As Anheuser-Busch, brewers of Bud Light and many other mainstream beers announces the intention to purchase Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, N.C. different reactions will be sparked. Some will reminisce with the old Queen song, “Another One Bites the Dust,” lamenting that another great craft brewery becomes part of a global megagiant. Others will likely shrug and perhaps hope expanded distribution sends more craft beer to them.
Anheuser-Busch announced the proposed buyout May 3, and admitted in their press release that the action is subject to regulatory approval. This is a hurdle that is gets a bit more difficult the larger ABI (ABInbev, the global corporate giant) becomes.
Wicked Weed becomes part of High End which was created by AB in 2015 to house craft and key European brands which now includes 10 Barrel Brewing (Oregon), Breckenridge Brewery (Colorado), Blue Point Brewing (New York), Devils Backbone (Virginia), Elysian Brewing (Seattle), Four Peaks Brewing (Arizona), Golden Road (Los Angeles), Goose Island (Chicago),and Karbach Brewing (Texas), as well as long time ABI brands Stella Artois, Shock Top, and non-beer SpikedSeltzer.
In July of 2015 I was sitting at the bar in Wicked Weed downtown Asheville with my wife on my right side and another woman on my left side. That woman or I commented on the beer. After a quick exchange it was clear she knew about beer qualities and characteristics. It turned out we were both in Asheville for a beer related conference and she was with Anheuser-Busch. It is likely not related nor prophetic that I met someone from AB inside Wicked Weed, but it happened. During that conference this woman introduced me to to one of the AB brewers who also was a home brewer. He knew beer really well. Amazingly he shared some AB product that was a sample before being pasteurized and processed and it was very good. This reminded me that AB had some good beer and had people who really know and appreciate beer.
In the press release from AB about the purchase it quotes Walt Dickinson, co-founder of Wicked Weed saying, “We have chosen to partner with The High End to position ourselves to make Wicked Weed what we imagined it could be when we first sat at a craft beer bar and talked about opening a brewery. As a brewer, giving our team more resources to continue innovating our portfolio and the ability to reach more craft drinkers, allows us to keep putting the beer and the people first.”
According Wicked Weed’s web site, Walt and his brother Rick sat at a beer bar in 2009 and talked about a dream to open a brewery. In 2011, according to their written history, Ryan Guthy, their life long friend had his parents talk with the Dickinsons and they all decided to start Wicked Weed which was founded the next year in Asheville.
By the time I visited in 2015 Wicked Weed was well established locally but most beers were still available in growlers and not widely distributed. Certainly we could not get Wicked Weed in Indiana. During 2016 Wicked Weed started a dramatic expansion program beyond the Carolinas taking them as far as Virginia and Washington, D.C. and in December jumping to expansion in Colorado.
Guthy, in the same press release, comments on their Asheville roots and dedication to the city saying, “With our team’s heightened ability to innovate our hoppy and sour styles using the highest-quality ingredients around, we hope more and more beer drinkers will flock to Asheville to taste what we have to offer. Our pub and Funkatorium will stay focused on producing creative beers and will be part of Asheville’s beer tourism for years to come.”
Anheuser-Busch INBev is a company that had global revenue growth of 2.4% in 2016, with profits up 2.8% while having a loss in organic volume growth (02.0%). Their rapid U.S. craft beer expansion started in 2011 and expect to see more acquisitions. While we’ve not had Indiana brewers specific about offers we have been aware of other major craft brewers across the nation that have been asked to sit at the bargaining table.
How you view acquisitions is up to your perspective. If you wish to keep all monies and profits in the local community then buying a Wicked Weed beer, if they expanded in Indiana either before or after the AB acquisition, won’t accomplish ‘buying local.” When you purchase from the local or regional brewery the money funds salaries and stimulates the economy locally. If you are one to get excited about the next new craft beer to make it to Indiana, then this might make you smile.