Funkatorium Fallout & South African Hops

Wicked Weed’s Funk

The fallout from last week’s announcement that Wicked Weed was bought by AB InBev just keeps coming. The reaction was swift, with people taking to the brewery’s Facebook page to denounce the buy-out in anger and disappointment. They still have plenty of fans and people who support their business move, but that disappointment spread quickly to other craft breweries. Apparently, Wicked Weed is a collaboration powerhouse and at least two breweries who had planned collabs with them respectfully pulled out of the plans. Jester King Brewery, in Texas was one of them.

“It’s no secret that Wicked Weed has been one of our closest friends in the beer industry. Regardless of what has transpired, we’ll always consider the people of Wicked Weed friends, and want the best for them and their families.

With that said, we have some core principles that define who we are as a brewery, and those principles must not be compromised. One of our core principles is that we do not sell beer from AB In-Bev or its affiliates. We’ve chosen this stance, not because of the quality of the beer, but because a portion of the money made off of selling it is used to oppose the interests of craft brewers. In Texas, large brewers (and their distributors) routinely oppose law changes that would help small, independent brewers. We choose not to support these large brewers because of their political stances, and in some cases, their economic practices as well.”

This sentiment was shared by numerous breweries who have work with Wicked Weed and as last week wore on, it became apparent that this buyout was going to be a little bloodier than usual. Wicked Weed hosts a beer festival every summer called the Funkatorium Invitational where breweries from all over the U.S. come and pour their sour and rare beers. The shit hit the proverbial fan and over the last week, more than 45 breweries pulled out of the July 8th fest. Someone over on the Facebook group, Colorado Let’s Talk Craft Beer, was kind enough to give a visual of this exodus.

Furthermore, word of a counter-festival being planned for the same weekend is spreading along with a “sour beer crawl” by Springdale Brewery in Mass, which will apparently feature many of the breweries that dropped out of the Wicked Weed fest.

How do you host a festival when more than half of the breweries drop out? You don’t, apparently. Tuesday, Wicked Weed posted on their Facebook page that they were postponing the Funkatorium Invitational until September, to regroup.

I get this is a bummer for Wicked Weed and I’m guessing that this last week was a tough one for their staff. Hopefully, some of the AB InBev money trickled down to the brewers, servers, cooks and other employees who helped make the brewery was it is today.

Maybe the biggest unintended loser in this equation, however, is the charity that was set to benefit from the Funkatorium Invitational. Eblen Charities, is a local Ashville organization that helps thousands of North Carolinians with medical and emergency assistance. Charities often count on large events like this one to fund their efforts throughout the year and the loss of one this big is sure to leave the charity scrambling. Again, Jester King led the way by posting a picture on social media that that showed they donated $1000 to Eblen in lieu of attending the festival. I would guess that many breweries will follow suit once they realize the negative impact on Eblen.

In fact, another brewery, Casa Agria Specialty Ales, out of Oxnard, CA, posted that they were also donating to Eblen after pulling out of the invitational. What they outlined in the rest of their post, however, is shocking, to say the least.

No South African Hops for You!

If you want to know why the once-fellow craft beer breweries are so disappointed in the sale to AB InBev, you don’t need to look further than the Boston Globe article, “Bars and packies got free equipment to push Budweiser, state says.” that came out on May 9th. Massachusetts regulators announced that Budweiser was engaging in rampant pay-to-play tactics that included offering $1 million in incentives to more than 400 bars and alcohol retailers throughout the region. This is nothing new, hardly surprising and really just another drop in the bucket of reasons why many people don’t want their money going to support a company that plays so dirty. What is surprising, however, is the underhanded tactics outlined in CASA’s post below.

SAB stands for South African Breweries, which is the biggest exporter of South African hops. The use of South African hops has been on the rise here in the states including, Lioness, Southern Passion and African Queen varieties. SAB is wholly owned by AB InBev (after the buyout of SAB Miller) and so if this email is true, this is a pretty damning move. this is exactly why many craft beer people are anti-Budweiser and anti-Big Beer. We are used to AB InBev’s pay-to-play antics, but this is on a whole other level. What happens when they start buying hop farms here in the U.S.? They already purchased Northern Brewer (which bought Midwest Supplies) making AB InBev the largest home brew supply company in the U.S. Once they buy out every step of the brewing process and culture, what will that mean for all of the independent breweries that rely on outside companies to produce their beers? They already have immense power in the political realm, so if they are able to control the laws, the supplies, the distribution, as well as the actual craft beer made at their purchased breweries, it seems like we are going to have a problem.

In the end, there will still be people who support the breweries that sold to AB InBev and other Big Beer, saying “drink what you like,” and “if the beer is still good, then I’ll still drink it.” But there is also a group of mostly industry insiders and hardcore craft beer fans that don’t support companies that conduct business in this way and aren’t afraid to speak up about the actions of big beer and how it hurts the craft beer industry as a whole. AB InBev isn’t here to make nice or to become part of the craft beer community; they are here to take it over from the inside out.

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