How Many Craft Brewers Could Anheuser-Busch Buy?

Anheuser-Busch InBev's $104 billion bid to buy SAB Miller would go a very long way with craft brewers looking to sell.
Anheuser-Busch InBev's $104 billion bid to buy SAB Miller would go a very long way with craft brewers looking to sell.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Megabrewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest in the world, is currently courting SAB Miller, it's closest competitor, for a takeover. AB InBev's most recent offer to buy Miller was $104 billion. It was the third bid in the last month, but was again rejected as SAB Miller appears to be driving it's own price up.

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AB InBev keeps coming back to Miller because it sees the brewery's international portfolio as a path to creating the first truly global brewery. While AB InBev is big in the Americas and Europe, SABMiller is a power in Africa and Asia. If the deal is ever finalized, the resulting company will control more than 30 percent of the world's beer and stand about 3.5 times the size of the next biggest brewery, Heineken. 

$104 billion is, for the beer world, an astounding amount of money. It's roughly the annual GDP of Ecuador, or Puerto Rico. And since both AB InBev and SAB Miller have been keen to invest small, independent brewer, we had to wonder: Just how much craft beer would $104 billion buy?

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Estimating the value of craft brewers is tricky business, but the common unit of measurement is price per barrel of annual beer production. When Goose Island sold to Anheuser-Busch for $38 million in 2011, that worked out to about $305 a barrel, says Sam Holloway, founder and president of Crafting a Strategy, a craft beer consulting firm. But more recent acquisitions, like AB InBev's purchases of Seattle's Elysian Brewing, cited a price of roughly $1,000 per barrel. With that, all U.S. craft brewers combined would be worth $24.4 billion. At most, that value could be $32 billion, says Bart Watson, Ph.D., chief economist at the Brewers Association.

That means AB InBev's money could buy the entire industry more than three times over, and if it were possible, they'd acquire nearly 12,000 breweries (there are about 3,900). If you'd rather take the per barrel rate being offered to SAB Miller, $375, U.S. craft brewing would be covered 11 times over, for more than 40,000 brewers.

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