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Who Owns your Favorite Brewery?

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  • Who Owns your Favorite Brewery?

    I heard something the other day that surprised me. So I did some research and have started putting together a rough article of how brewery ownership exists. The article is in draft mode, I'd be happy to share any of my sources, but have not included them all here.

    The True Ownership of Beer

    There are currently lawsuits in three states (N.J., Penn., and Cal.) against Anheiser Busch-InBev, stating that their beers are watered down, less flavorful and less alcoholic than their labels suggest. The Budweiser father brand sold its majority to InBev, the fattest growing beer company in the world, in 2008. Its no secret that InBev, in acquiring breweries, changes the recipes slightly to maximize profits and eliminate some costs on ingredients. A wonderful article expressing the problems with InBev acquired breweries and the changes in the brews, like the now non-imported Becks, can be found here:

    Anheiser Busch-InBev recently just acquired Grupo Modelo, the Mexican makers of Corona and the Modelo beers, securing its spot as the biggest Brewery owner in the world. Miller-Coors conglomerate, still appears to be the second biggest owner of beers in the world as MolsonCoors are jointly owned and SAB (South African Breweries) is now the subsidiary of SABMiller. Though the Miller-Coors business structure is a little bit cloudy, what is clear is that not Miller, Coors, or Budweiser are independently owned American (as in United States of America) beers. In some way shape or form, each of those breweries and the plethora of beers produced by those breweries are tied to foreign owners and to massive corporate business groups whose primary goal is taking your money and not putting out the very best product.

    It is fascinating and scary to watch these two monster companies continue to steam roll through the beer world, sucking up unsuspecting breweries like a giant snowball rolling down a hill gathering snowflakes along the way. Some beers you think are safe from their grasp, really truly are not. For example, in 2008, Redhook Ales (out of Seattle), makers of the tasty ESB of the same name, merged with another smaller brewer Widmer Brothers Brewery (out of Portland, OR), and created a company called Craft Brewers Alliance. That was perfectly well and good, but if you look closely at the business structure you will find a 32% minority owner named Anheiser Busch, which means InBev. Now the Craft Brewers Alliance majority appears to be the two, previously independent, breweries. This might explain why Redhook was getting a bit of recognition up until 2011 for its beers… since then, there have been some minor complaints about a change in their beer flavors, especially amongst their flagship ESB and their Longhammer IPA.

    So, the question is, who really owns what that I am drinking? If I want to support local business and local breweries, what’s the best way to do that? And here is where there is some good news. The United States is in a craft brew renaissance. There are more breweries in this country today (over 2,200) than there were prior to prohibition (just over 1,800). In Colorado alone, there are over 180 breweries with 56 more slated to open between 2012 and 2015. Some of this is that people are discovering what they like in beer flavors. More and more people who used to think craft beer tasted terrible have found some versions that actually please their palate. The hop revolution was part of the craft beer explosion and many people did not find the super bittering agent’s overuse pleasing, thus turning away from anything titled “micro” or “craft”. However, the hop drive has leveled out and the door has opened for many more variations of beer that are driven towards the sweet, the malty, the earthy, and even those that meet that classic American Pilsner taste, while giving the mouth a little bit more.

    Here is the list of Breweries and who and what and how they’re connected.

    Anheuser Busch-InBev Fully Owned:
    Shock Top
    Alexander Keith’s
    Tiger Beer
    Margaritaville Brewing Company
    Rolling Rock
    Wild Blue
    St. Pauli Girl
    Grupo Modelo (Pending $20.1 Billion Purchase)

    Anheuser Busch-Inbev Minority Interest:
    - Amstel
    - Tecate
    - Murphy’s
    - Cruzcampo
    - Birra Moretti
    - Newcastle Brown Ale
    - Heineken
    - Dos Equis
    - Kingfisher
    - Sol
    Craft Brewers Alliance
    - Kona
    - Redhook
    - omission
    - Widmenr Bros.

    MillerCoors Companies and Subsidiaries:
    Molson Coors
    • Molson
    • Keystone
    • Coors
    • Blue Moon
    • Killian’s Irish Red

    SABMiller has an interest in:
    • Foster’s
    • Sheaf Stout
    • Lech
    • Tyskie
    SABMiller owns:
    • Miller
    • Leinenkugel’s
    • Cristal
    • Cusquena
    • Pilsner Urguell
    • Peroni
    • Grolsch
    • Hamm’s
    • Aguila
    • Red Dog
    • Frederick Miller
    • Southpaw
    • Milwaukee’s Best
    • Henry Weinhard’s
    • Icehouse

    Metropoulos & Co/Pabst:
    • Old Milwaukee
    • Heileman
    • Schlitz
    • Stroh's
    • Pabst
    • Lone Star
    • Falstaff
    • Pearl National Bohemian
    • Carling Black Label
    • Schaefer
    • Ballantine
    • Piels Brothers
    • Stag
    • Blatz
    • Olympia
    • Rainier
    • Jacob Best
    • Primo
    • McSorley’s
    • Schmidt
    Metropoulos & Co/Pabst has an interest in:
    • Southampton

    • Harp
    • Guinness
    • Red Stripe
    • Smithwick’s
    • Kilkenny

    • Spoetzl/Shiner
    • Pete’sWicked Ale
    • Tappeto Volante
    • Bridgeport
    • Trumer Pils

    North American Breweries:
    • Magic Hat
    • Genesee
    • Labatt-USA
    • Pyramid
    • MacTarnahan’s
    • Dundee
    • Mountain Brew Beer
    • Seven Kings

    Boston Beer/Sam Adams )
    Sierra Nevada }-- The three biggest wholly owned independent breweries.
    New Belgium )

  • #2
    The watering down receipes idea is horrible! Especially in the current increase in pricing I've seen in grocery stores. I know it's business, but dude, this is beer.

    In light of that, I'd encourage anyone who is a beer fan or is curious to seek out microbreweries, nanobreweries, and brew pubs in their area and start sampling. You can usually talk to the person behind the bar, or in some cases, the brewmaster or owner about what you like, and they can steer you in the direction of what they offer that may please your tastes. Buy local!

    This is also a great solution to someone in your group who says: "I'm tired of the same 'ol - same 'ol. Let's do something new!"

    I recently moved back to the Denver/Aurora area and am happily close to and can pick up a growler to go, or stumble my way home if I'm in no condition to drive.

    Let's all drink better beer!


    • #3
      I was disappointed to see Bridgeport on that list. They make some pretty good beers. Their coffee porter is quite tasty.

      Deschuttes is my favorite brewery. I hope they stay true to their philosophy.


      • #4
        Out of curiosity, do you know which of these guys distributes actual Belgian beer in the US? For instance, the most common ones I see: Stella Artois (which tastes like Bud to me); Leffe; Hoegaarden and Chimay? Do they make them/bottle them in the US or are they made in Belgium and distributed by American distributors? I'd expect given the mass availability of Stella and Hoegaarden that they are probably put out by one of the big guys, but not sure about some of the others. I developed quite a fondness for Belgian beer so I a hoping I am not getting crap. Also do you know anything of Devil's Backbone in VA?