Is Anheuser-Busch fighting self-distribution rights in Texas? Yes. Does that sound familiar here in Illinois? Yes.
We posted this yesterday to Twitter but wanted to give this story a little more room to breathe here on the site. It seems that Texas is having similar problems to us Illinoisans in a concurrent battle with Anheuser-Busch.
According to TexasWatchdog.org, A-B is mounting a similar fight against craft brewers in the Lone Star State. Bill HB602 is described as one that “would allow small craft breweries in Texas to sell token amounts of their beer in their breweries in the same way Texas wineries have for years been allowed to sell a bottle or two of wine to visitors after a tour.” Sound familiar?
The story, written by Mark Lisheron, continues:
What’s the difference, you might ask. Why would an emissary of the largest brewing company in the world take time out of an undoubtedly busy schedule to come before a state Senate committee, as reported today by the Houston Chronicle, to voice his objection to a few breweries selling in a year what would amount to a infinitesimal fraction of one day’s production?
Mark Bordas, a representative with Anheuser-Busch InBev in Austin, told the committee Tuesday that the bill discriminates against his company because it is tailored to breweries producing fewer than 75,000 barrels per year.
Discrimination! Again, that should ring a few bells if you’re a regular follower of our Save The Craft newsfeed. Yes, Anheuser-Busch is fighting self-distribution rights in Texas, in what seems like a carbon-copy of the argument that forced the lawsuit that got us into this whole mess. In addition, Bordas has been on our radar for some time as someone who’s lobbying for A-B in Illinois and was a player at a major meeting about the legislation in February. Dude gets around.
For the past 25 years, craft brewing has been the only segment of the market to grow, while the sales and production among the giants has slowly and steadily declined. Craft brewing grew to nearly 10 million barrels in 2010, still a fraction of Anheuser Busch’s production alone but an 11 percent increase from a 2009 that had seen growth of more than 7 percent from the year before.
In 2010, AB InBev’s sales were down 2.1 percent in the U.S., and the production volumes were down 13.1 percent in Russia, 4.9 percent in western Europe and 2.4 percent in China.
Never one to take competition of any kind lightly, Anheuser Busch was not likely to sit still while the Texas Legislature gave even a tiny advantage like limited on-site beer sales to someone else.
The “David vs. Goliath” comparison continues to come up in this discussion, and it’s completely warranted. A company that controls 20% of the world’s beer keeps trying to shove its weight around wherever it can, not even necessarily in the interest of selling more beer, but in restricting wherever they can the guys who are seeing all the growth.
“If I can’t win,” A-B is saying to every single craft beer drinker, “then I don’t want to let you play in my sandbox.”
As we discussed yesterday, there’s a lot of potential outcomes in the wake of A-B’s recent court filing. And again, we will admit that the legislation as it stands in the statehouse isn’t perfect. Compromise rarely is. But the potential for further judicial trickery from A-B and their cadre of lawyers far outweighs our problems with the bill. Seeing action from the Illinois House is the best hope we have of keeping things in the vicinity of “fair” for our state’s brewers.
The clock continues to tick. Call your representative and ask him to help Save The Craft.