Friday, December 15, 2006

Times change, and so does A-B.


It wasn’t that long ago that Anheuser-Busch was enforcing ideological purity within its allied beer distributorships, eschewing carrots and wielding sticks as only an 800-lb brewing behemoth can, and demanding that A-B houses be A-B houses and nothing else, damn it – in short, purge yourselves of Mexican imports, Samuel Adams and regional craft brews, and experience the myriad financial joys of Buschian conformity.

It was zymurgological cleansing, to be sure, and as ham-fisted as you’d expect from an uncultured brewing monstrosity.

But the Clinton years are sadly passed, and as times have changed, A-B has been hurriedly procuring distribution rights to micros (Goose Island) and imported beers (Stella Artois, Bass) alike.

I was asked whether it worried me that some day, A-B might acquire the rights to Guinness. Not at all, I answered; Diageo has gutted the Guinness brand to such an extent that A-B distribution might actually be a step back up. At any rate, it would give me an excuse to quit selling Guinness and find (or brew) another dry stout.

The point to me is that the cyclical nature of multinational business interests, and the sole imperative of increasing shareholder wealth, is such that only the terminally na├»ve persist in believing that the A-B’s of the world stand for any semblance of enduring principle. The bloated monolith’s current zeal for distributing other brands might dissipate just as quickly as it occurred to whizzbang wunderkind Auggie IV in a blinding flash of chardonnay-induce clarity.

Then the brands will be quietly repositioned, dumped, or converted into aluminum-clad pet shampoo like Budweiser itself.

Meanwhile, America’s reality-based craft brewers will be making honest beer for discerning people.

Care to guess which place I’d rather be?

5 comments:

antzman said...

It is ironic though. When Goose Island was handled by our supposed craft beer house (Monarch/World Class Beverages) we never could get the Goose Island Reserve line. Now that A-B has the distribution rights, for the first time, I have 4 of the reserves in our store (Keg Liquors). Not that the distributor realized what they had, but if I can get Bourbon County Stout, I can't say I was too displeased to have them distribute the line.

Just as long as they don't start making it with rice!

smoosh said...

You don't want any of the Goose Island Barrel Aged Rice Pilaf Ale?

Anonymous said...

I work for Goose Island and can promise you that AB has ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over the brewing of our beers - as our deal with them is strictly limited to distribution. So don't hold your breath on the rice pilaf ale. It ain't happenin'.

smoosh said...

That a girl! That's what we wanted to hear!

The New Albanian said...

Goose Gal, generally I enforce a doctrine of divulging identity, but this time it's okay. I trust that you do indeed work for Goose Island.

Here's my problem. Now I must buy Goose Island from the A-B wholesaler in Floyd County, Indiana, and these guys are perhaps the best example ever of a distributorship that exalts swill over craft, decrees a "back up the truck and offload aluminum" mentality, and in general dumps all over beer as beer was meant to be on a consistent basis.

You have entrusted them with your product. And I refuse to do business with them, as I don't carry A-B products.

Because it's a matter of principle -- not always, and there can be compromises, but in this case, it's a matter of principle.