Since its emergence on the North American beer scene in the 1980s and, in force, in the 1990s, what is commonly called ‘craft beer’ has cost the big breweries millions upon millions of dollars in revenue from lost sales. They do not like this.
Sales of Budweiser in particular have fallen precipitously, declining from 50 million barrels in 1988 to only 18 million in 2013. Some of that volume has simply been transferred to Bud Light, for years now the best-selling beer in the United States, while large volumes have also been lost to Coors Light, but some has also gone over to craft beer. Anheuser-Busch InBev definitely does not like this.
Since almost the very start of the craft beer renaissance, brewers and beer marketers have been taking pot shots at the big breweries and their beers, often aided and abetted by the media. While initially it must have been easy for pre-InBev Anheuser-Busch to shrug these insults off, the volume of such criticism now, coupled with the recent boom in the growth of craft beer, must certainly be getting up their corporate nose.
In order to stay relevant, Anheuser-Busch InBev has been forced to spend tens of millions of dollars on brewery purchases, only to have every buy followed by loud and prolonged condemnations. Would they rather have spent this money on increasing sales of their existing brands? You bet your ass they would!
Anheuser-Busch InBev has also spent tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions, on new product development and marketing in order to have what are, for them, fringe brands that can play in the specialty beer market (which did not even exist as such forty years ago). It’s not hard to imagine they would have rather spent this money on growing their existing portfolio of brands or perhaps developing more logical and demographically-focused line extensions.
So yes, if you drink craft beer, Anheuser-Busch InBev does indeed hate your beer. And if they could end the craft beer segment tomorrow by taking a loss on all the brewery purchases they have made and craft beer-style brands they have developed, I firmly believe they would do so in an instant.
Bigger, Stronger, Hoppier…Just Stop It!
In case you missed it, a Scottish brewery called Brewmeister announced yesterday that they had topped their own record for the world’s strongest “beer” – reason for the quotation marks to follow – with a 67.5% alcohol liquid called Snake Venom. The bottle, The Scotsman reports, comes with a warning that no more than the contents of a single, 275 ml bottle should be consumed per sitting.
There is so much wrong with this that I scarcely know where to start. But I’ll try.
First up, unless Brewmeister has somehow come up with a way for yeast to survive in a ridiculously high alcohol environment, this is not a beer and neither is it the product of brewing per se. It is something that was once a beer before it was freeze distilled into a spirit, as are the slew of other “world’s strongest beers” that have come to market in recent years. (I’m looking at you BrewDog and Schorschbräu.) When you brew a beer, you ferment out sugars and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. When you concentrate that alcohol by eliminating a large amount of the water content, that’s distilling. Period.
Secondly, who cares?! Producing the world’s strongest “beer” is right up there with producing the world’s most caloric hamburger and the world’s most tannic wine. It’s an empty, useless gesture than has nothing to do with the item intended to be consumed and everything to do with laying claim to a pointless title.
Thirdly, this is irresponsible to a massive degree. The one bottle per sitting that the brewery recommends you not exceed contains an enormous amount of alcohol, 185.625 millilitres by my calculations. To put that in perspective, it is the equivalent in pure alcohol of drinking just under 62% of a 750 ml bottle of 40% alcohol spirits, or in other words, enough booze to potentially make a person very, very sick.
And fourthly, this kind of “bigger, stronger, hoppier” bullshit is precisely what craft beer is NOT about! Beer should be about flavour, not strength or massive, unbridled bitterness, and headline-grovelling attempts like this simply undermine everything that skilled and dedicated artisanal craft brewers around the world are trying to achieve. As Garrett Oliver once famously stated, no chef goes bragging about how they make the saltiest soup, and neither should anyone proud of their brewing skills be wading into the “bigger, stronger, hoppier” realm.
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