This article about Goose Island moving brewing operations for 312 to NY seems to be extremely polarizing on twitter, facebook, BeerAdvocate, and Ratebeer. The emotions run from excitement about the possibility that more specialty beers like Bourbon County Stout, Matilda, Fleur, and the other lines of well received Belgian inspired beers to downright visceral hatred of Goose Island because they are now owned by InBev. If you read the article InBev is moving a very low end beer like 312 to make room for more specialty beer. They are making a move to make more beer for us beer geeks. What is the problem with that? Is the issue that Goose Island isn't brewing 312 in Chicago anymore? What next? Are you going to tell me that Sam Adams isn't brewed in Boston? (It isn't.) Do you drink Brooklyn beer? The Matt Brewing company in NY most likely brewed that beer you are drinking. I am curious what all the hipsters out there would think when they find out their precious PBR was actually brewed by Miller Beer Co.
I guess I don't quite understand this rationale by people. I didn't care for AB even before they were owned by a massive International conglomerate, but if they happen to own a company that brews amazing beer I'm going to buy it. Period. I can't imagine never drinking another bourbon county stout, in my opinion one of the finest beers brewed on the planet, because they are owned by a large company. Some of the beers in InBev's portfolio include Goose Island, Spaten, Bass, Becks, Boddingtons, Franziskaner, Hertog Jan, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Lowenbrau, Whitebread, and Alexander Keith's. There are some truly great beers in that list and they just happen to be owned by a massive conglomerate. For the most part people wouldn't even know they were owned by InBev if they hadn't seen the list. I am not talking about the yellow piss water they call beer, but truly world class beer.
I am continually surprised by people that look at Blue Moon differently after they find out that it is owned by MolsenCoors. If you like the beer, and the beer is good, why won't you drink it? The same people that won't drink these beers have Nike shoes on their feet, shop at Wal-Mart, put BP gasoline in their Ford, Chevy, Honda, or Toyota car, and play angry birds on their Apple Iphone. (Made by tiny hands in distant lands.) Food is the exact same way. You won't drink a Goose Island beer with your factory food dinner owned by two or three companies? Where does the hypocrisy end? Why is beer the sticking point for people? I love the idea of sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally, but as Anthony Bourdain says: "Who is going to work in your perfect agrarian society?" Monsanto is who will be working your perfect agrarian society.
I like to look at it another way though. I am very grateful to the big three brewing companies. What? Did he just say that? Yes, I did. Do they have some shady brewing and business practices? Yes. Is their marketing machine just silly and annoying? Yes. Do they do harm to smaller brewing companies? Not anymore. If you make a good product people are going to buy it. They are going to make some headaches for brewers for sure, but it is as simple as making great beer the public wants to buy. I am tired of places hiding around the term "craft" and they brew shit beer. If you brew great beer the big 3 won't do much to you, but if you brew shitty beer marketing can only take you so far. Those big three companies are not going to sink a brewing company anymore. If it had not been for the hubris of the big three and their marketing machine power, and fizzy-yellow beer where would the craft beer movement be right now? The bravado of American craft beer is a direct result of the big three continuing their business models. Without these behemoths where would we be? Certainly not at our current point as we are right now. I am not here to extol the virtues of these companies because that would be false. They were dirty, dangerous, and did harm to the brewing culture as a whole for many years, but that was in the past and we are now living in the greatest beer brewing that the US has ever experienced. I do feel sorry for the guys that grew up in the 50's, 60's, 70's, really large parts of the 80's and 90's though. Those were dark times that need not be mentioned for great beer. We are currently living in a craft beer explosion though that isn't showing signs of stopping. You can thank all of the bland, mass-marketing, and yellow lagers out there for that growth.
I think this might also go along with one of the worst trends I am seeing in the beer industry. The idea of drinking "local." That's right, I said that too. This has been one of the worst things I've seen because of what it is doing to people. People are being brainwashed by this line just as people were brainwashed into thinking that beer was fizzy-yellow, and it had to be served just above freezing. I'm not saying that I don't love what our local brewers are doing because I do very much, but Indianapolis is still in its craft beer infancy. People are depriving themselves of truly world class beers from all over the world. Do I support my local brewer? Hell yes I do. How do I know that Sun King makes a world class pale ale? It is because I've drank hundreds of pale ales. How do I know that Brugge is making amazing and unique sour style beers? It is because I've had many of them from around the US and the world. How do I know when a brewing company is more entrepreneurial than beer lover? That flows into the beer as well. I continue to support my local brewers, but the marketing path we are starting to walk down is just as dangerous for craft beer as what the big three did after prohibition. The marketing slogan is taking the place of real education. Education is the key for consumers. I truly believe that. I have to go back to brew a world class product and people are going to drink it. I think there is plenty of room to drink local and support your local brewers, but you can still drink amazing beer from around the country as well. I think it is also the way you are going to know you are drinking a truly world class beer. We've got beer brewed locally that can hang with anyone in the business, but I will never stop trying to sample everything under the sun at least once.
If you want something to get upset about check out Indiana's beer baron laws. That is for another post though.
I went on a long rant there. What are your thoughts? Constructive banter please.