This article was published for me by Rare Repbulic, check it out!
A couple of weeks ago, this article was posted by well respected beer blogger Ben Johnson. The gist of the article is that Labatt are planning on marketing Shock Top as a craft beer to unsuspecting beer drinkers.
Now, the general tone of the article is the disgust that a macro-brewer would have the audacity to try to fool beer drinkers into drinking something that they ordinarily wouldn’t and also to try and pass it off as “craft.” The cost at which they are implementing this scheme is beyond astonishing — and something that craft brewers could only look at with disgust.
It’s shady tactics for sure, but what I can’t understand is how this has come as a shock(top) to anyone?
Craft beer now counts towards six percent of beer sales in Canada. It doesn’t sound a lot but realizing that that number used to be near zero it is a remarkable increase. Big breweries are already taking a hit with Molson Coors in Vancouver issuing lay-offs due to declining sales attributed to rising craft beer sales.
The King doesn’t fall without a fight, and AB-InBev (Anheuser-Busch), et al., don’t want to see the Royal Crown slip from that pretty red label. For a while now, they have been experimenting with producing beers more in line with the growing craft trend and trying to slip them under the radar.
The Green Valley Brewing Company has been around since 2006 and marked AB-InBev’s first foray into the world of deceit. Marketed as an organic beer, the words Anheuser-Busch are no where to be seen on labels. Years before Green Valley was on the scene, there was Blue Moon set up to appear as a craft brewery for Miller Coors: this was way back in 1995 and again Miller Coors was nowhere to be scene in the advertising or packaging which, in fact, sparked some controversy.
So, what this establishes is that macro-breweries have a history of these underhanded tactics. It’s nothing new and nothing to get enraged at. Interestingly, it’s not the only option they are exploring. Recently they have been snapping up stakes in craft breweries. Goose Island in Chicago was bought/invested in by Anheuser Busch, while here in Canada Creemore Spring and Granville Island were bought by Molson Coors. It’s the nature of these things: if craft cider suddenly had a surge in popularity, you can bet your bottom dollar you would see a cider version of Shock Top hitting the shelves.
What can be established from this is that the macro-brewers don’t care what you’re drinking; they just care that they are making money from what you are drinking. Sadly, I believe we can expect more “macro-craft beers” to silently start making their way into the market soon. They realize that people’s tastes are changing and the generic “beer guy” is not the same guy he was 20 years ago. Exploration is the new trend.
It’s my belief that this tactic could backfire on the big guys by a strange oversight on their part. The market they are trying to break into is generally made up of beer drinkers who consider them selves educated. These people know where their beer is coming from and generally who makes it: Shock Top is not going to fool them as craft.
That leaves BigBeer with a small pool of people with a poorer knowledge base when it comes to beer, but are these guys going to step away from their Coors or Bud light to try a Shock Top? Even if they do stray, will they stick with that brand?
Most people exploring craft beer for the first time like to try a lot of different beers — as Untappd will testify — so if someone is breaking into the craft scene does AB-Inbev really expect Shock Top to retain them? All I can say is good luck guys: you’re going to need it.