Craft Beer vs Big Beer – Is it really a Competition?

Denver Brews & Booze was founded with the founder’s love of beer, and let’s be clear, this company will end with a focus and love of beer.  Back in the 80s we watched Smokey & the Bandit, which was all about smuggling Coors and Bud across a middle-point in America that was forbidden.  Just the other day a guest on our tour was recalling some of the  crazy trips they took across that line to acquire the illegal brew, and realizing in hindsight how ridiculous that was.   It all seems silly now that we are 30 years into the age of craft brewing.

The big brewers are getting killed by the craft brewers, and American drinkers are winning.  It is a true testament to competition.  It is hard to believe the little guy has overcome the anti-competitive pressures of big money.  This is America, land of the free, but there is still a lot of anti-competitive activity in  this country.

Take Denver for example.  Did you know until Uber & Lift came into the market we had not had anything resembling a cab company enter our market since 1927.  This is because driving passengers around Denver requires a special license, and anyone that has a license can fight anyone that applies to get a new license, and they can do so just because they don’t want competition.  This almost kept us from existing.  Anti-competition is disgusting,

So, craft brewers have not had an easy road, and the fight is not over, but they have changed everything, and made beer interesting.  In fact, it’s almost amazing boring Bud, and Cautious Coors are still in business.  A new article just came out about the recent assault by the mass producers of beer on the small craft brewers.  Surely you saw the Superbowl commercials where the big brewers pick on craft for having more than barley in their recipe.  I really don’t get it.  This is like saying I prefer water over all the other drink creations we have in this world, because it’s unadulterated.  Don’t get me wrong we need healthy water, but people, we have invented better beverages for enjoyment, and those inventions have made life better, and more interesting.

I sat down at the bar with some good ol’ boys from Oklahoma the other day, and I love those southern folks.  I am one , myself, but these guys drank Coors all night.  I asked them why they didn’t try some of the good craft on tap, and they said “nope, I don’t like that fancy stuff; it’s not real beer.”  Craft beer can be stronger, sweeter, heavier, hoppier.  It can have chocolate, pumpkin, rose buds, honey, agave, blueberries.  There is a craft beer for every palette and every season, and these guys are just saying: “nah, I’ll take my Coors, thank you.”  It makes me wonder if this is one of those “man things,”  like you know, “a real man doesn’t drink beer with fruit in it.”  Maybe it is fear of change.  Don’t be scared guys, it’s called flavor, and it won’t hurt you, I promise.

Budweiser, Coors, and all of those producers have been losing market share for years, and their only solution is to buy out the most successful craft producers, after they have already lost part of their soul, and much of their creativity.

Centennial Tours beer & cocktails

Renegade Brewery & Centennial Tours

 

This drives us bonkers!  The big boys are acquiring the successful producers just as their beers get boring.  Breckenridge is an excellent example in Colorado.  Breckenridge was built on interesting and tasty beers, but the creativity was crushed by their success.  Budweiser just bought them out, made some people rich, and now all they have is a nice restaurant in Littleton.  They traded passion and creativity for dollars.

The big boys have one goal, and that is to make beer that is simple, consistent, affordable, low in alcohol, and less filling.  It doesn’t matter that the beer completely lacks in creativity, strength, and hops.  When is the last time you saw a Coors (or affiliates) Imperial IPA with 8+ ABV, and 70+ IBUs?  We probably never will, and until they realize this, and spend that money to do so, they will keep losing market share.

We have had guests on our tours that were Coors employees, and they suggested we should all work together, and be nice.  They claimed we are all in it together.  Not true.  They are in it to make money first, craft brewers are in it to make interesting beer first.  Customers want variety.  Affordability is less important for the craft lover.  Age the beer in a whiskey barrel, and customers will pay the extra $5 for it.

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The big boys think that buying up the $10-20-million  breweries will allow them to weather the storm.  It won’t.  Most of these newly acquired breweries will be negatively affected by the acquisition, and all the fun and creativity will be sucked out of them, if it hasn’t already.

When is the last time you had an exciting sour, or IPA from a big brewer?  Budweiser is so proud of their Shock Top.  Who are they kidding.  The bottom line is the big boys can never compete with the local, craft breweries and distilleries.  We should all support our local brewer/distiller, because they are the ones that are creating.  They are the ones hiring the majority of beer employees, and they are the ones growing our economy.  It is not the fat cats.  They are just trying to maximize profits.

Craft beer will grow to be one of the most important parts of Centennial Tours, very soon!

Scott Witso is one of the best brewers I know. He creates interesting beer, and provides a unique ambiance that people love. You won’t get that at the                          big brewery in Golden.

As small business owners we appreciate the desire of the business owner to grow, and to reduce the tax demands in their infancy, but we have little sympathy for the multi-millionaire that just wants to line the pockets of their shareholders.  For all you big brewers trying to figure out what the problem is, and those of you that think you’re so smart, well, it is really simple: make interesting beer.  Forget about margins for one second.  I don’t think they can.

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