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The Budweiser-Miller merger sounds bad for craft beer — but it may be a blessing in disguise

craft-brewers-tap-down-resistance-to-wall-street-investors-2015-8 budweiser-ad-7.png mikkeller beer geek breakfastBy Melissa Stanger From Business Insider

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the maker of Budweiser, announced October last year (2015) that it had reached an agreement with Miller maker SABMiller to join forces in the biggest beer deal of the decade.

AB InBev raised its offer for SABMiller to $67.62 a share, valuing the company at over $109 billion. The two beer beasts combined would result in a merged group with a value of around $275 billion.

In the past 12 months, there have been more than a dozen craft-beer mergers and acquisitions by larger breweries.

AB InBev already dominates 39.9% of the global profit pool; SABMiller has 17.9%. So just imagine the reach the two could have together.

The creation of the world’s biggest beer company sounds like it’ll be a bad thing for the littler companies.

But it may not play out like that, as the craft-beer community is a proud and close-knit one.

There’s a unique camaraderie among craft brewers and drinkers alike in creating and sharing a complexity of flavors that can’t typically be found in beer produced at the largest scale.

“People take beer very personally,” Brewers Association director Paul Gatza told Business Insider. “When something happens to their favorite beer or their ability to get it, or something helps or hurts a brewer they care about, they internalize it and want to do something about it. People may see [the merger] as a time to rally around their local brewery.”

Craft beer is already a small yet mighty adversary to “macro” breweries like Budweiser and Miller, and the big guys are scared. Both AB InBev and SABMiller have been buying up craft breweries left and right in the past few years because they recognize the growing popularity of craft beer — not to mention the growing threat of it to big-beer companies.

Why else would Budweiser go on the defense against craft beer in last season’s Super Bowl ad — one that generated a lot of criticism for the brand.

The merger between AB InBev and SABMiller will have the same effect: a rallying of craft-beer lovers everywhere in support of “the little guys.”

“The American public continues to respond [to big beer] by sampling more new craft brewed beers and buying more of their favorites. Those societal trends won’t change because of this deal,” Gatza writes.

Gatza believes that even in the wake of the big-beer merger, craft will continue carving a growing space for itself, as it has always done.

“Many craft brewers would look at [the deal between] Anheuser Busch-InBev and SABMiller as not relevant to their businesses and will keep on doing what they do — make flavorful and high quality beer, engage beer drinkers, and serve the community,” he writes.

The popularity of craft beer is growing around the world. Mikkeller hails from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Gatza says that big breweries are scared of their smaller, craft competitors:

“And they’re addressing this through shifting the amount of marketing dollars to online and social media,” he says, “through creating their own brands” — like MillerCoors’ Blue Moon — “to compete in the craft space, and through purchases of smaller brewers” like AB InBev’s purchase of Chicago’s Goose Island in 2011.

Gatza acknowledges that the merger is unrelated to big beer’s fear of craft and instead is a good financial move for the beer behemoths at this point in time.

“But craft culture is emerging in countries all over the world,” he notes. “This could be a play to combat some of that growth.”


Budweiser mocked craft beer in its 2015 Super Bowl ad. Peter Anderson/Flickr

The popularity of craft beer is growing around the world. Mikkeller hails from Copenhagen, Denmark. Peter Anderson/Flickr

Thomson Reuters The bar at Brooklyn Brewery in New York.

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