15 May Drink Local (10 Barrel is not local)
Why are people saying 10 Barrel isn’t craft beer?
A FAQ for people who listen to airplanes and/or love craft beer.
The brewers featured above chose a collaboration brew as a positive (and delicious!) way to express that the expansion of 10 Barrel into San Diego is a bad thing for local craft brew. But why?
Big Beer FAQ:
1) I just want my beer to taste good. Why should I care about all this?
It’s safe to assume that most people don’t embrace craft beer because of an ethical line drawn in the sand. More likely, they were converted after being stunned by a flavorful brew. However, if you knew the beer you were drinking was going to potentially limit access to that singular experience for others, would you still enjoy it so?
10 Barrel is owned and controlled by a multi-billion-dollar corporation called AB-Inbev SA/NV. When large multinational corporations like AB-InBev-SA/NV insert acquired breweries like 10 Barrel into new markets, they are eagerly siphoning away dollars from a craft brewing movement that has slowed the growth of their core macrobrewed brands. They are willing to taunt craft brew lovers for their fussiness on one hand, while desperately asking you to embrace their acquired craft brands on the other.
It’s one thing to leverage superior resources to enter a new market, but it’s another entirely to crowd that market via unethical and clearly illegal business practices. By contrast, using deep pockets to push your brand into markets as a loss leader is certainly legal, but is likewise an expert maneuver to marginalize smaller breweries that cannot realistically do the same.
We’re not worried about your beer tasting good – we’re worried about the taste it will leave in your mouth. When you support “craft beer” that puts money into the pockets of those who employ predatory market practices to disenfranchise independent brewers, we believe those dollars could be more thoughtfully spent.
2) Even acquired breweries create jobs. Isn’t that a good thing?
Everybody has to make a living, if only to afford delicious craft beer. It’s hard to begrudge that. The larger issue emerges when considering where the money to fund those jobs comes from, and where it goes.
A local brewery not only necessarily hires locally, but likewise reinvests their funds right back into the same community as their employees do. An acquired brewery’s profits not only leave the locality, but necessarily fund the pay-for-play tactics used to crowd out local competition. Actions like these can arguably extinguish as many local jobs as they create.
3) Can you really fault a brewery getting acquired for tons of money? How is that problematic?
Running and growing a small brewery is a labor-intensive pursuit that deserves ample reward. No one starts a brewery because they reject capitalism. However, as much as we wish every success to brewery owners, we likewise care about being good stewards of craft brewing.
Consider that in 2017 AB InBev sequestered the entire South African hop market for exclusive distribution among its acquired brands. Cutting access to resources like this will limit the capabilities and creativity of smaller breweries. If the quality and diversity of beers available to you matters at all, this must be recognized as a transparently non-competitive action. When a brewery is guided by its fiduciary duty to shareholders (versus pleasing a thirsty public), this is inevitable. Even if we can’t blame former craft brewing entities for selling out, we can acknowledge that keeping craft beer independent is the best way to assure its vibrancy and growth.
4) So what can I do to assure my beer dollars are well-spent?
That’s a surprisingly tricky question. So many brands have been acquired and repurposed by AB InBev that it’s difficult to tell them apart unless you’re deeply engaged. This site does a great job summarizing breweries whose roots are well established in the San Diego community and dedicated to bolstering San Diego’s stellar reputation for craft beer. The Brewer’s Association has also rolled out a “certified Independent” insignia which should be adorning indie beer nationally in the months to come. When in doubt, a cursory Google search can always reveal the truth behind a brewery quite efficiently.
Beyond that, just be an advocate for what you want, namely more tasty craft beer. Consider popping into an unfamiliar tasting room and giving them a try. When you have a a great beer or experience in a brewery, share it with others. If you’d rather see more SD-centric bar offerings around town, let the bar owners and restaurant managers know. Everyone can take a role in helping San Diego craft brewing flourish.
Other opinions on this matter:
Written by Ian Cheesman