Craft brewery buy-out strategy pays off

AB InBev beats Sierra Nevada and Boston Beer in US microbrew sector 

Financial website The Motley Fool reported this week that AB InBev is now America’s biggest craft brewer. The veracity of this statement depends, of course, on one’s definition of “craft”. The Brewers Association, for example, sets a generous production limit for a brewery’s beers to be considered craft, one which AB InBev far exceeds. But there’s no arguing with the numbers: $107.3m of beer sold in the first half of 2018 means that AB InBev’s craft division has earned more than the largest independent brewers, Sierra Nevada ($100.7m) and Boston Beer Company ($94.4m).

The figures do come with a caveat that they’re based on supermarket and convenience store sales only, not independent shops or bars. The article notes that, were these taken into account, Boston Beer Company is probably ahead, though given the company’s recent financial difficulties, possibly not for long. Nevertheless, it indicates that AB InBev’s strategy of buying smaller breweries, beginning with Goose Island in 2011 and including Camden Town Brewery in the UK, was a shrewd move and is being managed well for the company’s directors and shareholders.

For all the vocal consumer backlash that comes with a big-brewery buyout, it appears that a significant cohort of craft beer consumers don’t know or don’t care who owns the company that makes their beer.