I haven't blogged properly in a while (ha! "a while"), largely because I haven't had anything constructive to say. That doesn't stop many bloggers, but I really got to a point where I felt I'd said everything useful. And of course, once you have a financial interest in the game, everyone should take anything you say with a pinch of salt, so what's the point in blogging if people are just going to argue with or ignore you?
But the recent spate of takeovers and reactions to them makes me want to say something. I'm not sure where to start, so lets talk about the most recent - Anchor being bought by Sapporo. It isn't the first time in its history that the brewery has been bought out. The heroic stewardship of Fritz Maytag was of course the result of a buyout, albeit of a company that was by all accounts on its arse.
People get emotionally invested in stuff, to an extent that seems irrational to some. When a brewery is sold, I think it's natural to re-evaluate how you feel about that. I totally get that some breweries need to sell when the owner gets older, or gets bored with the grind of running a business, or just wants to cash out, but it's important that everyone looks at what has happened and asks if they feel differently now.
It's important that people do this because it matters where you spend you money, and who you decide to finance. Arguably, as political power is ceded to a global elite, how you spend your money is your last source of political influence. If you want to give your money to someone who is making beer with great determination but little critical acclaim, that's fine, it's your money. If you want to give your money to local breweries because they are local to you, even if they aren't world beaters, that's fine, it's your money. If you want to give your money to breweries that are the flavour of the month, killing it on Ratebeer, that's fine, it's your money. But it's important to think about it. All of these choices are subjective, driven by the same sort of irrational notions that drive me to buy bright yellow New Balance trainers, or to make people queue for hours outside breweries for limited releases.
So when Sapporo buy Anchor, I'm pleased to see people ask how we should feel about it. When Lagunitas sell 50% to Heineken, it's good to question how we feel about it. And then when Lagunitas sell the other half, we should at least think again, because your money is the only thing that will make a difference. And Ballast Point. And Camden. And Meantime. And who next?
It's fine to change your mind about how you feel based on new information, that's what grown-ups do. It would be a shame if you didn't let things change you, or at least make you re-evaluate things. Is your favourite brewery the same if someone new owns it? I don't know the answer to that, but at least ask yourself the question.
The reason I feel strongly about this is because, of course, it's my livelihood, and I've spent the last 17 years following the FUBU principle - I can't define craft beer, but as far as I'm concerned, it's For Us, By Us. So every time ABInBev, or SABMiller, or Constellation, or some faceless group of investors buy another independent bit of the industry (and it's happening at production, distribution and retail levels) and pass it into consortium ownership, I stop and have a long look at it. I might even solicit opinion online if I don't understand it, but the important thing is at least to stop and question it.