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 naïve 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?