Craft brewers — we think of them as the sanctuaries from the Budweisers and Millers of the world. But as you defiantly sip that grapefruit cactus, octuple-hopped chili ale, know it might actually be property of the big guys.
Bud and Bud Light's market share has been slipping, but their parent company's niche brands — like Goose Island — are trending upward, like most of the indie market.
So it's no surprise it pays to be small-ish. If you're looking at revenue per hectoliter (that's metric for a lot of beer), the largest independent of the bunch, Samuel Adams, has outpaced its much bigger rivals for years, though some recent forecasts are a bit gloomier.
Which means we're hearing the old rumors again — that bigger operations might buy out billionaire Jim Koch, head of the Boston-based brewery. But why would somebody like him ever give up such a seemingly sweet gig?
Put yourself in the shoes of the smaller brewers. If you get bought out, things get easier for your baby — the business you built with your blood, sweat and tears. It gets a wider distribution, and your swill is cheaper, so more people drink it. And we haven't even touched on finances, supplies, property, equipment and other headaches that are now someone else's problem.
Founder of Bell's Brewery Larry Bell kinda summed up what many smaller brewers like him are feeling when he told Bloomberg: "We are in the middle of the end of the beginning of craft beer. All the pioneers who started it off are getting older, and they have to look at an exit strategy."
So the next time that you're annoyed that your favorite small brewer just took that exit and "sold out," remember it's nothing personal. It's just business.