Sunday, July 06, 2008

And so it may go, for Bud

Here's Maureen Ogle, author of Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, on the brewing chickens coming home to roost for Anheuser-Busch ... maybe.

... our Budweiser, a beer as American as baseball and barbecue -- is about to become Belgian (and Brazilian too). "No!" I wail, tears splashing into my beer, when I hear that Carlos Brito, chief executive of InBev, the Belgian-Brazilian corporate behemoth headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, wants to acquire Budweiser.

<...> Anheuser-Busch is the target of an aggressor's hostile takeover bid, but usually, it plays the role of the bad guy.

In 2006, Anheuser-Busch snapped up the Rolling Rock brand brewed at Latrobe Brewing Company of Latrobe, Pa. A travesty, many declared. How dare that nasty corporate giant destroy a Latrobe tradition and move the brewing process to (ugh) Newark? The people of Latrobe (population 9,000; the brewery was a major employer) begged the company not to shut down its plant. The St. Louis brewing titan shrugged, and that was that. It's worth noting, however, that Anheuser-Busch purchased Latrobe from . . . InBev.

The commentary was printed in the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post. Ogle concludes:
Besides, the Brazilianization of Bud doesn't mean the end of American beer. That same story of little guys creating something from nothing is unfolding right now in more than 1,400 breweries around the country. In 1978, there were only a few dozen brewing companies in the United States. In the intervening 30 years, the industry has exploded in size, and today the United States boasts the most dynamic, creative brewing culture in the world.

The Latrobe brewery is active again, by the way, having been purchased by City Brewing Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, itself the remains of the former brewing giant G. Heilemann. A significant amount of Sam Adams beer is brewed there under contract.

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