With the recently announced sale of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company to Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev, which creates the world’s largest brewery, it’s interesting to take a second to consider one of the unusual side effects of the deal. Anheuser-Busch has long been the largest American brewery and it has spent a lot of marketing time since the sale of Coors Brewing to Molson Brewing and Miller Brewing to SAB in promoting its ties to America. From Budweiser, the Great American Lager, to other nationalistic appeals, the American in Anheuser-Busch has been a strong selling point for the brewery and its brands. With its sale to a multinational corporation, these appeals will quickly drift away.
In looking to the list of America’s largest breweries, it’s interesting to note that with the recent sales, Boston Beer Company is left as the largest American owned brewery. I am excluding the Pabst Brewing Company, which has a larger production volume than Boston Beer by several million barrels, because it is a beer marketing company with no actual brewing facilities of its own. And while Boston Beer does a fair amount of contract brewing, it owns several of its own facilities and its percentage of in-house production continues to climb. I’m not sure if the achievement of a craft brewery becoming the country’s largest American owned brewery is something to celebrate or just behold. In any event, it is certainly telling of the hyper competitive state of the international brewing scene.
One other consequence of the deal, if it survives regulatory review in several countries and shareholder agreement, is that breweries such as Old Dominion, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Redhook, and Goose Island (less directly through its part ownership by Widmer) will become distant members of the global InBev family.
How the deal will affect distribution channels and craft breweries in particular is going to debated for months to come.
Edit: After reviewing the web a bit, it appears that Jay Brooks has scooped me on the above point, kudos to him for similar thinking.