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Is AB InBev losing faith in craft beer?

In a move that has shaken up the independent beer sector, AB InBev has started to close down and break apart its former craft brewery buyouts.

Much-loved Cleveland-based craft beer business Platform Beer Co which, according to American Craft Beer, has recently ceased operations and seen all staff laid off, was bought by AB InBev in 2019 when it was at its height of popularity.

Platform Beer Co, which was initially founded in 2014 in Cleveland by Paul Benner and Justin Carson, was once considered to be at the cutting-edge of the craft beer movement, running three facilities in Cleveland including a tasting room, a 60 barrel brewhouse and a sour beer business named Phunkenship. The progressive brewery business, which also opened a tasting room which doubled as its distribution warehouse in Columbus, as well as a Cincinnati coffee shop and tasting room and a 10 barrel brewery and taproom in Pittsburgh, was heralded as one of the fastest-growing regional craft brewing businesses in the US.

Now, in a decisive move that industry insiders are calling an undeniable signal that AB-InBev is losing faith in craft beer, all of Platform’s facilities have been closed.

Last month, Brewbound reported that there were also staff cuts at AB InBev-owned US craft breweries including: Blue Point Brewery in New York; Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company in Virginia; Golden Road Brewing in California; Karbach Brewing Co in Texas and Wicked Weed Brewing in North Carolina.

Good Beer Hunting followed up with a statement on behalf of Andy Thomas, president of ABI’s The High End division which handles all of AB InBev’s craft brewing properties, where Thomas said: “Winning in craft remains a key pillar of our strategy to lead and develop the premium segment, but winning means something different in today’s marketplace than it did a few years ago.”

According to Thomas, “several of our craft brewery partners announced local team updates that will allow them to better address evolving consumer needs and trends in their home markets and beyond”.

AB-InBev’s closure of Platform Beer along with its move to lay off team members across its craft beer division is a hint of what happens to independent brewers that are seized for takeover, considering it a success move, only to see the business terminated when big beer is hit by headwinds within the sector.

AB InBev revealed in its latest quarterly results that total volume of beer sold had decreased 0.9% and the beer giant has recently been forced to raise its prices on many of its beer brands as a way to offset inflation.

The drinks business has reached out to AB InBev for its views on the future of craft beer as well as its perspective on why it has made its recent moves, but the corporation is currently unavailable for comment.

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