Today Colleen and I went back and forth about Wicked Weed’s buyout, and what it means for their beer, brewery, employees, and the public’s perception of what took place. Here’s where we landed:
On one hand: selfishly excited for the possibility of getting awesome Wicked Weed beers all the time. Being able to pop into a grocery store and see WW beers on a shelf will be absurdly cool. I’m hopeful that they will be able to use their new resources to continue to innovate and push the boundaries of brewing as they have been doing for a while on their own.
But on the other: did we not just listen to Dick Cantwell at CBC and what happened when he sold Elysian? Are we really that naïve to think that this will have good results? And, to the majority of consumers, small and independent DOES matter when making a purchase, so will WW’s reputation supersede this notion?
PERSONALLY, I can’t support the brewery any further. I understand the politics behind craft beer. There are things I can’t forget:
The ‘Big 2’ spend tons of money supporting efforts to circumvent the success of small and independent craft breweries. They are pushing bills not just in Washington on a national level, but in your own home state, to hold these breweries back and make it easier for them to do business. They are striking down bills that help small and independent craft breweries sell their own product within their own breweries. They are fighting small and independent breweries for their right to distribute their own beer. I can’t support that machine. I can’t back something that wants to stop small businesses owned by friends and colleagues. I can’t back something that intends to do harm to my own community by stifling the growth of these small businesses. Sorry Wicked Weed, but this relationship is over, it’s you and not me.
Although the spirit of craft and independent brewing is being damaged here, there’s a lot more to it than that. This means higher beer prices. It means more power to wholesalers that are also being gobbled up by the huge companies that are making this beer. It means that preferential treatment is undoubtedly being given to brands owned by those companies.
Innovation and creativity are coming from craft breweries. No one can possibly argue otherwise. When they lose their independence to a big corporate conglomerate, they lose their need to be creative. Sure, we’re all still buying Bourbon County Stout and Punkaccino but are those breweries continuing to make new and interesting things like the independent brands are? Most certainly not.
Independent breweries need your support because they are supporting our communities. We just finished up Harrisburg Beer Week here which focuses on our local breweries and beer bars. The amount of creativity and community involvement we witnessed was inspiring on so many levels. It’s sad to think that this could all end if the craft beer industry continues to be consolidated under 2 giant conglomerate companies.
What can we do about? First, educate your friends and family. Talk to them about how support independent craft brewers is an easy (and fun) way to support American business. Tell them about all the cool things your local breweries are doing to support their communities. Secondly, we need to hold the government accountable. The Department of Justice is allowing these buyouts to happen. They are not enforcing antitrust laws and it is hurting American businesses. Get in touch with your representatives and tell them that this is NOT ok! Lastly, drink local and drink independent. The beer you are drinking will not tell you who owns the brewery that made it so educate yourself. Continue to support independent craft breweries who are making innovative, interesting, high quality products. Enjoy them!