FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Giant Corporations Want to Control All of Your Beer

by

The variety of the craft-brewing wave sweeping the US makes drinking beer more fun than ever. Maine’s Flying Dog Brewery brews a beer from local oysters, and the Delaware-based Dogfish Head uses an ancient beer recipe they dug up from 2,700-year-old drinking vessels in the tomb of King Midas.

But as this trend spreads, there’s another revolution going on that’s concentrating most of the world’s beer into the hands of just a few mega-corporations. These kings of beer are riding the wave of craft brewing enthusiasm, buying up smaller breweries, and duping customers along the way.

“If you want to listen to Milli Vanilli, I suppose that’s a choice you get to make. Just know that you’re making that choice,” is how Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Company put it.

Take Blue Point, Long Island’s first microbrewery. A couple of home brewers started the company ten years ago, but this year, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought Blue Point for $24 million. John Hall, the founder of Chicago’s Goose Island beer, told a reporter in 2013, “Goose Island is a craft beer, period.” Yet it too was sold to AB InBev in 2011.

Whereas craft beers only made up about six percent of the beer sales in the US in 2012, AB InBev owns almost half of the US market. Together the top-four beer companies – AB InBev, MillerCoors, Heineken, and Modelo – brew 78 percent of the beer sold in the US.  The diversity of beer has changed – in 1978, the US was home to just 89 breweries, and as of last year, that number had climbed to 2,336—but the craft and microbrew boom still seems unlikely to make a major dent in the corporations’ power.

The strange brew of each dominant beer company’s name speaks of the rapid monopolization of the industry over the past ten years. The story of AB InBev, the biggest beer corporation in the world, is emblematic of this shift. In 2004 Brazil’s Companhia de Bebidas das Américas (AmBev) merged with Belgian’s InterBrew to form InBev, and in 2008, this conglomerate went on to take over Anheuser-Busch to form AB InBev. In the process, they gained one of China’s biggest brewers, Harbin, and Canada’s Labatt beer company.

The world’s second biggest brewing conglomerate, SAB Miller, has followed a similar path. The mega-brewer formed after South African Breweries purchased Miller in 2002 and bought Bavaria, the second biggest brewer in South America in 2004. Two years later, the giant merged with MolsonCoors to make MillerCoors, which in 2011 purchased Foster’s, Australia’s largest brewing company, and Efes, Russia’s second biggest beer business.

The result is a world whose beer is mostly in the hands of just a few corporations, with AB InBev leaping ahead as the king of beers.

And what about all of those brews often considered to be craft beers or imported, but actually turn out to be from the same place that produced nearly everything else at the corner store? For example, Heineken now owns Dos Equis, Tecate and Sol. MillerCoors owns Fosters and Molson Canadian. Along with Budweiser, Beck’s, Bud Light, Brahma and Quilmes, AB InBev owns Stella Artois, Corona, and Goose Island—as well as about 18 percent of the rest of the beer produced on the planet.

“AB InBev aims to dominate the world’s beer supply, one country at a time,” explained a Fortune profile of the company.

Their plan has worked so far—they own over 200 different beers across the globe—but they have also run into trouble. In January of last year, the US Department of Justice launched a lawsuit to prevent AB InBev from buying Mexico’s Grupo Modelo. In a statement Bill Baer, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, said the merger plans threatened to hurt competition in the US beer market and concentrate the beer industry, resulting in “less competition and higher beer prices.”

Who runs AB InBev’s beer empire? Carlos Brito is the Brazilian-born, Stanford-educated, CEO of the company, who worked at Shell Oil before coming to the beer business. He’s known on Wall Street as a low profile, frugal boss with an eye for making a profit. Brito is the one who acquired Anheuser-Busch in 2008, then went ahead and laid off 1,400 of the AB workers, used thinner glass for its bottles, weaker cardboard for its 12 packs, and ditched the traditional and often-touted “beechwood aging” of Budweiser to save money. Indeed, there are plenty of pissed off drinkers who have complained about the lower quality of their beer since Brito’s corporate monster took over what they drink.

The multimillionaire clearly knows how to cut costs. “I don’t have a company car. I don’t care. I can buy my own car,” Brito explained at a 2008 speech at Stanford, “I don’t need the company to give me beer. I can buy my own beer.”

If Brito has his way, everybody else will have to buy his beer too.

Benjamin Dangl is a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. He edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, andTowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: @bendangl

More articles by:

Benjamin Dangl has worked as a journalist throughout Latin America, covering social movements and politics in the region for over a decade. He is the author of the books Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America, and The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia. Dangl is currently a doctoral candidate in Latin American History at McGill University, and edits UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America, and TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events. Twitter: https://twitter.com/bendangl Email: BenDangl(at)gmail(dot)com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail