Back on February 15, Todd Usry of Colorado's Breckenridge Brewery boldly drew a line in the sand.
Could a Colorado craft brewery sell out to big beer?, by Eric Gorski (The Denver Post)
... Todd Usry, the brewmaster and general manager of Denver-based Breckenridge Brewery, which fits the production volume and brewpub profile for acquisition, said the company has not been approached to sell out and has no intentions to do so.
“The big thing to me is, the craft beer industry was built on individuals and their stories,” Usry said.
When craft breweries sell out, “I think there is some serious authenticity that is lost, and that the brand loses,” he said. “We’re not corporate. We are entrepreneurial and individual.”
Usry, like others, is concerned about the business ramifications of big-beer buyouts. “It’s going to be harder and harder to get our voices heard at the wholesale level,” he said. “It’s hard enough for craft beer in general to get meetings with big chain buyers. Now, AB can go in and pitch Elysian.”
Ten months later, with Breckenridge Brewery's decapitated head rolling past Usry's formerly principled stance, who better to read the rote statement of capitulation -- of solemn concurrence with the agenda of his brewery's corporate executioners -- than Usry himself?
Today’s announcement of our acquisition by Anheuser-Busch’s craft and import division may come as a surprise to many of you. We want to share with you how we came to this decision, what it means to Breckenridge Brewery and to those who’ve supported us for so long.
We’ve been in this creative and dynamic industry for over 25 years, loving everything about it. That won’t change. The passion for quality and culture that got us where we are today isn’t going anywhere. We’re proud of the fact that you can find our beers in 35 states; we’ve worked hard to get our beers to as many of you as possible throughout the years. The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s craft and import division, shares the same excitement for our category and commitment to quality. We will join a group of established and innovative craft brewers as part of The High End, and we look forward to what opportunities these relationships will bring to us.
Our brewpub in Breckenridge, our Littleton brewery and its Farm House restaurant are all part of this new entity. Other properties under the Breckenridge-Wynkoop umbrella will continue to be owned and operated by B-W and are not part of this arrangement.
Of course, the same great team who helped build Breckenridge Brewery won’t be going anywhere. We are excited about the opportunity this partnership brings to all of us. We’ll continue to own decisions about the beers we create and the ingredients in them. What people relate to in this industry is authenticity. If there were plans to come in and change our employees, our culture, and our recipes, well, that would completely undermine the reason for the partnership at all. What this new partnership does offer us is access to resources that will help us continue to innovate and bring our beer to more people.
We ultimately owe our success to you, our followers and supporters. I hope you will give us the chance to prove to you over time that we will continue to be Breckenridge Brewery.
J. Todd Usry
President, Breckenridge Brewery
This is AB-InBev's authenticity.
They're the "High End."
You're bought, paid, humiliated, and your own authenticity sucked from your veins and spat on the floor while you watch. Even if your life's work stands to be unaltered in any way, it remains that it now will be deployed by de facto terrorists as a marketplace weapon aimed at the heads of all those authentic folks of whom you were one, for so very long ...until you weren't any longer.
AB-InBev? It won't hesitate to pull the trigger, will it? Todd Usry and his partners aren't the first, and they won't be the last, but let's be honest.
Craft is dead and buried, not so much because AB-InBev is buying, but because craft is selling ... out.