The craft-beer business may have peaked. After a few decades of seemingly unending growth, a shake out has begun. The 101 North Brewing Company, after seven years, is the latest to cease operations. The brewery, located in Petaluma California a short drive up the road from Lagunitas (now 100% owned by Heineken) was too big to survive on its taproom alone and too small to leverage itself into the major beer distributors or taverns already crowded with craft-beer taps. Other brewers are scaling back and closing their brewpubs. Even Widmer Brothers, with the financial backing of Anheuser-Busch/InBev, has shuttered their restaurant. Those that have not already sold out to the giant beer manufacturers are in for a struggle.
Meanwhile, multi-national companies have lawyered up, fighting over accusations of false advertising and corporate espionage, stealing the secret recipes of the other’s beer-like products. (Anheuser-Busch once sold something they called “Bud Dry,” promoting its appeal as having no aftertaste!)
It all began with the last Super Bowl. Anheuser-Busch ran ads accusing MillerCoors of using corn syrup in its Miller Lite and Coors Light “beers.” MillerCoors sued, claiming corn syrup is a “residual ingredient,” found also in Bud Light and Michelob Ultra. Anheuser-Busch countered that its ingredients were a secret and MillerCoors had illegally stole their proprietary information; MillerCoors said Anheuser-Busch proudly listed its ingredients on its packaging, so it’s not a secret; Anheuser-Busch claims the proportions of ingredients and the actual recipes are trade secrets.
As a practical matter, in my part of the country the seasons are transitioning from beer to whiskey (or “whisky” if you’re a snob) so this is not terribly urgent…. even if you’re a light — or lite — beer aficionado.
Or you may feel light beer is not worth the bother.