There is a comforting authenticity about enjoying a craft beer. A local brewery is small enough that brewmasters can control and perfect every step of the brewing process, but large enough to have six packs available at local grocery stores. The appeal has driven astounding growth for independent breweries and attracted the attention of the big boys. Big beer companies like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have been buying up craft labels in an attempt to cash in on the hard-won popularity.
Know Before Buying
The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as:
- Small – produces fewer than 6 million barrels annually
- Independent – no more than 25% is owned by company that is itself not a craft brewery
- Traditional – has most of its beverage alcohol volume in beers derives from traditional or innovative ingredients and fermentation
Corporate beer is hoping that if the label doesn’t change much, that their new purchases will still fool consumers into believing their bottles hold the craft beer title.
Craft Breweries Recently Purchased by Big Beer Companies
- Founders Brewing Company in Michigan sold a 30% share to Mahou San Miguel. The Brewers Association decided after the deal was finalized that Mahou San Miguel doesn’t qualify as a craft brewery.
- Elysian Brewing Company in Washington state was bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Elysian used to be known for the tagline “Corporate Beer Sucks,” which makes the sale unexpected. Making the acquisition even more unexpected, Elysian brewed Gourdgia On My Mind—a pumpkin peach ale—just months before the airing of the Budweiser Super Bowl ad mocking people who drink pumpkin Peach Ale.
- Golden Road Brewing Company in California was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev. This sale gave Anheuser-Busch one of the few craft breweries in Los Angeles.
- Saint Archer Brewing Company in California was purchased by MillerCoors. Saint Archer brought with it a gold medal from the 2014 Great American Beer Festival for its White Ale.
- Ballast Point Brewing Company in California was sold to Constellation Brands. Ballast Point joins the likes of Corona and Modelo in Constellation Brands’ stable.
- Lagunitas Brewing Company in California sold half of its stock to Heineken NV. The sale was especially surprising since owner Tony Magee had always been vehemently opposed to corporate brands buying up small breweries.
- Breckenridge Brewery in Colorado was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev. This was only a partial sale. Wynkoop Brewery—the oldest brewery in Colorado—remains independent along with Breckenridge Ale House, Breckenridge Colorado Craft, and others.
- Four Peaks Brewing out of Tempe, AZ was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev. With this purchase, Anheuser-Busch acquired one of the best-known producers of craft beer in Arizona.