Plot twist. A unique, never-before-seen move has been made on behalf of small and independent U.S. craft brewers. The #TakeCraftBack campaign—just launched at TakeCraftBack.com—seeks to crowdsource pledges of support to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI), the international conglomerate that has been busy acquiring small breweries across the country. You heard that right. We want to buy ABI before they can buy up any more craft brewers. (It’s a compliment to be bought, right?) Indie craft brewers have a powerful collective voice and it’s time to use it. After all, craft brewers have turned the beer world upside down, evolving the U.S. beer scene to a new and more meaningful place.
The launch of this new tongue-in-cheek campaign that is spearheaded by the Brewers Association uses a page from ABI’s playbook. The global giant has purchased 10 formerly independent U.S. craft brewers within the last few years, starting with Goose Island in 2011 and most recently Wicked Weed out of North Carolina this year. Take Craft Back not only declares the importance of independent ownership of U.S. breweries, but also represents the craft brewing community’s intent to Take Craft Back from Big Beer. After all, independent ownership does matter to many beer lovers—and for good reason. Craft brewers put community over corporation, people and principles over profit, and beer over the bottom line.
If indie ownership wasn’t important, why wouldn’t ABI put its name on the labels of their acquired, formerly independent beer brands? Beer drinkers know that big brewers are buying up little brewers, but it’s hard to tell who has been purchased based on the beer label and packaging. People. We have the right to know who makes our beer. This gallant effort is a humorous rally call to bring attention to a serious issue: ABI’s intention to dominate and forever alter the beer market by presenting purchased brands as if they were truly, authentically independent—thus presenting an illusion of choice to distributors and retailers and narrowing real choice for us beer lovers. This type of illusion should not become a common marketplace reality.
Here in the U.S., craft brewers represent 98 percent of today’s 5,700 breweries, yet they only have less than 13 percent market share by volume. Think about that. Is that a balanced beer marketplace?
Now to reach the goal, we would literally need to raise $213 billion. But hey. Craft brewers are entrepreneurs and eternal optimists. It’s OK to dream. The astronomical number for this goal—the largest “crowdfunding” effort ever in the history of man and womankind as we know it—helps put the gigantic size of this one, specific global beer company in perspective. If everyone on the planet gave $10 to the campaign, we would still only be about a third of the way there. No, we’re not collecting actual dollars here, but instead are collecting pledges of support. Change is more likely to come from people choosing a craft beer from a small, independent brewer, but you get the idea. We also hope beer lovers seek out the new independent craft brewer seal that more than 2,500 brewing companies, and counting, are now incorporating into their marketing as the result of desiring to differentiate.
What a beautiful thing that in the U.S. today, beer means more than it ever has before. Craft beer means culinary advancement, variety, and innovation. And as the beverage of moderation, beer means liquid enjoyment that delivers advanced kilned and roasted malt flavors, pleasing hop profiles, and yeast-driven goodness unmatched by any other fermented beverage. Craft beer also means entrepreneurs, collaboration, and philanthropy. It means economic development and it means JOBS. It means revitalizing neighborhoods and giving back in exponential ways.
Sure, our far-fetched Take Craft Back effort is not a Super Bowl ad (even if we wanted one, we couldn’t get it due to ABI’s exclusivity with the NFL), but it’s the gutsiest play ever made on behalf of independent U.S. brewers. We hope you will join this collective effort. If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em. It’s a compliment, right?