Monday, April 1, 2013

The Brewing Business

Let me tell you a story of a brewery.

This brewery was in the forefront of zymurgical innovation, brewed a version of a popular pale beer style that was regarded as the classic. As time passed, in order to keep up with demand for their beer, the company opened a second brewing facility. Eventually international demand for the brewery's beer lead them to contract with other breweries to produce their beer under licence. The company was a great success, they owned an iconic brand, were synonymous with the American brewing industry and eventually they were bought out by InBev.

I am sure that you have realised that the brewery in question is Anheuser-Busch and the beer was Budweiser. There are though parallels, I think, between the history of Anheuser-Busch and current events with the big craft breweries, as they build their second breweries across the US, and in the case of Samuel Adams have their iconic beer brewed in the UK under licence to Shepherd Neame.

I sometimes wonder to myself if the early, predominantly German immigrant owned, American breweries engendered the same levels of loyalty as we see among craft beer lovers today? Clearly they were doing something right as they brought the new European pale beer style to the New World and created something unique. You could argue that the pale lagers being brewed by the likes of Anheuser-Busch were the American IPAs of their day.

At this moment in the renewal of American brewing, it is perhaps more sensible, and less given to zealous hyperbole, to remember that each brewery is ultimately a business. No-one in their right mind starts a brewery if they don't believe that they can make a living from making beer.

To put it bluntly, passion doesn't pay the bills.

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