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Well, whatd’yaknow? It’s official! The New York Times DealBook blog reports today that Anheuser-Busch InBev will finally be purchasing the other half of Grupo Modelo for a cool $20.1 billion. I use the word “finally” because this was being considered way back in 2008. But a good deal just takes time, right?
Back in July 2008, Grupo Modelo’s stock price was hovering just below the 50 mark. Last month, its price was double that, and the recent rumors of a sale have boosted it even higher. Years ago, there was sabre-rattling over remaining independent, which most folks chalked up to trying to inflate the eventual sale price. The numbers you need to know, according to DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, are that A-BInBev “will pay $9.15 for each share of Grupo Modelo, a 30 percent premium to the company’s closing share price on June 22 before the deal was first reported. The brewers said the deal would create a company with combined annual revenue of $47 billion with operations in 24 countries and 150,000 employees.”
Because Grupo Modelo also had a 50% stake in Crown Imports, LLC (which handles importing, distributing, and marketing in the US), it will sell its half to its joint venture partner, Constellation Brands. Interestingly, they’re rolling up Dirección de Fábricas, a bottle manufacturer that mainly supplies Grupo Modelo, into the corporate structure.
Despite drastic wealth disparity within Mexico, its economic strength is only growing due to its geography and position as an emerging Western market, based on external desire for its natural resources (oil) and steady internal consumer demand. The World Bank predicts steady growth over time and a closing of the income gap within the country. From a brewing perspective, if you combine that demand with the aggregation of related goods and services (as in, bottle manufacturing), and you have another fine example of Carlos Brito’s continuing quest to make A-BInBev the leanest, meanest brewing conglomerate in the world.
What does this mean for the price of your Corona this summer? Hard to say, but you can rest assured that A-BInBev is dogged in its aggressive approach to maintaining top billing in an ever shrinking global industrial brewing market.
A guy once told me he saw the phrase “There are no windmills in Fort Collins” on a bumper sticker.
I wasn’t sure if he was full of shit, so I Googled it. No results. Now, I still can’t accurately determine whether this individual is indeed full of said shit, but I can take the gist of what he was saying about Colorado’s own New Belgium Brewing and run with it.
He’s from North Carolina, a state in which New Belgium has been distributed for quite some time, so what does that tell you? But the fact that the brewery has expanded into Virginia should also tell you something. It should tell you that as craft beer’s slice of the overall beer market’s pie grows, there will be some big winners.
Set aside your opinions of an environmentally-friendly organization shipping its product from the Rockies to the Appalachians. There’s another reason New Belgium’s entry into the Virginia beer market should be astonishing: their method of expansion.
When New Belgium decided they wanted their product on the shelves of beer stores in Virginia, they didn’t write pleading letters, make a slew of persistent phone calls, or draft emails at two-thirty in the morning begging distributors in the commonwealth to carry their product. No, they walked into this state with a team of experts, asking those distributors one question, “what can you do for us?”
One has to realize that the game has changed since the days of yore. A “craft” brewery such as New Belgium can indeed have the upper hand in negotiations for getting their beer to market. They scout their prospective targets, research the hell out of it, listen to distributor after distributor pitch a gimmick as to why they would be the best suited to carry such a mighty brand, and then deliver. These guys do their homework. Brands can have cachet. And as long as people keep buying, they’ll keep brewing.
No longer is it just the guy down the street with a mash paddle and a dream. It’s serious business, and the craft breweries that are thriving on a larger scale have figured that out. Trust me, before this thing went down, people were rolling out the red carpet for these guys. There were meetings all over town here in Richmond, and among the people who are legally entitled to be the middleman, the anticipation was high. Everyone knew it would be a cash cow, but the problem with that is the heifer needs a lot of attention because it wants to keep growing.
Fact of the matter is, customers had a relative target date as to when they’d be on the shelves in Virginia. Demand was there. It was just a matter of time before the brewery dictated the terms of the arrangement.
Maybe there are no windmills in Fort Collins because they’ve got no need to tilt at them. In a quixotic twist of fate, they’re now calling the shots.
I had it all typed up and ready to go, but something was keeping me from pulling the trigger…
Now that World Beer Festival Richmond has been canceled for 2011, I don’t know if it’s even worth posting. I’ll let you be the judge of that.
In 2009, All About Beer magazine announced, somewhat furtively, that they would be bringing their renowned World Beer Festival to Richmond that summer. When I heard the news, I drifted back to my time wandering the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, enjoying rare beers at timed tappings and soaking up all the information I could, a truly unforgettable experience. The excitement in Richmond was palpable. The small but growing beer scene around town became electric with the thought of rows upon rows of stands offering exotic and interesting brews from faraway lands. And all this, right in our own backyard.
We had arrived.
Naturally, we set up a tasting to celebrate. It was originally planned to coincide with the festival. The idea, aside from bringing together the usual suspects from around town, was that the tasting would have also served the purpose of offering out-of-town participants and the All About Beer crew a chance to join us and see what Richmond’s beer scene was truly all about: homebrewers, commercial brewers, distributors, retailers, beer lovers, and weirdos. An eclectic cast, to say the least.
However, All About Beer’s support for the inaugural festival seemed to be, shall we say, less than adequate. The festival was ultimately postponed for the summer of 2010. The reason given? It was stated that the festival organizers needed more time to plan something truly spectacular, and they didn’t want to rush putting on an event that wouldn’t live up to the standards that World Beer Festival is known for.
I get that. Why put on a half-assed festival? That’d be bad for everyone involved. Disappointed festival goers, injured reputation for World Beer Festival, and a bowl of sour grapes for everyone.
They did, however, send their main man and festival organizer to the tasting. He passed out some plastic tasting glasses from Columbia’s recent staging of World Beer Festival, and some t-shirts with logos, then he was gone. It looked like positive outreach to the Richmond beer community, despite the festival having been put off a year.
So in 2010, All About Beer planned to do it right. They teamed up with a local charity, and an alternative weekly newspaper in town. They offered a tasting at Capital Ale House reserved for members of the media, hoping to educate them, and thus, their readers, about the variety and wonders of beer. They took out ads announcing the festival. Daniel Bradford even made it to Richmond once or twice to say hello.
I worked that year’s festival, pouring sips of beer for patrons at a furious pace, all the while babbling about styles, attenuation, brewery history, and whatever else beer-related that came to mind. I met a host of local people I’d never seen before, raving about beers they had tried or just raving in general. Overall, working the festival was a great experience, albeit a grueling one.
The response to last year’s World Beer Festival in Richmond was a mixed bag. Many newcomers to the beer fold seemed satisfied, their tickets to one session (or both) helping them reach or exceed their desired level of intoxication. But the VIPs, the guys shelling out an extra $35, seemed underwhelmed by most everything except the air-conditioned bathrooms. Some said the festival opened doors to them that they didn’t know existed, while others said they’d seen it all before. There were also grumblings among certain industry types that the festival was poorly organized, and that mismanagement of the event caused them a lot of grief.
Fast-forward to 2011. Less than two months before the festival, there’s been little effort on All About Beer’s part to make the public aware. No one is in the loop on what they’ve got planned; distributors don’t know what’s going on, the public doesn’t know what breweries will be on hand, and it doesn’t seem like many movers and shakers have been contacted to help make it all happen. They’ve also hired new guns tasked with organizing the whole thing. Though they haven’t had much of a presence in town, they’re now making their rounds to either gauge or try to ratchet up the level of support. They talk to distributors, bloggers, and seemingly anybody willing to grant them an audience.
It appears to have minimal effect. The reaction is neutral to cold. The support network just isn’t there this time around. Why?
Why, with a growing army of beer lovers pledging their allegiance and paychecks to “craft” beer, attending the ubiquitous beer dinners and tastings that were, only years earlier, a thing of lore… why is there a lack of support for this festival in Richmond?
You might not be able to find anyone that will openly admit it, but for various reasons, this year’s festival was met with a lot of skepticism from industry types in this town. This may be inching out on the bough of speculation, but I’m willing to bet that most of it stems from feeling cheated, the feeling that All About Beer is bringing their festival to Richmond, playing by their rules, and when they’re done, they just pack up and leave.
So anyway, there I am, at the end of April, sitting at Mekong with the gents from All About Beer, imbibing our favorite beverage and discussing the upcoming festival. These guys want to know how they can make this year’s festival better than last year’s, ways they can improve the overall experience. They’ve invited several bloggers (and perhaps other online media types) to join, but only a few actually assemble. Their PR person doesn’t show. Tacitly, they would also like support from the local online community in promoting the festival.
It was openly admitted by the organizers of World Beer Festival that they sometimes have difficulty getting involvement from breweries. That’s not the first time I’d heard this refrain thrown around regarding the festivals. Now, I can’t say for sure, but it could be the demands and requirements that breweries must meet to dole out samples of their products to the public under the auspices of All About Beer. Some individuals more knowledgeable than myself may be able to speak to that.
Regardless, we offer our advice over the course of the conversation, outlining concerns to the representatives from All About Beer along the way. The main issue I raised was the lack of overt and year-round support for the roughly-defined Richmond beer scene. It’s all fine and dandy to shake hands and kiss babies at Mekong every once in a while, but anyone can do that. Some folks, specifically in the savvy beer market, are smart enough to realize when they’re being reeled in.
In short, it would require a true, sweeping commitment to Richmond as a beer town. But how can you help a town that can’t seem to help itself? With the quick demise of the Shockoe Craft Beer Festival, and a much-rumored but yet-to-be-announced homegrown festival to take its place as the River City’s premier beer event, what’s Richmond to do?
The point is, there are several possibilities as to why we’re not having World Beer Festival in Richmond this year. Whatever the reason(s), the festival has been canceled just days after announcing tickets were available for purchase.
So, now that you’ve gotten your refund, what are you up to June 18th?
Information has come down that Floyd County’s very own Shooting Creek Brewery will be shutting its doors for good. (The link to their website was not working at the time of this post.) Apparently assistant brewer Jason Anderson left the ranks back in the fall, which meant that brewmaster Brett Nichols has been going it alone since that time. It appears that personal matters have caused the farm to be sold and the brewery to be closed.
It’s a shame that this upstart brewery from Southwest Virginia that was beginning to gain steam, even making headway here in Richmond, has to call it quits. In a time of growth and expansion, the closing of Shooting Creek is certainly a setback for Virginia beer.
However, you can still request to get some of the last drops the brewery has to offer around town. Be sure to ask for it by name, before it’s all gone.
Well, with the news of Haxall Brewing Company eventually bringing the brewpub back to downtown this summer, let it be noted that Hardywood Park Craft Brewery plans to hit Richmond mid-June. That’s right, more craft beer for the River City!
Hardywood Park is the brainchild of Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh. McKay, director of marketing for L. Knife & Son, has been behind successful beer-related items such as the BeerCloud mobile application and GreatBrewers.com. You can read more in their official press release.
This brings a new official brewery into the Richmond fold, something that has been long awaited by craft beer fans in the area.
I guess the cat’s out of the proverbial bag on the closing of the short-lived Friend Or Pho in Richmond, so I can now post some thoughts about it here.
The idea was simple enough; take a Vietnamese staple and serve it alongside an array of craft beer. What could go wrong? Mekong has been doing just that for quite some time, so the concept should have worked in the Fan.
Except for the follow-through on the food side.
From what I could gather from other, more refined palates around town, the pho left a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, I like dining out, but most of the time I’m checking the draft list or seeing what’s available in bottles when I enter an establishment. So this little fact had a minimal effect on my opinion of the place since I’d never eaten there.
However, it’s now being converted to a New Orleans themed restaurant called Lady Nawlins. If the first theme didn’t hit a homerun, it’s hard to believe this new incarnation will. But that’s for the foodies to decide.
It remains to be seen how the beer selection will fare over time at Lady Nawlins, but if a key member of the current staff is being retained, it may not change much at all, which is a good thing. Not to mention the quick turnaround time. From its official closing date on Sunday, it’s alleged that there will be only a four day period the restaurant will be closed.
Due to Virginia’s ABC laws requiring a certain portion of an establishment’s sales to be food-related, it is nearly impossible to get by on just beer alone. It’s live by the plate, die by the plate.
UPDATE: Looks like the beer selection is going to be severely cut back under the new ownership. For as much as craft beer has grown in Richmond, you’ve got to wonder about its staying power, especially when it comes down to making a profit.
“I hate beer writers.” – Dan Shelton
The Shelton brothers are no strangers to controversy, and indeed seem to invite it with generalities such as the above quote. With those words, Dan Shelton launched a salvo aimed not only at beer writers, but the craft beer community at large. What Shelton goes on to discuss in the article that appeared in the Valley Advocate is ultimately what craft beer has been founded upon: a culture of promotion.
The article’s author Mark Roessler paraphrases Shelton’s sentiment that beer writers are “doing little more than parroting the marketing-speak of advertising companies,” and that they “are largely to blame for an industry and drinking public that’s more taken with gimmickry than artistry.”
Beyond that blanket statement, there is some truth. It’s a strong stance to take, and it’s unclear if Shelton is referring to professional beer writers and beer bloggers, another issue that has raised eyebrows in the past. Beer writing being the primary reason for gimmickry in the craft beer world might be a specious argument, but that doesn’t mean it plays no part in persuading a growing number of consumers. Does that necessarily lead to breweries producing “extreme” beer? Perhaps. But the gimmickry could simply be chalked up as a typically competitive American approach to brewing, which is in turn driven by consumer demand for something uniquely bigger, badder, and bolder.
At times there appears to be an inherent bias built into beer writing, that promotion is inextricably linked with prose. Even by discussing topics such as homebrewing, it is in essence a promotion of beer education, which is ultimately beneficial to craft beer in general. Furthermore, such a tightly-knit and familial community is bound to have its issues when it comes to bias and objectivity.
At the end of the day, it’s ultimately up to the consumer. In the era of “content is king,” where that content is more readily accessible than ever before, the onus is upon the individual to determine which products they will consume and the sources from which they will derive information.
A healthy dose of criticism could be a sign that craft beer is growing up.
I sat down to open up a rare bottle of beer I purchased on a trip made to Philadelphia over the summer. Just because I lord over many bottles waiting to be plucked from their sanctuary and tossed into the fridge, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate each one in its own special way.
After prying off the cap, nothing. Nada. No indication of carbonation whatsoever. So it’s an Old Ale. Maybe it’s just intentionally low on carbonation, and the pour will indicate that it indeed has some bubbles. But no, completely flat with a small ring of soapy bubbles from where I poured it with vigor.
Looking online, I found that other people have had the same problem with this and other beers from the same brewery. Others reported bottles exploding at random. Which led me to wonder, how important is quality control to you? On one of the recent episodes of Brew Masters with Sam Calagione, I recall him saying something to the effect of ‘vintners can blame the weather or a bad crop, but brewers have to get it right every time.’
What do you think? Are you more forgiving of mistakes from a craft brewery producing highly-acclaimed beers? What about small breweries producing just mediocre beers? Or is a high standard for quality control a fundamental part of operating a brewery?