Budweiser is the quintessential American beer. The can is even red, white and blue. The first time I got drunk, at the tender age of 17, it was off an embarrassingly few number of cans of pilfered Bud. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a cold one everywhere from family BBQs in the park, to a luxury box at a Lakers’ game. The Budweiser brand is one of the most recognized in the world, thanks to some memorable ad campaigns and relentless sports sponsorships. It is the flagship beer of mega brewer Anheuser-Busch, by far the largest brewery in the country claiming an impressive 48% of U.S. beer sales.
That's why a proposed takeover by InBev, a Belgian based beer company, would create a brewing behemoth that would easily be the largest in the world.
InBev is offering more than $50 billion cash--yes BILLION with a “B“--to acquire the Anheuser-Busch empire. Together, pending the approval of shareholders and the regulatory agencies of both countries, they will combine to become Anheuser-Busch InBev, and control the top share of beer and malt beverage sales in the 5 most lucrative international markets: China, The United States, Russia, Brazil and Germany. Based on the strength of their brands, which include such favorites as Stella Artois, Skol, Beck’s, Brahma, Bass, and of course Budweiser, they expect to reap around $35 billion in sales annually. Again, that's billion with a "B."
Anheuser-Busch wouldn't be the only American Brewery to sell out to an international conglomerate. Coors was sold to Molson of Canada in 2005, creating the world’s 5th largest beer company, Molson-Coors. Controlling interest in Miller Brewing was purchased from tobacco giant Phillip Morris by South African Breweries in 2002 for somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 billion forming SABMiller, the world's 2nd largest brewing company. In 2006 Molson-Coors and SABMiller reached an agreement to consolidate their operations in the United States into a joint venture called Miller-Coors.
If the Anheuser-Busch buyout is approved, and it almost surely will be, none of the big three "domestic" beers will actually be domestically owned. Wonder how that piece of trivia would go over at roadhouses and VFW halls across the country.
For all intents and purposes the familiar product will remain the same, though.
I’ve worked at places where the bread and butter of the bar was cheap domestic beer on tap or in bottles. I’ve also worked places where the emphasis was on more exotic, small batch microbrews. Owners I’ve talked to lately seem to be embracing the latter. For one, in this age of skyrocketing fuel costs it makes more financial sense for proprietors to look for purveyors close to home. Second, restaurants are increasingly embracing local and regional products on their menus, and it’s beginning to spill over to the bar.
They’re finding people are willing to cough up an extra buck or two to get a better, fresher product and support their local community...not that Belgians don't know their beers.