all while brewing is an art, selling beer is a business and if you want to improve efficiency and grow your bottom line you need capital.
What do you think? Will you boycott Wicked Weed and the other nine breweries that have been swallowed whole by AB In-Bev? What happened to the fund that Sam Adams and Stone Brewing had put together a few years back that was supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I will have to look into that further and see what shakes out.