The Latest Craft Beer Buyout Has More Fallout Than Usual

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Asheville's Wicked Weed is being publicly rebuffed by fellow brewers after selling itself to the world's biggest beer company.

“Selling out” is a double-edged sword. The idea of being a sellout has a negative connotation that, for a business, can alienate its base. But for some companies, selling out is the best way to reach new customers. As craft brewer Wicked Weed recently found out though, the implications of selling out can affect more than your consumers; it can also have repercussions in your own industry. And its friends over at Jester King Brewery have made it pretty clear they aren’t pleased about Wicked Weed’s choice to team up with Anheuser-Busch InBev.

 

Earlier this week, Wicked Weed, a brewery based in the craft beer mecca of Asheville, North Carolina, announced it would be the latest craft brewery to be bought out by AB InBev’s The High End, a division of the massive brewer focused on acquiring smaller producers. Though these kinds of deals—and there have been plenty of them in the past few years—are always heavily discussed within the industry, it’s less common to see one brewery publically denounce the decision of another. Yet, though Austin, Texas’s Jester King still considers those at Wicked Weed “friends,” the brewery has also made it clear that the two breweries’ business relationship will not be the same moving forward.

“This has been a difficult day for us,” Jester King founder Jeffrey Stuffings began in a post on the company website. He later continued, “It’s no secret that Wicked Weed has been one of our closest friends in the beer industry. Regardless of what has transpired, we’ll always consider the people of Wicked Weed friends, and want the best for them and their families.”

But things immediately take a turn. “With that said, we have some core principles that define who we are as a brewery, and those principles must not be compromised. One of our core principles is that we do not sell beer from AB In-Bev or its affiliates,” Stuffings writes. “We’ve chosen this stance, not because of the quality of the beer, but because a portion of the money made off of selling it is used to oppose the interests of craft brewers. In Texas, large brewers (and their distributors) routinely oppose law changes that would help small, independent brewers. We choose not to support these large brewers because of their political stances, and in some cases, their economic practices as well.” As a result, despite calling Wicked Weed beer “some of the best in the world,” Stuffings says “it pains us to say that we won’t be carrying Wicked Weed anymore at Jester King.”

Beyond axing sales of Wicked Weed’s beers, the Jester King founder also said he’d be pulling out of an active collaboration project with Wicked Weed. Apparently, the two brewers were working on a brew that involved blending barrel-aged beers from both companies. That’s now off the table. “We’d never do a collaboration with Anheuser-Busch or any company they own,” Stuffings told Eater Austin, “which unfortunately now includes Wicked Weeds. The news this morning came as quite a surprise to us. We will no longer be part of the collaboration we had in the works with Wicked Weed.”

The saddest part might be that, since small breweries rarely let beer go to waste, if Jester King had already started barrel-aging its half of that collaboration, that beer will probably still be released. A name like “Jester King Broken-Hearted Unblended Barrel-Aged Beer” would probably be fitting.

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