…And Then They Came for Our Beer

Picture: FMVH (CC)

Business week’s “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer” shines the light on another victim of multinational corporations: beer. Independent brewers and others are being run out of business or co-opted (and then destroyed) by AB InBev, a ruthless company intent on total beer supremacy. AB InBev already owns close to 50 percent of America’s beer market, as it is.  In many cases, beer drinkers don’t learn that their tried-and-true favorites have become AB InBev puppets until after they pop the first cap in a six pack, and now they’re complaining that their favorite brands have lost their characteristic tastes under the stewardship the company:

One Friday night in January, Rinfret, who is now 52, stopped on the way home from work at his local liquor store in Monroe, N.J., and purchased a 12-pack of Beck’s. When he got home, he opened a bottle. “I was like, what the hell?” he recalls. “It tasted light. It tasted weak. Just, you know, night and day. Bubbly, real fizzy. To me, it wasn’t German beer. It tasted like a Budweiser with flavoring.”

He examined the label. It said the beer was no longer brewed in Bremen. He looked more closely at the fine print: “Product of the USA.” This was profoundly unsettling for a guy who had been a Beck’s drinker for more than half his life. He was also miffed to have paid the full import price for the 12-pack.

Rinfret left a telephone message with AB InBev (BUD), the owner of Beck’s and many other beers, including Budweiser. Nobody got back to him. He had better luck with e-mail. An AB InBev employee informed him that Beck’s was now being brewed in St. Louis along with Budweiser. But never fear, the rep told Rinfret: AB InBev was using the same recipe as always.

He wasn’t satisfied. In March, he posted a plea on Beck’s official Facebook (FB) page: “Beck’s made in the U.S. not worth drinking. Bring back German Beck’s. Please.” He had plenty of company. “This is a travesty,” a fellow disgruntled Beck’s drinker raged. “I’m pretty bummed,” wrote another. “I’ve been drinking this beer religiously for over 20 years.” Rinfret kept trashing Beck’s on Facebook. Until, he says, AB InBev unfriended him in May. “They banned me from their site. I can’t post anything on there any longer.”

AB InBev’s domination of the beer market may not impact home brewers and some of their micro-brewer counterparts, but this can vary widely based on where a beer drinker lives. Home brewing is technically a crime in many states, and frustrating ABC laws and prudish limitations on a brew’s alcohol by volume can limit beer availability to the products of just a major corporations, many of which are now owned by AB InBev. Lobbyists working on behalf of corporate brewers often line the pockets of state lawmakers to ensure that restrictions remain in place, ensuring a virtual monopoly for their products.

In my own state, beer was limited to six percent by volume for many, many years, no doubt influenced by the steady stream of cash from Anheuser-Busch  pouring into legislative pockets. A partnership between bought-and-paid-for representatives and disingenuous evangelicals (Local joke: What’s the difference between a Catholic and a Southern Baptist? The Catholic will say hello when he sees you in the liquor store.) kept beer sales in gridlock. When the same corporations started offering “premium” brews the ABV limit when up to eight percent almost overnight. Offerings from microbreweries, local and national, began to share space with Budweiser, Coors, Miller and Michelob brews. It’s not perfect, but it’s an improvement.

One danger inherent in allowing AB InBev and its like to monopolize beer sales is that by crushing competition and wooing congress they’ll be in a position to bring the same backwards types of situation that we have in Mississippi to the United States as a whole. You may still be able to get decent beer, but you’ll have a much harder time doing it.

Bottoms up.

Hat tip: BoingBoing.






6 Comments on "…And Then They Came for Our Beer"

  1. Okay first things first.. The plot to destroy Americas beer using a import as an example is just..ummm Second Americas craft beer industry is booming, have a look around if you have the palette for good beer and you will find so many micro breweries that have popped up in the last 5 years that are well beyond the imports and the macro swill so mentioned in this article. If your complaining about Becks or Bass(another one that falls in this category) Than you my friend are a product of commercial beer advertisement either that or product staging and placement in your local stores isle. If Americas beer is in a decline, which it isn’t than the thousand plus micro brewery licenses issued by the government for this year alone are just illusions..

    Here in NYS , Cuomo has passed farmhouse brewing bills to further the craft brew industry in this state. There are major hop shortages due to the micro brew industry and weather of course. Prompting a spur of hop growers to pop up all over the US. So throw away your macro swill and join the rest of us in the quest for quality hand made brews, thank the AHA for this and maybe get into home brewing if you poor little macro taste buds are particular to piss….

    • nobomney2012 | Nov 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

      Exactly, garbage beer has always been here and the public is finally revolting. I have seen more micro-breweries/brew stores popping in the last few years than all of my life, it’s a great time to be alive if you love good beer. While the corporate piss water still makes up 90% of the market, they’re losing more and more of it every year. I think the problems mentioned in this article are a result of a business losing out and trying to retain it’s profit margins, in doing so they lose more and more. This is a good thing, nothing worth while every came out of a miller brewery.

  2. David Howe | Nov 3, 2012 at 8:07 am |


    The effect of unchecked private power. accountable to no one

  3. The sad thing is that AB InBev is pleasing the people THEY think are the most important group – shareholders. Crappify the beer, cut every corner possible, buy scraps instead of whole foods (rice in the case of Budweiser), make the glass as thin as possible; and they get CHEERS from their core audience…and of course that core audience isn’t the consumers.

    This article uncovers a key falsehood behind the mythos of the Marketplace under capitalism – that the Marketplace determines itself. Here we see a bunch of people who probably DON’T drink any of their beers on a regular basis but by dint of having a claim on profits from AB InBev get to tell everyone “your beer will be a little bit crappier, your bottles a bit more able to bust and you’ll pay more for it; all for fattening our pocketbooks.”

  4. They moved rolling rock from away from a great water source Western Pennsylvania to jersey. Does not taste the same.

  5. Misinformation | Nov 4, 2012 at 2:27 am |

    Seriously? Nobody from, at least northern California to southern B.C. has even heard of the beers talked about in this article. Thirsty for beer? Check out the west coast of north America…

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