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Understanding the War Between Big Beer and Craft Beer

by David Doucette 2 years ago in beer

It's Time to Shine Some Light on the Craft Beer VS Macro Beer War

Understanding the War Between Big Beer and Craft Beer
Photo by Osbornb

A war is brewing. Or, it was brewed a while ago, and now the glass is pouring over. It's all out war between craft beer and big beer. Let's take a look at what made this conflict.

Craft beer lovers have left the light lager out to dry, and for no other reason than the fact that the big three breweries (Bud, Miller, Coors) make their bank with it. Part of the reason for the war between craft brewers and the big lager brewers is the constant buyouts. AB InBev purchases breweries of all sizes at an alarming rate. Some say, this is to disrupt the market, reduce the cost of certain craft beers, and increase the value of their flagship brand, Budweiser. The evidence is there. Just look at the price of a six-pack of Goose island IPA (Goose island is owned by AB InBev). On the contrary, Ballast Point was sold to Constellation a few years ago and a six-pack of Sculpin is expensive as ever.

Craft beer drinkers see the buyouts as an assault on their beer and values, which may be a bit misguided, but nevertheless it's their choice to be upset about it or not. Others will go as far as to not purchase any beer brewed by a brewery that's been bought out. Which again, is their prerogative. I'll take some Goose Island Bourbon County and Ballast Point Dorado any day, regardless of where their allegiances lie.

One fateful Superbowl evening, the powder keg exploded. Tensions were already high, as AB InBev had been on an absolute rampage of small brewery purchases. The one minute spot aired and nothing would be the same again. Lines were drawn and all out war began.

Those on the side of craft beer quickly jumped to point out some quirky and hypocritical issues with the ad. For example, "Brewed the hard way" made no sense, since you need to follow the same general process to get beer, regardless of the style you're making. Lagers are a bit more tricky to make, but there are plenty of breweries making craft lager styles. Next was the mention of a pumpkin peach ale, which is just what one InBev owned brewery produces! Many vowed to never drink beers owned by the big breweries again.

Those who support Budweiser were wildly pleased with the spot, heralding the great American beer (which is actually owned by the Belgians.) Those who were fans of macro light lagers were likely not going to make the switch to craft beer without any hand holding anyway.

Who won?

The slight edge would have to go to craft beer in this case. Only for the fact that people who were upset by the ad would no longer purchase beer owned by AB InBev, where they may have considered it before. However, the bigger picture points to no one really "winning."

Craft Beer Fires Back

Photo By Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau

Craft beer put together a response, not in the form of an ad, but a packaging campaign. The Brewer's Association released a badge that independently owned craft breweries could put on their labels. Those looking to avoid beers owned by the big three or other conglomerates would just need to find the insignia to ensure they were buying truly independently owned craft beer.

Who won?

No one really won, but craft beer may have taken a minor hit. The small independent craft breweries aren't required to use the badge, which could cause them to lose customers (who are only looking to buy within the independent craft seal). However, much like the Super Bowl ad, it was mostly a neutral outcome. Those educated about the badge already know that some breweries aren't using it and others who don't care as much about the feud will buy what they want regardless of party loyalty.

Let's All Sit Down And Have A Beer

The war between craft beer and macro beer may have fizzled out some since the dust settled from the Super Bowl ad, and independent craft beer badge was released. If you ask me, that's probably a good thing. You don't need to drink the big three or enjoy American light lagers, but before you trash some of these macro beers, remember that they were instrumental in repealing prohibition and deserve some space on the shelf. Now let's sit down and have a few good beers between friends.


David Doucette
David Doucette
Read next: Whiskey: A Guide and History
David Doucette

David is a Graphic Designer, Homebrewer, and Outdoor Enthusiast. He has 2 published books on beer making and mead making.

See all posts by David Doucette