A company town

I’m in St. Louis for the Concordia Publishing House board meeting, and the whole city is in a tizzy over an attempt by a Brazilian-Belgian company named InBev to buy Anheuser-Busch. See Critics of the Bud Buyout Are Frothing. When the South African corporation SAB bought Miller, Milwaukee didn’t get all in an outrage, and many people welcomed it. But St. Louis is worried that their local beer giant under foreign management might cut out all of their civic involvement, shut down the free Grant’s Park, cut jobs, and who knows what all.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2008/06/to-live-with-christ-daily-devotions-by-bo-giertz.html Rev. PTM

    I’m not sure if there is a comparable situation. “AB” as we all call it is interwoven with this city. I drive by the world’s largest brewery every day, and turn to come to CPH, right next to the massive facility, which takes up several city blocks on the south side of the city. AB is St. Louis. St. Louis is AB. We are all proud of AB, even if we might not particularly sing the praises of all of its product. It is hard to describe just how far reaching AB is in this community [but don't get non-AB product distributors talking about the difficulties they face trying to sell their products in this city].

    I really hope they are not bought out.

  • http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2008/06/to-live-with-christ-daily-devotions-by-bo-giertz.html Rev. PTM

    I’m not sure if there is a comparable situation. “AB” as we all call it is interwoven with this city. I drive by the world’s largest brewery every day, and turn to come to CPH, right next to the massive facility, which takes up several city blocks on the south side of the city. AB is St. Louis. St. Louis is AB. We are all proud of AB, even if we might not particularly sing the praises of all of its product. It is hard to describe just how far reaching AB is in this community [but don't get non-AB product distributors talking about the difficulties they face trying to sell their products in this city].

    I really hope they are not bought out.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com bror erickson

    My first thought is it could only improve the beer.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com bror erickson

    My first thought is it could only improve the beer.

  • Bruce

    You beat me to it, Bror! “Who knows what all?”
    Maybe bring European quality to beer making?

    AB, St. Louis blues, The Cards, and CPH. Change any of it and the culture dies, it appears to me. As a Brewers fan, I’d like some European to buy Tony LaRussa, while they’re at it.

  • Bruce

    You beat me to it, Bror! “Who knows what all?”
    Maybe bring European quality to beer making?

    AB, St. Louis blues, The Cards, and CPH. Change any of it and the culture dies, it appears to me. As a Brewers fan, I’d like some European to buy Tony LaRussa, while they’re at it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hey, what about the wisdom of the market and free trade? Whence the protectionist attitudes? ;)

    And Bruce (@3), not that InBev should at all be considered exemplary of “European quality”, but they won’t be bringing any European ideas into the beer recipe, because Americans generally won’t stand for it.

    I imagine that, as in many such things, Americans will raise a huge stink at first, then do nothing, and will continue to buy the beer — not because it’s American, or even because it’s tasty, but because it’s cheap and not challenging.

    And I will continue to drink my fancy, high-fallutin’, elitist, but far superior Northwest IPAs.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Hey, what about the wisdom of the market and free trade? Whence the protectionist attitudes? ;)

    And Bruce (@3), not that InBev should at all be considered exemplary of “European quality”, but they won’t be bringing any European ideas into the beer recipe, because Americans generally won’t stand for it.

    I imagine that, as in many such things, Americans will raise a huge stink at first, then do nothing, and will continue to buy the beer — not because it’s American, or even because it’s tasty, but because it’s cheap and not challenging.

    And I will continue to drink my fancy, high-fallutin’, elitist, but far superior Northwest IPAs.

  • Bruce

    Mostly all we drink around here are microbrews, tODD. Capital City Island Wheat, New Glarus Spotted Cow. A nice Summer brew entitled Totally Naked. I saw a bumper sticker recently, read “Life is too short to drink cheap beer”.

    Of course, you go to a Brewers game at Miller Park, you know what they’re serving.

  • Bruce

    Mostly all we drink around here are microbrews, tODD. Capital City Island Wheat, New Glarus Spotted Cow. A nice Summer brew entitled Totally Naked. I saw a bumper sticker recently, read “Life is too short to drink cheap beer”.

    Of course, you go to a Brewers game at Miller Park, you know what they’re serving.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bruce (@5), much as I’m glad that you enjoy good beer, I seriously doubt that people in your city (St. Louis?) — or any city, for that matter — “mostly” drink microbrews. Even in Portland, Oregon (most breweries of any U.S. city, blah blah blah), people drink an awful lot of macrobrews.

    Of course, I couldn’t find any statistics on the matter, so maybe I’m wrong. But in general, people have a knack for disliking that which is not bland or boring. It’s not just beer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bruce (@5), much as I’m glad that you enjoy good beer, I seriously doubt that people in your city (St. Louis?) — or any city, for that matter — “mostly” drink microbrews. Even in Portland, Oregon (most breweries of any U.S. city, blah blah blah), people drink an awful lot of macrobrews.

    Of course, I couldn’t find any statistics on the matter, so maybe I’m wrong. But in general, people have a knack for disliking that which is not bland or boring. It’s not just beer.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bruce (@5) … sorry, didn’t notice the bit about a “Brewers” game. Milwaukee. Gotcha.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Bruce (@5) … sorry, didn’t notice the bit about a “Brewers” game. Milwaukee. Gotcha.

  • Joe

    Bruce – Miller Park also sells Sprecher and Lakefront beers in concessions in some of the sections.

    tOOD, lots of American’s are drinking craft beers, enough that folks like A-B are buying the brands. But the real benefit to the deal happening is the increased availability of the InBev’s brands in the US. A-B has a huge distribution network. So A-B might not reformulate the swill that is Natural Ice but it will also be introducing new beers to our market.

  • Joe

    Bruce – Miller Park also sells Sprecher and Lakefront beers in concessions in some of the sections.

    tOOD, lots of American’s are drinking craft beers, enough that folks like A-B are buying the brands. But the real benefit to the deal happening is the increased availability of the InBev’s brands in the US. A-B has a huge distribution network. So A-B might not reformulate the swill that is Natural Ice but it will also be introducing new beers to our market.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Joe (@8), sure, lots more Americans are drinking “craft beers” (not sure what that actually means, but sounds like microbrews, perhaps), but are they mostly drinking microbrews? (Also, does it remain a “craft beer” if its recipe is sold to a major conglomerate that makes it in a different manner than the one that originally made it popular?)

    I don’t know about where you live, but quite a lot of InBev’s beers are readily available in my town: Bass, Beck’s, Boddingtons, Bohemia, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, Labatt, Spaten, St. Pauli Girl, Stella Artois jumped out from the list I found. Of those, only a few are worth seeking out (particularly the Germans).

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Joe (@8), sure, lots more Americans are drinking “craft beers” (not sure what that actually means, but sounds like microbrews, perhaps), but are they mostly drinking microbrews? (Also, does it remain a “craft beer” if its recipe is sold to a major conglomerate that makes it in a different manner than the one that originally made it popular?)

    I don’t know about where you live, but quite a lot of InBev’s beers are readily available in my town: Bass, Beck’s, Boddingtons, Bohemia, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, Labatt, Spaten, St. Pauli Girl, Stella Artois jumped out from the list I found. Of those, only a few are worth seeking out (particularly the Germans).

  • fw

    hey. news from brasil. the beer here ROCKS! I never drank beer in the usa. I am (during the hot brasilian summers) sort of worried about becoming a beer alcoholic! Take a chill pill st louis. maybe a bud will start tasting world class…..

  • fw

    hey. news from brasil. the beer here ROCKS! I never drank beer in the usa. I am (during the hot brasilian summers) sort of worried about becoming a beer alcoholic! Take a chill pill st louis. maybe a bud will start tasting world class…..

  • fw

    my appologies to the non-lutherans on this site for the ardent nature of the opinions on this thread…. ahem….

  • fw

    my appologies to the non-lutherans on this site for the ardent nature of the opinions on this thread…. ahem….

  • Joe

    tODD – InBev also has a ton of brands that are not here. I would be excited to see more of them available. On its website it has a distinction between global brands (Bass, Becks etc) multi-national brands and local champions. My hope would be more of the multi-national and local beers would come to the US. I also noticed all of InBev’s brands that are in the US are currently distributed by A-B.

    “Craft Beer” is an industry term. It means beer made in small batches with a much more hands on art-based approach and a much less scientific/chemestry lab approach. It is more accurate than microbrew because many small breweries make their beer in a “macrobrew” style but just make less of it at one time.

    If the macro brewery changes the production method then it would no longer be a craft beer, but that is not always the business model for these acquisitions.
    Craft beers and the alcho-pops are the only growth sectors for US brewing companies. The U.S. consumer is making a dramatic shifting from beer to wine. The only sector of the beer market that is withstanding this shift is craft beer and alcho-pops. So, while most folks are drinking Bud or Lite etc. today. The percentage of beer drinkers who are drinking craft beer is rising and is significant.

  • Joe

    tODD – InBev also has a ton of brands that are not here. I would be excited to see more of them available. On its website it has a distinction between global brands (Bass, Becks etc) multi-national brands and local champions. My hope would be more of the multi-national and local beers would come to the US. I also noticed all of InBev’s brands that are in the US are currently distributed by A-B.

    “Craft Beer” is an industry term. It means beer made in small batches with a much more hands on art-based approach and a much less scientific/chemestry lab approach. It is more accurate than microbrew because many small breweries make their beer in a “macrobrew” style but just make less of it at one time.

    If the macro brewery changes the production method then it would no longer be a craft beer, but that is not always the business model for these acquisitions.
    Craft beers and the alcho-pops are the only growth sectors for US brewing companies. The U.S. consumer is making a dramatic shifting from beer to wine. The only sector of the beer market that is withstanding this shift is craft beer and alcho-pops. So, while most folks are drinking Bud or Lite etc. today. The percentage of beer drinkers who are drinking craft beer is rising and is significant.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Now I know why you’re meeting in Saint Louie, gracious host. :^)

    Even though I don’t drink (I used to), it’s depressing to me to see how things are consolidating in that industry. Do we really want the brewmaster making Pilsner Urquell to have his capital budget scrutinized from 10,000 miles away? It’s exactly the situation we’ve got, sad to say.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Now I know why you’re meeting in Saint Louie, gracious host. :^)

    Even though I don’t drink (I used to), it’s depressing to me to see how things are consolidating in that industry. Do we really want the brewmaster making Pilsner Urquell to have his capital budget scrutinized from 10,000 miles away? It’s exactly the situation we’ve got, sad to say.


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