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Independent beer seller slams corporate craftiness

HonestBrew has launched an attack on multinational companies it says are “tricking” customers into thinking they are supporting independent brewers.

In an open letter on its website, the independent craft beer seller said global giants buying breweries such as Camden Town and Goose Island were “hiding behind” the craft label, which could force independents out of business.

HonestBrew said it was “forced to cry foul” after claiming Beer Hawk – an online retailer owned by AB InBev – copied its “Howler” canned beer packaging design. The cardboard “Howler” tube carries three beer cans stacked on top of each other.

“This is about global players muscling in, dominating markets and steamrolling small businesses,” HonestBrew said.

AB InBev, which is referred to throughout the letter as “Blandy”, was singled out and accused of “tricking conscientious beer lovers into believing their hard-earned money is supporting independent brewers”.

“They are doing the one thing they know to do well: dominate the market, reduce consumer choice and maximise their own profits.”

Beer Hawk responded with a blog post of its own to “put the record straight”, saying that it prefers to “obsess about the quality and taste of beer rather than their corporate ownership structure”.

Speaking to db, Andrew Reeve, HonestBrew’s CEO, said that the packaging issue was not his primary concern, as it is “just a cardboard tube that shifts beer”.

Instead, he said it was the “catalyst” to “put our truth out there”, as it is not obvious to consumers that craft beer brands are owned by larger corporations.

“The only way we can help support the independent craft community is to make sure people know who they’re buying beer from,” he added.

Chris France, Beer Hawk’s co-founder, told db that there is “absolutely no compulsion to sell AB InBev beers” and that he has total day-to-day control.

He emphasised that Beer Hawk had “nothing to hide” about its ownership and that it was “not fair to say we’ve been devious in any way”.

The acquisition by AB InBev in February this year has been beneficial for Beer Hawk, and France said “our new warehouse is five times larger, and we’ve got more beer from more suppliers, with tonnes from independents.”

He added that the accusation of imitating HonestBrew’s packaging was the thing that “most rankles”, as both companies had “independently chosen the same supplier of tubes”.

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