Most of the beer that is consumed is actually made by the same company
What is beer? At its best, a delicious alcoholic beverage available in hundreds of styles brewed in hundreds of different ways. Beer has existed in some form or another for thousands of years. In every bottle is both a drink and a work of art. To me, that is beer. But for too many people, beer is a can of Budweiser or Miller Light. Sure it’s beer. But it hardly represents all that beer is and can be. It doesn’t even cover the tip of the iceberg.
Walk into the beer section of almost any grocery or convenience store. The first thing you’ll notice is the first two thirds of the section dominated by 20 different brands all selling you the same watered down lager. If that weren’t bad enough, almost all of these brands are owned by three giant companies: Anheuser Busch InBev, MillerCoors and Pabst Brewing Company.
The largest of these companies is Anheuser Busch, most commonly known for their long line of nearly identical Budweiser and Bud Light products. Did you know they also own the Michelob family? And Natural Light and Natural Ice? (Better known to college students as Natty Ice). They also own Busch, Stella, Rolling Rock, Beck, Landshark, Goose Island, Margaritaville, O’Doul’s, Tilt and Bacardi Silver. Just to name a few.
Anheuser Busch is a far reaching company, clocking in at over 40 different beers and malt liquors. Anheuser Busch is in turn owned by a larger Belgian company called Anheuser-Busch InBev. By purchasing Anheuser Busch in 2008 for the small sum of 52 billion dollars, InBev expanded its arsenal to over 250 beer brands produced and sold all over the globe. This is the largest company of its kind.
It’s no wonder that Anheuser Busch dominates store shelves. They can purchase the best placement stores have to offer and they can fill the majority of that space with all of their different brands. Most of us would never even realize that all of those different beers are owned by one giant company.
How are consumers supposed to discover the amazing variety of beer when the shelves are overwhelmed by row after row of identical products wrapped up in an array of different boxes and logos? Brands like Budweiser and Coors are sold in 18 packs of cans or bottles, 12 packs of cans or bottles, and finally six packs of cans or bottles. For each of these nearly identical lagers there are up to six choices just for quantity and type of container. Meanwhile most craft beers will be lucky if they can secure shelf space for both a 12 and a six pack.
Nobody can deny the popularity of brands like Budweiser. They’ve worn that crown for a very long time. This may be due in part to how much cheaper their products are. Craft beers are typically more expensive to produce and the store price reflects that. Brewing beer is no different than cooking. If you want to brew a better tasting beer with high quality ingredients, you’re going to pay for it.
My problem with a company like Anheuser Busch is that their unbelievable success makes it so much more difficult for smaller brewers. They literally and figuratively leave less room for the little guys. By allowing these mass produced lagers to dominate store shelves we limit the amazing potential of beer.
If stores are ever to achieve a more diverse selection of beer, consumers will have to be willing to pay a little bit extra for a better product. Don’t stop at the towering wall of cheap light beer. Keep walking to the back two thirds of the section where the craft beers reside. Try something new and explore the vast potential of the industry.
Too many people tell me they “don’t like beer.” There are over a hundred different styles of beer and most of them taste nothing alike. That’s not even getting into the various ingredients that can be added just for flavor. You like blueberries? Coffee? Even freakin’ oysters? There is a beer for everyone. It’s not that you “don’t like beer;” you just haven’t had the right beer. In a world dominated by Budweiser, you are hardly to blame.
Next time you’re at the pub pick something new on tap and ask the bartender if you can try it. They’ll give you a small sample and they won’t charge you for it. I’d also recommend a trip to our local beer emporium, Brewtopia. Tell them you’re looking for some beginner friendly brews. It’s their job to help you find the beer that’s right for you. Still haven’t found your beer of choice? Then don’t miss the Keene Beer Festival, Saturday, April 13.
Trust me when I say that you can make a difference. Craft brewers need more people who “don’t like beer” because it means that the people making your beer are going to have to get a bit more creative than a light lager if they want to please you. Brewing creatively is not Anheuser Busch’s forte, but it’s something that craft brewers do in every bottle. If I thought beer was the generic lagers dominating our current market, I wouldn’t like it either. But beer can be something so much more. We just need to start asking for it.
Zach Pearson can be contacted at