Like it or not, Big Beer—namely, Anheuser Busch InBev, the oft-scapegoated brewing company best known for its ownership of Budweiser and its recent acquisition of 10 formerly independent craft breweries—owns and operates a majority of the beer business. This is true by volume, by sales, by distribution, and by pretty much any measure, save for actual number of breweries in the U.S.
Among the rising concerns of craft brewers and their promotional trade group, the Brewers Association, are that these buyouts—such as AB InBev’s purchase of Goose Island, Elysian or Wicked Weed—take formerly independent beer brands and boost their production, distribution and sales without consumers knowing the difference, or if they do, limiting their choice due to marketing and distribution power.
To raise awareness for this alleged injustice, the BA launched a campaign to flip the industry on its head: Take Craft Back by raising $213 billion and buying Anheuser Busch InBev.
Yes, the campaign—which has raised close to $150,000 in pledges so far—is a hoax. The BA doesn’t actually expect, or even intend, to collect upwards of two billion dollars from craft beer enthusiasts around the country to buy the world’s biggest brewery. There is no money actually being exchanged here.
But it does have real implications. The campaign seeks to alert the public to “the real dangers of beer consolidation, including narrowing access to raw ingredients and a heavy influence on distribution, which squeeze beer from your small, local brewers off store shelves and off draft lines,” said the announcement to consumers on CraftBeer.com.
And the campaign comes as a follow up attempt to fight back: in June, the BA launched the Independent Craft Brewer Seal as a way for independent brands to differentiate themselves from those owned by global conglomerates.
“It’s a tongue-in-cheek campaign to raise beer drinker awareness of the difference between Big Beer’s ‘crafty’ brands and your truly small and independent beers—to know the difference, and to actively ‘seek the seal’ [the Independent Brewer Seal] and prefer true craft brands,” said Matt Sutton, a spokesperson for the BA.
He continued, “Take Craft Back is a humorous rallying cry to bring attention to a serious issue: how ABI is seeking to permanently alter the craft landscape by presenting acquired brands as if they were truly, authentically independent, and ultimately narrowing real choice in the marketplace for the beer lover.”
While the campaign has a humorous tilt and good intentions—the video is pretty funny, and surely, we all want to see independent craft brewers succeed—some may critique the BA’s decision to create a campaign of this nature (trolling AB InBev) rather than devote its resources to other initiatives. After all, Take Craft Back, although admittedly entertaining, included production costs of its video, along with resources (monetary or otherwise) spent on its website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.
It also gives AB InBev and its portfolio of “High End” brewers the opportunity, again, to call out the divisive nature of these campaigns.
Here’s how Beer Twitter reacted on Monday morning. (Note: these tweets are sourced from both the official #takecraftback hashtag, as well as the improperly used #takebackcraft).
I like craft beer, but I’m kind of embarrassed by this #takebackcraft. Good news is that literally none of my family or friends will care.— Matthew Osgood (@MatthewMOsgood) October 16, 2017