(I am sharing the post with Ethan Imhoff as co-contributor whom we had many exchanges about this topic.)

We are being duped. Probably unbeknownst to you but that microbrew you might be enjoying this evening may not be as “micro” as you may think.
Several months ago, a local tavern had a tap takeover featuring Goose Island beers out of Chicago. A friend said that he was excited that this particular tavern was featuring such fine brews from a microbrewery like Goose Island. I hated to bust his bubble but I had to inform him that Goose Island was owned by international macrobrewery Anheuser-Busch InBev – the largest of the worldwide brewing powerhouses in the world. Granted, Goose Island makes a number of fine beers but my issue is not about taste.
I don’t blame my friend not knowing that Goose Island was owned by InBev – and thus is my point. You have to do a bit of digging to realize that Goose Island is owned by InBev. In fact, officially Goose Island is owned by Craft Brewers Alliance, LLC which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. C’mon people, they even call themselves the “Craft Brewers Alliance” for crying out loud!
That’s is the major objection I have – products are being deceptively marketed to dupe people into thinking they’re drinking something they’re not. How many people try Blue Moon/Goose Island/Leinkugels/Henry Reinhardt’s thinking they’re enjoying a craft beer? If it was named Coors Wheat / Bud Wheat instead of Blue Moon and Shock Top respectively, it wouldn’t seem like a craft beer and fewer people would buy it. Likewise, how many hipsters drink PBR thinking they’re drinking a blue collar, working class beer? Still brewed and bottled by Laverne and Shirley in Milwaukee, right? Well, dig a little deeper and you will discover PBR is now nothing more than a profit machine for a couple of investment bankers from LA. I think it is unethical to market products deceptively, and a prime reason why I avoid such products.
Over the last ten years, craft brewers have seen a ten percent increase of sales year after year while the mega-breweries have seen a decline of sales. Looking at the numbers, the megabrewers have been acquiring smaller breweries whenever they have the chance. Ten years ago the industry was diverse enough that AB owned just 8.5% but still was the global leader. Today’s AB InBev has an estimated 21% market share and the driving force of this growth has been through acquisition and consolidation. Take the entire beer industry, beer sales have only increased only seven-tenths of one percent from 2012 to 2013. But if you look at just craft brews, the sales figures have grown over 15% year after year. That in mind, companies like AB InBev and SAB Miller have been gobbling up craft brewery.
At least Walmart, which is the epitome of the mega-company, doesn’t buy up a local business and claim it’s “Bob’s Department Store” unlike the mega-brewers. As much as a I loathe Walmart, at least it is honest and there is no question to know one when you see one.

The next point I like to make is about localism.
My uncle works for a metal salvage company and was part of the crew that was hired to disassemble the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe for scrap metal. My uncle could not understand how sad I was to learn that all those tanks, conveyors, bottling machines, etc., were being destroyed. During the short time I was in NYC in 1994, Rolling Rock was the only tangible connection I had with my home. Growing up 50 miles away and remembering the times drinking a case of “ponies” with my college friends at the Rathskeller in State College, it was a little bit of home every time I sipped a Rolling Rock. But in 2006, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought Rolling Rock and moved its brewing operations to New Jersey. Rolling Rock, it a way, has lost it’s a sense of place. It’s the reason hardly anyone around West Central PA drinks Rolling Rock anymore. Everyone knows its made in New Jersey now – it’s lost its connection – its place here in Western Pennsylvania. InBev thinks of Rolling Rock just as a produc; a product that now has lost its way. For the past five years InBev has been trying to sell off the brand. There has been no interested takers.
The same goes with PBR. When Ethan was in Wisconsin for a couple of weeks a few months ago, he couldn’t help but notice how hard it is to find PBR in local taverns. This is a beer that used to be made in Milwaukee and you could find literally everywhere in the Midwest. You can still find Leinenkugel’s, another bought up brewer up there but there is also an awareness its not a local company anymore.

For many localism is more important than the deceptive issue… when a local brewery is bought out, the profits from that business are now diverted elsewhere, either nationally or internationally. Recently Duvel, another international megabrewery bought a Kansas City brewery. Instead of the profits being distributed amongst an ownership group I’m going to assume is within the orb of Kansas City, the profits will now go to Belgium. Now sometime the local owners retain some kind of stake in the business, and still get some of the profits, but my point is that profits for a product that is supposedly local are now being redirected elsewhere. For the same reason I’d rather eat at Al’s Tavern in Altoona instead of Chili’s or buy my television from Park Audio Video Plus instead of Best Buy. Local ownership is much more likely to reinvest in the local community and to use local people to do their legal, financial and administrative work. For example, I doubt Best Buy would ever hire a local attorney or bank with my friend Sue Richards, a manager at a locally-owned bank. But local businesses do. That’s just one example of a spinoff effect with local businesses that doesn’t happen with large corporations. I know that when I drink a Straub, I’m in a small way helping St. Marys, PA (who also happen to have a family member who lives here in Altoona) or when I drink Weyerbacher I’m helping Easton, PA. (I am also good friend with a person who is part-owner and also does the graphic design and marketing of Weyerbacher.)
Here in Altoona, a local brewer named Matt just opened a nanobrewery called Railroad City Brewing. Despite some set backs like delaying its opening and capacity issues, I am damn well going to patronize a local brewer that is trying to make a buck here in Altoona, than someone I will never meet elsewhere. Please try to support your local brewer. It is always your best bet to support your neighbor and your local brewer. (Altoona has a great local history of beer brewing which would be a great future blog post.) If it is not local, at least support a microbrewer somewhere – just please do your homework.