Dan Fox
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The whine of the craft-beer children

The craft-beer universe is seriously out-of-sorts over Budweiser’s “proud to be a macro beer” commercial that aired on the SuperBowl.

5877776Social-media posts on Twitter and other sites overflow with reactions ranging from snarkiness to unvarnished rage. So far, at least, no threats of violence have surfaced.

There has been sarcasm. A number of parodies of the Budweiser ad appeared, including this one from Abita. (Apparently there was no commitment to spend $4 million to run it on next year’s SuperBowl.)

There has of course been opportunism. Unwilling to outbid Anheuser-Busch for SuperBowl ad spots, MillerCoors quickly tried to profit from the controversy. BigBeer’s #2 created and tweeted a self-serving print ad suggesting they stood with the craft brewers. Copy included “all brewing is craft.” (Most of those responding on Twitter missed the implication: MillerCoors is 100% craft beer.)

MillerCoorsThere has been analysis. Fortune magazine wondered whether Budweiser had misfired with its ad.

There has been duplicity. An Elysian Brewing founder–his company recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch–reportedly emailed his displeasure. (To date, he has apparently not refused to cash his big checks from BigBeer’s #1.)

There has even been a hint of sex. One annoyed craft fan suggested Budweiser had portrayed his kind as homosexual.

Turnabout

For the craft beer apologists, turnabout, it seems, is just not fair.

BigBeer in general, and Anheuser-Busch in particular, have suffered the nastiest of slurs over the years from craft brewers and their legion fans. People who chose Budweiser were routinely labeled stupid rednecks and worse by supercilious craft-beer connoisseurs. Stone Brewing happily called out BigBeer drinkers as wussies, long before Budweiser brought up fussiness.

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Like so many children, crafties can dish it out, but can’t take it.

Until now, “competition” for the crafties largely meant seeing whether they could get a better tent location at some local festival. These “little guys”–now nearly 3,000 strong–were innocent youthful artisans, not profit-motivated capitalists. They were to be cherished and coddled, cared for and worshipped in near-religious fashion by their always-adoring gaggle of hipster fans. Just like children, they were protected from… reality.

Budweiser’s ad marks the end of their childhood. (We would have said “innocence,” but innocent they are not.)

Taken as a group, craft brewers now pump out more beer than Budweiser. The top-10 craft brands are 50% larger than Corona. Individually, many are tiny, but as a segment they are not. Welcome to real competition! Time to hang up the tie-dyed cut-offs, put on your big-boy pants, and face reality.

Reality

Competition can sting. The craft-beer segment delights in having stung BigBeer so routinely. Thinking the sting could only go one way was… childish.

Competition attacks vulnerability. As crafties delighted in labeling BigBeer weak and watery, how could they miss seeing their own Peach-Pumpkin-ale-y focus as worthy of attack? Children are often guilty of magical thinking like this.

Competition culls the herd. Before long, many craft breweries will begin to die off. Some will be bought or partnered with better-heeled small breweries, as is, in fact, already happening. Others will just go under, taking too-optimistic, childlike investors with them. Some, for sure, will grow and flourish. But “Lord of the Flies” has assuredly come to craft beer.

As they say, “Reality’s a bitch.” Craft beer would do well to embrace competition in place of wasting precious energy whining about how unfair and painful it can be.

“Up” will at some point become very difficult to sustain, nobody is immune from attack, and even being the #1 hot brand doesn’t last forever. Eventually, children do grow up.

Just ask Budweiser.

 

— Read more of Hey Beer Dan’s writing here: http://www.plzdontletbuddie.com/title-index-to-articles.html

5 Responses to “The whine of the craft-beer children”

  1. Frank Howard says:

    I think Dan has missed the point here. Is it not hypocritical that ABI is attacking craft, but then hoovering up US craft brewers left, right and centre? Cake? Eating it?

  2. Chad Polenz says:

    Having just spent the last hour looking over Mr. Fox’s website and Twitter it’s quite obvious that this man is first and foremost a troll who sees himself as some kind of “realist” just waiting to scream “schaudenfraude” whenever there is the slightest bit of problem or controversy within the craft beer world. Craft beer never claimed to be perfect; it’s a business like any other and just because two craft breweries are bickering over trademarks doesn’t mean the entire craft beer segment is in dire straights.

    As a former pitchman for BigBeer it’s a bit strange than Mr. Fox still cheerleads for them as if they are still his clients. What does he have to gain? Nothing. It’s done for pride, though that’s usually why trolls troll – they cannot stand to see anyone else have a different opinion or to succeed where they have failed.

    To this blog in particular, allow me to refute some of his points:

    “The whine of the craft-beer children”: I agree that craft beer enthusiasts and professionals should not be “whining” over this Budweiser ad. In fact, I didn’t see all that much “whining” at all. Mr. Fox is defining “whining” as ANY RESPONSE WHATSOEVER. Also, notice he uses the word “children” in headline and throughout the blog. It’s clearly being used as a pejorative, hardly the thing of intelligent criticism.

    “Until now, “competition” for the crafties largely meant seeing whether they could get a better tent location at some local festival.” Is this meant to be a serious debating point? Of course not. It’s just completely wrong. Notice that no where in this blog (or in his archives) does he ever recognize the shady business tactics Anheuser-Busch/InBev has been engaging in over recent years, such as: buying up craft breweries, buying up distributors; lobbying at both the state and national levels for more stringent, arbitrary and ridiculous regulations that will hurt only small breweries, and of course nuisance lawsuits galore. Those are the kind of actions that the “crafties” take exception to and for good reason! ABI has the money and power to stymie the entire industry and with their market share continually decreasing, I expect them to step it up. After all, if they go down they’ll take the entire industry with them.

    “Competition culls the herd. Before long, many craft breweries will begin to die off. Some will be bought or partnered with better-heeled small breweries, as is, in fact, already happening” – CITATION NEEDED There is no indication that there is a craft beer bubble waiting to pop. True, this happened back in the 1990s due to speculators, rather than an economic bubble. There are twice as many wineries in the USA as breweries, yet you never hear anything about the bubble about to burst on that industry, do you?

    You’re the last of a dying breed, Mr. Fox. Enjoy your retirement.

  3. Ed King says:

    Really missing the point. The Bud ad was an interesting play, but a little desperate. A ‘stick to our core brand strengths’, ‘stick to who we are’. The problem with that, is that it means pissy watery beer with not much flavour. A generation of young people will not be drinking Budweiser in the future.

  4. Rick says:

    Fitting this column is posted in a section titled “DB reader”.

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