Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Mating of Giants in the offing?

Rumors continue to circulate about a true merger of giant brewers Anheuser-Busch and InBev. I've heard them for a while, but the pace is accelerating, and today an industry analyst said that the SABMiller purchase of Grolsch would give such a merger more urgency.

Madness. Take a look at Stan's exegesis of Melisa "Girl's Guide to Beer" Cole's post about the "tumbling" pub beer sales in the UK. It's not beer sales that are down, it's lowest common denominator beer sales that are down. Specialty beers are up 7.5%, and it looks like they'll be up in double digits again this year in the U.S., too. The big guys are so busy merging and consolidating and making the market safe for their one kind of beer, that they apparently haven't noticed that the thing people seem to want less and less of is ... one kind of beer.

Anyone know where these guys can buy a clue? A-B is making some good beers, but it sure looks like they're afraid to go all-in on them. Miller sees that variety means good business, but then executes with Chill, essentially High Life with lime flavoring, which completely misses the point. And Coors has Blue Moon zooming, and seems to have no idea how to handle it, they're scared to death that if they come right out and publicly admit it's theirs, people will stop drinking it.

The hell of it is, Coors may well be right. No one really knows for certain why craft beers are doing so well, and the scary thought is that it may have nothing to do with how they taste. I see it a lot. People are buying this stuff, they have no idea what it is, or what it tastes like, but it's different and it looks different, and it costs more, so...they drink it. Kinda mindless. Kinda scary.

7 comments:

Stan Hieronymus said...

First, Roger Protz has more from the UK view.

From our side of the pond, without the usual press releases A-B is moving some of the Michelob beers previously only available in the holiday package into six-packs.

The Maerzen is finishing a three month (Sept-Nov) run and Porter is supposed to arrive in December.

Is that added support? I don't know, but there's one store (no stop lights) in the village where I live, and it turns out they are on their second second set of 10 cases of Maerzen in little more than a month.

That's nothing to A-B, but it's a lot more then the store has sold of Jack's Pumpkin Spice or Arrogant Bastard.

I don't know what it means. Except I bet they'd sell more if they'd call it Oktoberfest.

Lew Bryson said...

I don't know what it means. Except I bet they'd sell more if they'd call it Oktoberfest.

Aye. Reminds me of the frustration Herr Inselkammer has caused the good folks at Merchant du Vin by insisting on labeling Ayinger beers with the proper names...even though no one has a clue as to what a "Jahrhundert" beer is. (Remember that tank sample? I swear, Stan, sometime I think of that beer late at night. That and the Schlenkerla Lager on the bus.)

Anonymous said...

Lew, maybe you're seeing their first attempts, we all start something sometime. But from what I see is people still drink the swill, but more people are liking the alternatives. Blue Moon especially I see people liking, me too, it's damn nice. We all like tasting new brews, so we'll all follow what path it takes our taste buds too.
Beer is not the enemy IMO, that'll settle however it goes, but MADD and their influence is.
Our Pennsylvania politicians latest work had some stuff about ignition/interlocks that was very interesting they voted on.
The bottom line was big bucks coming out of peoples pockets and rules to make more bucks on further restrictions if found guilty. Where does this end?
We live in a big country not accessible to mass transit everywhere. Someones rights are being shitted on by political lawyers because no one it seems is speaking up for drinkers rights. Is it possible drinkers have rights? What does that mean in a country that advertizes beer nationally but over some areas that have ancient drinking laws or are dry to begin with?

Eric
Malvern (drinkers paradise, don't swallow)

Lew Bryson said...

Eric,
Some interesting stuff there, and it parallels some stuff I've been thinking about. The ignition interlocks, for instance: MADD's campaigning for them, and the manufacturers are major contributors to MADD. If they were giving money to the politicians actually voting on the bill, it would be an outrage.
I'd love to see drinkers stand up and claim their rights. Stop taxing me, stop taking away my rights to assumption of innocence, stop treating me like a child. We should stand up.

But you know... It's not just MADD. The people who are too drunk to stand are a huge part of the problem too, and we need to accept that, talk about it, and do something about it. We can't let the New Drys set this agenda. We need to get ahead of their curve.

Stonch said...

But you know... It's not just MADD. The people who are too drunk to stand are a huge part of the problem too, and we need to accept that, talk about it, and do something about it. We can't let the New Drys set this agenda. We need to get ahead of their curve.

Amen to that. I've said to a few bigwigs in CAMRA that they should actively get involved with condemning, and suggesting ways to tackle, binge drinking.

The negative effects of alcohol are real, and I get just as annoyed when people deny that as I do with the anti-alcohol lobby. You might not think it happens, but it does: I won't name names, but one British writer said as much and I didn't like it one bit.

Steven said...

"(Remember that tank sample? I swear, Stan, sometime I think of that beer late at night.)"

Awww, now your just being cruel.

But I think there are many beers imported here whose names confuse consumers -- heck, there are probably many craft brews that confuse most consumers: Alpha King? 60 Minute?

I wonder if today's beer geeks find as much pleasure in tracking down and researching history and culture behind beers and styles -- or is it just the kick they're really all after?

Segue to more binge talk...

Dave S said...

Is your statement: "...No one really knows for certain why craft beers are doing so well, and the scary thought is that it may have nothing to do with how they taste...." literally true? No good research by these marketing giants? I only ask because I think it is true.

The A-B beers I've had in the holiday pack could easily stand on their own. Would they sell betters as a microsimulation?

In terms of Blue Moon, I've had some folks deny its a Coors product, and call me a liar when I said it was brewed in upstate NY (maybe not now).