'High End' Beers in 18-Packs May Cost Less, But Could Hurt Independent Brewers
AB InBev plans to sell larger cases of Goose Island, Devils Backbone, and Golden Road.
The battle for craft beer drinkers has a new look: 15- and 18-packs. Clearly, these large package sizes come with advantages: Drinkers can grab more beers, usually at a lower unit cost, in one convenient carrying case. But before you blindly stock up on beer for your next barbecue, it’s important to realize that these larger formats can come at a cost to your favorite local independent breweries.
For years, dating back to 2011 with the purchase of Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch has been aggressively looking to gain a foothold in the craft beer market by buying out formerly independent brewers. That list of “High End” brands now includes well-known names like 10 Barrel, Elysian, Four Peaks, Golden Road, and Wicked Weed. And though the number of buyouts has slowed as of late, A-B’s interest in continuing to gain craft market share has not. According to Brewbound, Felipe Szpigel, president of A-B’s High End division, said that one way the company is looking to grow its brands is by increasing the number of beers sold in these larger pack sizes.
“Consumers are demanding it,” Szpigel was quoted as saying. “After Founders kicked it off and opened that space, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be addressing it as well.”
Michigan’s Founders Brewing Company—which is 30 percent owned by Mahou-San Miguel Group and is no longer considered “craft” by the Brewers Association—began putting its top-selling All Day IPA into 15-packs in 2014, but left the price the same as when it was sold in 12-packs. Though this kind of move is great for All Day IPA drinkers, small brands that don’t have the financial wiggle room to lower unit costs can be put under additional financial pressure if beer drinkers begin gravitating to these cheaper options.
Obviously, Anheuser-Busch has plenty of financial leeway, and so switching to 15- and 18-packs is a move the company is willing to take. As Brewbound explains, beers like Goose Island IPA and 312, Golden Road Wolf Pup Session IPA and Breckenridge sampler packs can already be found in 15-packs for about $19.99 or less. Devils Backbone Trail Angel Weiss is going to join that list in the next couple months, while Blue Point Toasted Lager is set to start selling in 18-packs in a couple weeks. Szpigel said other brands and beers are likely to follow this trend.
Some may argue that increasing demand by lowering prices is capitalism, and frankly, that’s a fair point. But capitalism also allows consumers to use other information to make an informed decision. For instance, Szpigel reportedly said that sales of Golden Road Wolf Pup have increased 472 percent since switching to 15-packs. That’s a lot more beer being sold, and it’s almost certainly coming at someone else’s expense—potentially an independent brand that doesn’t have the support of the world’s largest brewing conglomerate to help keep its prices down.