In the Southern California beer circuit, arguably no label is as highly regarded as Golden Road Brewing. But now, Anheuser-Busch InBev (the brewing behemoth behind Budweiser) will acquire the SoCal craft beer staple, effectively putting core brews like Point the Way IPA, 329 Days of Sun Lager, and Golden Road Hefeweizen into the AB InBev stable.
From a corporate standpoint, everything is golden (so to speak): AB InBev gets a shiny craft beer with enormous street cred., while Golden Road gets a (presumed) fat paycheck and massive brand exposure. But what do actual craft enthusiasts think about the move? Is this the beginning of a beautiful partnership, or the first step in the disintegration of the booming craft beer business?
Golden Road is the largest craft beer maker in Los Angeles County (former home of Shaq, producing approximately 45,000 barrels of beer in 2015. So far, terms of the agreement have yet to be disclosed, but the acquisition marks an ongoing effort from Anheuser-Busch IInBev to collect high-end craft beer brands like Goose Island, Blue Point, and Elysian Brewing, adding to the company's High End Business Unit portfolio.
"It's fascinating to watch large global brewers evolve and change with the success they've seen from craft breweries," Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association and publisher of CraftBeer.com, told Thrillist.
Herz expressed concern over clear demarcation on smaller brand labels and packaging that designate ownership by larger conglomerates, as well as the issue of smaller brands not associated with the two largest brewers in the world (Anheuser-Busch InBev, and SABMiller) having space on restaurant menus and store shelves.
"It's a great time to be a beer lover, but diversity and transparency are things to continue to fight for," she added.
With recent rumbles of a potential mega-deal between Am-B/Inbev and SabMiller, things are starting to look more like an Avengers movie in a beverage business, with the best of the best teaming up and taking everyone that "matters" with them. In the end, most beer enthusiasts -- craft and otherwise -- can probably agree on one thing: as long as the beer we know and love continues to be appear alongside fresh and interesting local takes, everybody wins.
Let's hope this is always the case.
Wil Fulton is a Staff Writer for Thrillist. Follow him @wilfulton
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