This morning congress held a hearing to discuss the pending merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, which, among other things would make for the most awkwardly named beer company since the farm brewery opened at Lickinghole Creek. The Congressional Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights questioned Anheuser Busch CEO Carlos Brito, Molson Coors CEO Mark Hunter, along with other experts from the beer community about the possibility that this merger would force smaller brewers out of business or into buyouts. One way that could happen, opponents say, is through a challenge in securing ingredients—there is some concern that a merged ABISABM would buy up most of the world’s barley and hops leaving nothing for brewers who purchase in smaller quantities. Another concern raised is that smaller brewers wouldn’t be able to get distribution, making it next to impossible to buy their beers in stores or bars.
Most of the hearing took place in the weeds of the beer economy with Brito insisting that the merger has almost nothing to do with the booming craft beer scene in America and everything to do with expanding AB-InBev into new markets like Africa where SAB is based.
Senator Al Franken from Minnesota broke through the heavy analysis though, with a brief anecdote about the place of reverence beer has in his state.
We had a 3 week government shutdown [in 2011] that suspended critical state services including transportation construction, criminal background checks, the issuing of fishing and hunting and boating licenses…But Minnesotans really weren’t putting pressure on the state legislature or the governor to resolve this. But then the state beer licenses expired. And more than 300 bars and liquor stores were no longer able to sell beer because the alcohol license had expired and then the public became outraged. And this got settled right away. So beer is very important to Minnesotans.
Once again, beer united us in a way that our leaders never could.
We’ve got another possible shutdown of the federal government later this week. If Paul Ryan wants to keep should figure out a way to make sure that Washington D.C. remains a dry district until the difference on the left and right get resolved.
As for the merger itself, it still needs approval from American regulators before it can go through. We’ll have to wait and see what effects today’s hearing will have on the process.