Hop Take: America’s Largest Craft Brewer Is… Anheuser-Busch? Seriously?


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Hop Take: America’s Largest Craft Brewer Is… Anheuser-Busch? Seriously?

Anheuser-Busch is now the nation’s largest craft beer company. That is not a misprint.

In terms of dollar sales, A-B has surpassed Boston Beer as the nation’s top craft brewing company, the Chicago Tribune reports. The High End portfolio grew 20 percent to $107.3 million, while Sierra Nevada was up 2 percent to $100.7 million. Boston Beer lagged behind, down 6.5 percent to $94.4 million.

The surge in sales refers specifically to grocery, big box, drug, and convenience store sales. Boston Beer likely remains ahead of A-B’s High End in its volume and dollar sales when factoring in draft sales as well as sales from liquor stores.

But the corporate creep is real. As A-B continues to gain market share with its “crafty” beers — that is, acquisitions that are now brewed and distributed on a much larger scale than traditional craft beers, and at cheaper prices — it will continue to dominate as King of Beer and King of Craft.

Numbers like these not only make A-B’s hold on the industry more tangible, they also further diminish the meaning of the word “craft.” Once the antithesis of Big Beer, craft is increasingly considered a segment within it. I believe that beer can be crafted even when it’s owned by a behemoth, and that independence does not necessarily equal delicious beer. What matters most is how your beer tastes and how it’s made, not how you’re permitted to market it.

IPAs Ousted by IPAs at GABF

At next month’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), American-style IPA will be outnumbered for the first time in over 15 years. In its place as the most popular category is, you guessed it, juice bombs.

“Juicy or hazy” IPA categories saw 706 collective entries: 414 juicy or hazy IPAs; 161 juicy or hazy double IPAs; and 131 juicy or hazy pale ales. Normal IPAs, meanwhile, saw just 331 entries.

We love to blame the juiceboys for the hazebombs, but brewers are perpetuating this real-life myth. In other words: A beer that doesn’t taste like beer is the most popular craft brew. Yup.

By making “juicy or hazy” such a huge deal at one of the country’s biggest beer festivals, brewers who so oft (anecdotally) love to hate on brewing hazy IPAs are only further dignifying the style.

Craft brewers, you are the juicewolves. Stop complaining and give us a straw.

Beer Doesn’t Have A Race or Gender

Last week, Pittsburgh hosted what was billed as the first-ever craft beer festival exclusively
featuring African American brewers. Called “Fresh Fest,” the event was organized by the Drinking Partners podcast and Black Brew Culture, an online magazine. It was so well-attended, it had to change locations to a larger venue.

Also last week, Hop Culture, an online beer magazine based in New York, hosted a weeklong festival called “Beers With(out) Beards,” a female-focused festival featuring events, panel discussions, and a beer fest spotlighting women brewers and industry leaders. Events sold out. (Disclosure: I participated in one of such well-attended panels, “Beers With(out) Beards: Women Re-Writing the Business of Beer.” I also attended the Beers With(out) Beards Festival on Saturday, free of charge.)

These events showcase and bring together people who are perhaps underrepresented in mainstream beer culture. But beer doesn’t have a gender or race. Along with more beer festivals that emphasize marginalized communities, mainstream beer festivals need to recognize these audiences exist and do a better job of including them. By that, I mean marketing to them. Employ more women and people of color. Rethink advertising strategies to include more diverse publications and social media outlets. Create more authentic relationships with businesses in areas where beer is not yet paramount.

See you at the next (inclusive) fest.

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