Selling Out: A Cursed Blessing of a Craft Alcohol Trend

With the news of our beloved, hometown craft brewers, Anchor Steam Brewing, being sold to Sapporo Holdings a while back and the continuation of more and more producers selling out to big booze we felt it was time to revisit our thoughts on this ongoing craft alcohol trend. Clearly, The Crafty Cask, is all about craft alcohol and craft alcohol producers. Supporting the craft alcohol community and helping it grow and be as successful as possible is core to our mission and what we’re all about. So how does news of amazing small, craft alcohol producers selling out make us feel? Let’s talk a bit about why we, as part of the craft community, get so upset and why sometimes we don’t with news of corporate giants acquiring craft producers…

Our Point of View on Selling Out

First, I think we all feel a bit like we failed personally if we’re being honest. Drink more, people! Get more friends to stop drinking the mass marketed stuff! Ask, no demand, that our favorite bars and bottle shops stock the craft producers we love! Could we have done more to help the producer be more successful and avoid the sell-out? Maybe but maybe not. Maybe regardless of how much they made on their own, this was the right decision for their business. Either way though, I love that we feel the power to enact change and I hope that’s never lost in our amazing craft community.

Discarded beer caps - Another craft alcohol trend

Then, because we’re so committed to the craft we’re also sad that we can’t, in good conscience, keep enjoying that beer, spirit or wine anymore. And no, it’s not necessarily because we think the liquid in the bottle is going to change overnight. But we do believe that “Corporate Giants” (keep in mind, our founder worked in Corporate America herself for over 15 years) are all about cost cutting. And with a simple yet artisan product such as alcohol there is only so much cost cutting you can do before you start cutting into the quality of the core ingredients. We’d be naive if we believed that was never going to happen…even if it takes years.

Lastly, we’re frustrated that the local community that helped found and support that craft producer will no longer be one of the primary beneficiaries of its success. While the local tasting room staff will still keep some dollars local, most likely the rest of the money made by the company will become global income and no longer benefit the local community as much as it once had. Drink local is one of our mottos here at The Crafty Cask, and by local we mean that the owners of the company live within driving distance of their tanks, barrels and stills. Truly owned and made locally. Total bummer that Anchor Steam no longer meets that criteria in our native San Francisco.

There are, of course, lots of other reasons to be saddened and angry when one of our craft producers gets acquired…but in reality those are our core 3. And the first one honestly hurts the most, because we don’t want craft and success to be mutually exclusive. Honestly, we don’t think they are…it just depends on your definition of success. For some craft producers that definition of success includes global distribution and consumers in every corner of the world having access to their amazing product. Can you fault that? We really can’t if tapping into this craft alcohol trend of selling big someday was part of their vision and dream. But we do believe that as consumers we vote with our dollars and once a craft producer sells they no longer need our financial support since they now have big marketing budgets to help them grow and succeed.

This Craft Alcohol Trend is Likely Here to Stay…Craft alcohol trends - big beer

So while we don’t like it when craft producers sell to major corporations anymore than any of you do, you also won’t ever hear us badmouthing those who do. This is a craft alcohol trend that is here to stay. In our heart of hearts we trust that those closest to the company know better than we do what is best for their company, brand and consumers. We truly have no understanding of the situation and options that the craft producer was faced with when making that decision.

So we’ll simply pour one out for yet another lost craft producer…but we will also congratulate them on their success and wish them the best of luck. We hope you do too. After all, there are plenty more craft producers for us to enjoy and support and The Crafty Cask is happy to help you find them. Think of one loss as our opportunity to pay it forward and support the next up and comer and hope that they’re as successful as the one we lost…and maybe even have to contemplate the tough sell-out the decision themselves some day.

This post has been updated since it’s original publication in November 2017

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