Saturday, May 31, 2008

Budweiser, we hardly knew ya.

So there's talk that Belgian super brewer InBev is considering buying Anheuser-Busch. I was initially stunned by the idea that the biggest brewer in the United States -- by far -- could end up in foreign hands.
Love it or hate it, no beer is more quintessentially America than Budweiser. It may be the nationalist in me, but it's a little unsettling to think that our King of Beers might develop a Flemish accent and start eating mayonnaise with his french fries (Actually, I like mayo on my fries, so I suppose that would be a bonus. I digress).

And then it hit me: who the hell cares? Anheuser-Busch is a multi-million dollar corporation that brews beer, runs amusement parks and is traded daily on the New York Stock Exchange. Sure, it all began with Budweiser, but today our American company has a battery of foreign labels in its stable. Lookin' for something a little different? Maybe an English ale? How about Bass? It's brought to you by Anheuser-Busch. How about something from the East? Try Singapore's Tiger lager, brought to you by Anheuser-Busch. Oh, you're one of those beer snobs that doesn't like the mass-produced milquetoast brews that Anheuser-Busch produces. Try Red Hook, Stone Mill or the new Shock Top Belgian White beer, all brought to you by Anheuser-Busch. (By the way, is Shock Top a nod to the new owners?)

And the list goes on and on. The point is, Anheuser-Busch is not so much a brewer today as it is a multinational corporation. Beer happens to be the primary widget it produces. InBev is also a multinational corporation that brews its widgets.

So what will happen if InBev buys Anheuser-Busch? Nothing as far as most of us are concerned.

We can still head down to Piggly Wiggly and pick up a cold six of Bud, which will taste the same as it always has. Admittedly, it will be strange to think that the number one selling beer in America is made by Belgians, but Anheuser-Busch doesn't love us, it just wants us to buy its products. When we've shown interest in other beers, it bought the breweries that make those beers ... much the same way InBev is looking to buy them.

This is why I love craft beer so much. When I buy a sixer of Abita, I know it was produced by a group of nice folks in Abita Springs, La. The brewery (which I've visited) is little more than a fair sized metal warehouse with a half-dozen or so tanks and equipment inside. The inside of Anheuser-Busch's main brewing facility in Missouri looks like NASA: highly sophisticated and incredibly cold. One guy can run the entire operation from a computerized control room. Ain't that great?!

But if you're bummed by the prospect of a bunch of foreigners buying America's biggest brewer, rest assured you can always turn to Miller, our second largest brewer.

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