One of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (A-B’s) many holdings proved expensively unappealing this week. When given the opportunity to acquire the entirety of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), of which it owns 31.3 percent, A-B declined. Passing up the deal means A-B has to pay a $20 million fee, Brewbound reports.

A-B will continue to own 31.3 percent of CBA and be its main distributor and contract brewing partner, according to Beer Business Daily.

Earlier this month, A-B acquired Platform Brewing Co., which, along with beer, produces hard seltzer as well as cider. Before that, the last time A-B acquired a craft brewery was in 2017, when it acquired Wicked Weed.

This $20 million fee speaks volumes, and not just because it’s a shocking sum to pay in order to not own something. The fee also demonstrates the apparent undesirability of owning CBA outright, which itself operates such breweries as Kona, Widmer Brothers, Redhook, Mission, Wynwood, Cisco, and Appalachian Mountain Brewery.

Additionally, A-B has been promoting its Mezzo Spritz, a cider-based beverage that mimics an Aperol Spritz-esque cocktail. (Mezzo Spritz, produced by ABI subsidiary Virtue Cider, is made with cider, sparkling water, and botanicals, according to its website.)

“I think it just underscores just how rapidly things are changing and how much things have changed,” Andy Thomas of CBA told Beer Business daily.

Exactly. A-B has cast its nets well beyond beer.

Non-Alcoholic Beer Sales Are Up

According to IRI, off-premise dollar sales of non-alcoholic beer are up 17.7 percent this year, reaching nearly $78.5 million through Aug. 11, 2019.

Big non-alcoholic (NA) brands launched in the U.S. in 2019 include Heineken 0.0, and Pabst Brewing’s Pabst Blue Ribbon Non-Alc. Craft breweries devoted to NA ales and lagers are also on the rise, with labels such as Athletic Brewing, Wellbeing Brewing, Surreal Brewing, and Partake Brewing gaining traction, Brewbound reports.

As much as this may shock traditionalists, IRI’s data shows there is a market for booze-free beer. Whether it’s targeted to health-conscious consumers looking for a detox, women who are pregnant, or those who simply need a break between alcoholic beverages on a long night out, these beers have their place. Besides, as cutting-edge bars experiment with NA cocktails, and people self-identify as “sober-curious,” why shouldn’t beer get in on the (abstinent) action?