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Poll: Does Quality Trump Ownership When it Comes to the Beers You’ll Buy?

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Okay, so this might look like an SAT question, but it’s actually pretty simple, and it’s about beer (BONUS: and bacon!). Stay with me here.

I’ve been thinking about how the quality of a craft beer and who owns the brewery that made it affect my purchase-making decisions.  It’s easy for me to say “no” to Bud Platinum, but harder to turn down Terrapin on tap.

The diagram above is essentially three big circles that overlap.  The red one represents beers made by established craft brewers.  The yellow one represents beers brewed by “Big Beer” and breweries they own.  The orange circle represents all things that are awesomely delicious, which in may case includes bacon, Munchies Cheese Fix Mix and Dutch licorice.

The real magic happens where they overlap. When “delicious” and “craft beer” meet, you find brewers like Stone and Schlafly (in my opinion at least – your examples might be different). Where “established craft brewery” and “Big Beer owned” meet, you have Terrapin.  And where “delicious” and “established craft brewer” and “Big Beer owned” meet, you have Goose Island.  Hopefully you get the idea. 

I’ve numbered each “zone” above to make it easy for you to share where you draw the line.  For me, I’m good with #1, #2, #3, #4, and #7 above.  #2 is kind of a toss up, but if the only thing available is a decent craft beer that’s brewed by a Big Beer owned brewery, I know I’ll drink it, so I’m being honest.  Plus I have a soft spot for Leinie’s Summer Shandy – call me a heathen!  I’ll pass on #5 most every time, and I can’t think of an example for #6!

Hit up the poll below and select all the numbered zones that you’ll gladly spend your money on. I’m very curious to see where we net out, especially in regards to #2 and #3.

Also, share your thoughts about all of this in the comments.  As more and more craft brewers are snapped up by the Big Boys, these are questions that will face us beer geeks more and more often.  😦

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle, Poll

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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30 Comments on “Poll: Does Quality Trump Ownership When it Comes to the Beers You’ll Buy?”

  1. March 23, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    I know this is pointless nitpicking, but Terrapin isn’t really owned by big beer. Tenth and Blake have >%25 stake in the company. That’s hardly ownership, especially when your other example is Goose Island. I know it’s just semantics, but there’s got to be a better way to categorize craft breweries with big beer attachments without implying full ownership. Otherwise, awesome venn diagram!!

    • March 23, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      I love a good Venn, Michael!

      And I agree with the nit you picked to a degree, but when Big Beer puts their fingers in a pie (even just the tips) many beer geeks want nothing to do with it from that point forward. I guess Leinie’s might be a better example, but they are barely craft beer IMO!

  2. Marvin Kinney
    March 23, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I do not care who owns it. If the beer is good I will drink it. If big brewery ownership is a hanging point, there will be a lot of disappointed people in the next 10 years.

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

      +1 on that. As long as the beer is good, it’s good beer.

    • March 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      They will only be disappointed if they forget how to search out good craft beer. I don’t care how many brewers get bought up by BMC over the next decade. There will always be small craft brewers around to fill that need.

  3. March 23, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I guess I’m not getting it, or I would be in a circle outside. By established craft breweries, do you mean the bigger of the craft breweries? If so, then I would be outside your chart, because the majority of what I drink is from the smaller craft breweries. If not, then I’d be a 4.

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Established simply means established in your mind. Shock Top, no. A local nano, yes.

  4. March 23, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I try to avoid the big brewers whenever I can. Since Goose Island got bought out, I haven’t purchased a single beer from them. I’m against rewarding bad corporate behavior, plus there are plenty of awesome alternatives to Bourbon County Stout. With hundreds of breweries slated to open this year, I’m not as concerned with a few established craft breweries being bought up by the big boys, as far as my beer supply is concerned.

    If it comes down to a choice between buying a BCS or a Fat Tire at a bar, philosophically I’m leaning toward the Fat Tire. Since I’m a big hypocrite, I’m probably buying the BCS and finding a way to justify my purchase (like: “When it went into the barrel, it wasn’t owned by AB-InBev!”).

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      While I agree with you in spirit, my mind actually went “mmmmmmmm” when I read the words Bourbon County Stout.

      Translation: I’m a sellout if the beer is tasty.

    • March 23, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      I wouldn’t drink a F(l)at Tire over a BCS. However, I’d drink a KBS or some true-craft equivalent.

    • March 26, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      Numbers 1, 4 and 7 are no-brainers. Numbers 2 and 3 are second tier for me. In some cases I’ll still support breweries with excellent beer regardless of ownership IF the beer does not change for the worse from it’s pre-ownership change quality. Unfortunately, all too often, big businesses are more focused on the “macro-economics” and the “micro-quality” begins to suffer. If confronted with only numbers 5 or 6 I gladly save my money and work on my water intact for that day.

      I also have a fundamental issue supporting breweries who have an exclusionary attitude in the marketplace. I have an issue with any brewery, big or craft, that attempt to gain shelf space or tap handles with artificial pricing, legal restrictions or strong-arm tactics instead of letting the quality of the product be the deciding factor. I’ve seen it all too often, unfortunately. And this isn’t just a “big brewer” practice. I know of a craft brewer that tries to keep their distributors from carrying any other brewery from their state. If it takes practices like that to win mind-share than perhaps there is another issue with the product.

  5. Irwin
    March 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    If it is good, I’ll buy it. Shocktop isn’t, but Redhook, Goose Island, Widmer and Kona are. If it is local and good, I’ll seek it out!

    • March 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Local counts as well. Our family hails from Wisconsin, and before they got snapped up and shipped out of town, I’d make a macro beer exception for Miller, as it’s the hometown brew. I’d enjoy one at State Fair with a brat back in the day, but now it’s New Glarus Spotted Cow all the way!

  6. Dave
    March 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I down with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7. I’d probably go with 6 as well if there ever becomes such a thing. I’m still waiting for Coors to make that Bourbon Barrel Aged Double Chocolate Coffee Stout that was mentioned in the My Wife Is An Extremist post. I’m not holding my breath. Even then it’d probably taste like they just dumped a bottle of bottom shelf whiskey into some Yoohoo and called it a day.

    • March 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Put a nip of Knob Creek into a Terrapin Moo Hoo and you won’t have to wait to find out! 🙂

  7. March 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    I guess that I have so many good local options now, even ordering a Stone or Sierra Nevada makes me feel a little guilty I’m not supporting my hometown brews.

    That said, the GI bottle of King Henry I got as a gift will be enjoyed on my 3rd wedding anniversary next month.

    • March 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

      Being from NJ, there are very few “hometown” brews to support. If I moved to Colorado, I could drink what I normally like AND thump my chest that I’m helping the home team. That’d be pretty sweet – me on my mile-high horse!

      • March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

        If you did that, then I’d have to make room for you up here! 😉

      • March 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

        🙂 I’m a lucky girl.

      • March 23, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

        So drink Mid-Atlantic beers–remember your can fit 3 or more of many of our eastern states into one CO.

        • March 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

          Or the most of the eastern seaboard. California would cover 19 New Jerseys.

    • March 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Yeah, that King Henry was enough for me to go back on my GI ban.

  8. March 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Cheers to sparking thoughtful discussion! I think the labels you’ve chosen, though, are problematic and only add to the confusion. The term ‘Craft Brewery’, though, has a pretty concrete definition (if you look past the ever-expanding barrel limits to keep Boston Beer Co. in the ranks) by the Brewers Association. According to that definition, a craft brewery can’t be owned by Big Beer-because ownership is actually part of the definition. ‘Delicious’ is definitely subjective, but shouldn’t it be a requisite of anything you consume? Even if you limit yourself by ownership, why would you drink anything outside of the ‘Delicious’ circle? Isn’t that the point? I don’t care how big or small a company is or anything else about it, why would I drink the beer if it’s not good?

    I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument for ownership being a major priority in the beer I drink. There seem to be many people who refuse to buy, and even badmouth, a brewery once its owned (wholly or in part) by Big Beer–but do these same people carefully investigate the ownership of every beer they buy? The rationale to me just doesn’t make sense. What is feared by part of your dollar going to Big Beer, who pumped capital into a brewery making a beer you like? Is it that they’ll eventually buy out enough craft beer to choke out the competition and dilute all of the nation’s beer? As long as you drink beer you like and don’t buy other beer you don’t (say American light lagers aren’t your thing), someone will continue to make it. I’m an avid supporter of my local breweries, and those in planning, but I don’t buy into the villianizing of Big Beer as a way to promote and further the craft segment.

    • March 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

      So buy based on qulity, and someone will always brew the beers you like? Sounds good to me.

    • March 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      Amen to that. Quality and cost are the determiners, nothing else need be considered in the equation.

    • jf1smith
      March 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

      My issue with the partial and full buyouts of craft breweries by the macros isn’t fear of competition, though the battle for shelf space is getting rougher and uglier by the minute. It’s the concept of supporting via my purchases, the very corporations who spend millions every year lobbying for the status quo in distribution laws and container sizes across the country. You still can’t buy a 750ml in Alabama in no small part due to the lobbying by the macros and their distributors. Maybe if I had only lived in a state where there was no ugly fight for the right to brew and sell, it would only be about the beer. But in the South in particular, it seems self-defeating to give them my money to spend to prevent me from buying the beers I would like to be allowed to buy.

  9. March 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    This is a no-brainer for the most part. I suspect most of us would drink any of these beers in the right context, but #5 is clearly the category that loses out here.#6 just doesn’t exist. It’s like how Libertarians have this ideal view of the world that doesn’t exist so their utopia of liberties can never really happen.

  10. One hour30
    March 24, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    I prefer 1,3 & 4 but will drink any beer that is available. Last choice would be the big brew companies and their yells faux brew

  11. tronto
    March 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    I prefer to drink beer and joke around instead of math equations. I see enough numbers at work…

    • March 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      But then you’ll never discover what IPA to the 3rd power is.

      HINT: Pliny’s nephew…

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