Jim Dykstra's picture

Macrophobia: AB InBev, MillerCoors and Craft Breweries

(Issue 21)
With news of partnerships like Lagunitas and Heineken, the lines between "craft" and "macro" have become increasingly blurred.
With news of partnerships like Lagunitas and Heineken, the lines between "craft" and "macro" have become increasingly blurred.


Opacity and Veracity

Much of the difference between macro and craft lies in corporate culture. Although Budweiser brewers may be passionate about all kinds of beer, what they brew is at the mercy of their business strategy. CEO Carlos Brito is renowned for cutting costs and increasing efficiency, neither of which lend themselves to experimentation. There is no room for error, and thus, little room for creativity on a mass scale. 

But they do leave a little room, comparatively, in the form of the 15-barrel AB Research Pilot Brewery, where there are no such rules. Attached to the St. Louis headquarters, imperial stouts and DIPAs emerge from the primordial mash alongside Lime-a-Ritas and Johnny Appleseeds, crafted by equally talented zymurgical wizards. Why do we only see the latter on shelves?

To brew an IPA under the Budweiser label would require a massive overhaul of both image and existing infrastructure, all the way to ingredient sourcing and cost. It takes a lupulin army to produce a truly resinous ale to scale, and despite how well the beer may sell, it’s counterintuitive to their strategy, for now.

Efficiency also leaves little room for transparency, another distinguishing factor between little and big. If you can’t see what’s going on, you can only assume the worst; especially if what you can see is an increasingly massive corporate zeppelin blotting out the sun. Which is why it’s important to stay in touch – and that goes for anything and anyone. The purest intentions of beer drinking suffer when we get hung up on superficialities. 

There may be irreconcilable differences when it comes to micro/macro business, but that’s not what any beer is about. Beer is meant to be shared. It’s the grease in the hinges of fellowship and revelry. You can chug it and still be a connoisseur. You can sip it and note the “beery esters.” Beer styles are variations on the theme of alcohol, just as race, gender, creed, sexual preference are all variations on the theme of humanity. We’re all human, and at the end of our metabolic processes, beer is beer.

Rather than getting caught up in the light or dark sides, the color of the beer, or where it’s from, perhaps it’s time we all take a page out of Michael Jackson’s book and “lighten up.”