click to enlarge It's spring and the beer is flowing -- to a big brewing company.

It's spring and the beer is flowing -- to a big brewing company.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Anheuser-Busch InBev Buys Virginia's Devils Backbone Brewing Co.

The world's largest brewer is investing in craft beer.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 12:47 PM

No one likes it when the little guy sells out. This is particularly true when it comes to the arts -- it’s annoying to watch a cruise line advertise itself to the strains of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” -- even though the never-mainstream musician probably now has a nice retirement fund from that commercial alone.

And given the fact that the U.S. economic market is based on capitalism, it’s a difficult to begrudge a small business for expanding or selling to a larger one.

Anheuser-Busch InBev announced today that it would buy Devils Backbone Brewing Company, based in Nelson County and Lexington. The craft brewery produces about 60,000 barrels a year and plans to increase that by another 35,000 in 2016.

AB InBev started its craft beer division, the High End, in 2011, and has a portfolio of beers that includes Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks and Breckenridge Brewery, plus Stella Artois and Shock Top.

Anheuser-Busch itself was acquired by the Belgian beer firm, InBev, in 2008, making it the largest beer-producing company in the world. In 2015, the combined Anheuser-Busch InBev then turned around and bought its closest competitor, SABMiller.

This mind-boggling behemoth that produces Budweiser, Corona, Beck’s, Peroni and others can offer small breweries both vast distribution and significant infusions of capital.

“While we are joining a creative group of craft breweries in the division, Devils Backbone will retain a high level of autonomy and continue its own authentic DNA within the High End framework,” brewery co-founder Steve Crandall said in a news release.

Devils Backbone’s owners will continue to run the company, their employees will keep their jobs and ingredients will stay the same. Beginning with its first craft brewery purchase, Goose Island, the High End has a reputation for a gentle, hands-off approach to the companies it acquires.

Of course, that can change -- the division underwent a reorganization in March. And that bears watching.

Nonetheless, although the decrease in competition means prices aren’t going to be lowered anytime soon -- and perhaps will go higher -- thinking from the pint-glass-half-full side, it also means that that your favorite beer will probably be available wherever you travel. And as more beer drinkers are exposed to more variety and become better educated, that paradoxically provides a buffer for other small producers which will acquire more of the curious, discerning patrons who keep them in business.

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