The value of independence
We don’t jump into the politics of the craft-beer world much, and that’s by design. There are plenty of media outlets that do, but we prefer to stay focused on the stuff that we think matters most—the beer itself and the artistry and craft behind how it’s made.
A trio of recent announcements has made it harder and harder to avoid the question of politics and ownership in craft beer, however—first, the acquisition by AB-INBEV of beloved Asheville, North Carolina, brewer Wicked Weed, then the announcement that the South African hops farm acquired by AB-INBEV in its recent merger with Sabmiller would no longer sell its unique flavor and aroma hops to American craft brewers, and finally the news that ABInbev’s venture capital arm had purchased a stake in beer ratings website Ratebeer.com.
Add these to the stake AB-INBEV owns in Northern Brewer/midwest Supplies, Picobrew, its own beer blog The Beer Necessities, plus the stake it owns in the new beer website October, and an interesting pattern starts to emerge. Controlling data, controlling media coverage, and controlling raw materials are new fronts in the ongoing battle against craft beer, and “winning” in that battle for mindshare can be as simple as convincing people that the line between macro and craft doesn’t matter.
Given the impact on small and independent brewers we care about, we can’t shy away from talking about these subjects any longer, especially when they hit so close to home. For more details about the South African hops debacle, see “Killing Craft?” (page 61), and for an illustrated guide to the spreading tentacles of big beer, check out our infographic (page 11).
It’s natural to ask the question of all media today whether they’re involved with AB-INBEV, given just how aggressive it’s been in making acquisitions in the space (and remaining silent about those investments). So on that note, we’ll put our cards on the table. Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine® is owned entirely by the individual staff listed on the masthead to the right of this note. We’re 100 percent employee-owned.
We are biased toward craft, and we’ll readily admit it. We launched this magazine to celebrate the work and techniques of brewers we admired, from the smallest independent craft brewers to large-scale production craft brewers who stay true to the quirky and creative visions with which they launched. We intend to remain focused on those creative drivers in the beer world, too, because they’re the ones moving the conversation forward, pushing boundaries, and showing us all just what craft beer can become. The definition of “craft” might be messy and imprecise and subject to ongoing revision, but as an organizing philosophy we believe that it matters now more than ever.
Whether your goal is to launch and sell a brewery for a huge payday or quietly and consistently brew great beer for the people you care about, I hope you enjoy this issue. We made it for you.