Craft beer buyouts took an interesting turn last week when news broke that Anheuser-Busch InBev had purchased a minority stake in RateBeer.com though its tech-focused branch ZX Ventures. Now, seeing breweries sell to the mega beer giant has become almost the norm, but seeing them go after other aspects of the industry is a bit of game changer.
For those of you not familiar, Rate Beer is one of the two leading beer review websites in the country, probably the world. Along with Beer Advocate, Rate Beer has been a destination for years for craft beer drinkers to leave their feedback on the various craft beers they drink or to plan ahead and see how well a beer has been reviewed prior to purchasing it. Having no ties to a brewery, it seemed to be an unbiased and honest place to get reviews (though, we all know you can really only take these sites so seriously as people can tend to abuse their power to review beers and leave non-sensible and uninformed ratings). The website was also well known and respected for it’s annual awards and rankings of the top beers, breweries, taprooms, etc. They even started holding a giant beer festival celebrating those top breweries which was well attended by the brewers themselves.
Now though, it appears that they sold part of the company about eight months ago, but held the terms of the deal silent “because the two sides wanted to get ‘points on the board’ to prove the value of the partnership without the ‘disruption’ of making it public,” according to Good Beer Hunting. The sale is no longer hidden though and the backlash is sure to ensue. One brewery, Dogfish Head, has already asked to be removed from the site. When Wicked Weed Brewery was purchased by AB-INBEV just a few weeks ago, the backlash from other breweries reached what seemed to be an all-time high. Collaborations were drain-poured, breweries pulled out of pouring at their annual festival, and many breweries spoke out very publicly about their distaste for Wicked Weeds decision to sell. Consumers alike were equally put-off, pledging to never buy their beer again. It’ll be interesting to see how breweries react to Rate Beer. Will they follow suit of Dogfish Head and request to be removed? Will consumers now boycott a website they visited on a regular basis? Will the awards given out to the breweries still be proudly displayed?
It’s an interesting time for craft beer to say the least. The small breweries keep fighting for marketshare and the big guys keep buying up everything in their path. They now control the largest online homebrew store in the county in Northern Brewer. They have partnered with Conde Naste to launch the publication October. Who knows what will be in store for craft breweries next, but we can only assume this is not the end of that attack. In the meantime, you can read Rate Beer founder, Joe Tucker’s public address on the partnership here.