Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

October 28, 2013

Beer Diary:

Deal With The Devil

No need for conniption fits over the Boulevard Brewing selling out to Duvel Moortgat.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
A little over a week ago, the news broke that Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Co., one of the largest craft breweries in the country, had agreed to sell its operation to the Duvel Moortgat brewery in Breendonk, Belgium.

Judging from the Twitters and blog posts, apparently some reactionary beer dorks immediately flipped a nut over the news, calling Boulevard CEO John McDonald a sellout and the whole thing a deal with a minor demon, if not the devil per se (which, in a way, it sorta is, since Duvel—pronounced DOO-vl—is corrupted Flemish for “devil”).

Naturally, considering I can’t go more than a minute without mentioning that Goose Island and Leinenkugel’s is owned by AB-InBev and MillerCoors, respectively, you’d think I’d be joining in the reactionary overreaction. But au contraire, mon frere. (That’s French. And they speak French in Belgium, at least when they’re not speaking Flemish. See what I did there?) I’ve got absolutely no problem with this Boulevard-Duvel Moortgat deal.

I’ve got absolutely no problem with this Boulevard-Duvel Moortgat deal.
First off, this isn’t some faceless global beer conglomerate gobbling up brands, consolidating brewing operations, and closing local breweries. Moortgat is a family-owned brewery that has a long and respectable history. And they happen to make one of the best beers in the world. Toss in the fact that they already own a brewery with some craft credentials stateside—Brewery Ommegang—and you got me convinced that, while not an ideal situation for craft beer fans, Moortgat purchasing Boulevard is a pretty damn good one, considering the alternatives.

Secondly, everyone better get used to this. As the craft beer market matures, we’re going to see consolidations and sellouts galore over the next ten years, at least. Some of them will be big craft breweries merging or buying out smaller ones. Others are going to be ugly. Macro players AB-InBev and MillerCoors are going to get desperate once the craft beer market share reaches the 15- or 20-percent mark, and they ain’t going to play nice. They’ve been trying the make-your-own-faux-craft-beer thing for a while now with varying degrees of success, but once it becomes clear big ad budgets featuring douchebags enjoying the Hell out of tasteless swill aren’t going to reclaim market share, they’ll start pitching big money at established craft breweries. And as craft owners get older and start looking at retirement and/or succession strategies, a dump truck full of money—no matter who it comes from—will start to look enticing.

So let’s hold off on the carping and hand-wringing. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to righteously freak out in the next few years.

Better to go to a company that cares about beer more than the dollars beer generates. I completely agree Eddie.
posted by Eric | November 1, 2013, 11:16 AM