Late last week the beer world learned that the multinational corporation Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the world’s largest brewing company, had purchased Northern Brewer, one of the largest homebrew supply businesses in the United States, via Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s ZX Ventures “Disruptive Growth” investment group. The acquisition includes Midwest Brewing Supplies, which merged with Northern Brewer a few years ago. With the purchase, Anheuser-Busch Inbev now controls a large chunk of the annual online sales of homebrew supplies.
The most immediate question is, “Why?” It does seem a strange match for the maker of Budweiser to be dabbling in homebrewing. There’s plenty of room for speculation, but until we have more information from Anheuser-Busch Inbev, all we have to answer the “why” question is speculation.
What is of immediate concern to us at the AHA is what’s at stake for the overall homebrew supply retail landscape. With the fifth largest consumer goods company entering the homebrew market place, what is the future of the $1 billion homebrew supply industry? The breweries that Anheuser-Busch Inbev has recently purchased, such as Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Elysian, and Devils Backbone, gained competitive advantages over independent breweries through access to vast amounts of capital, improved access to raw materials, and access to the entire Anheuser-Busch Inbev distribution network. Similarly, Northern Brewer and Midwest now have an advantage over their competitors with greater access to capital, as well as ingredients like malt and hops.
Given those newfound advantages, how will Northern Brewer and Midwest’s competitors be able to compete? The answer, in part, will depend on the homebrewing community’s reaction to the acquisition. Will this impact homebrewers’ choice of which supply outlets they use? Will homebrewers welcome this change, or be indifferent? We’d like to know your opinion.