The Hightower Report

Big Beer deceivers and bullies

It's bad enough that the goliaths of Big Beer are consuming each other in a new round of mega-mergers, meaning fewer choices and higher prices for consumers – but the really bad news is that they're also going after the one bright spot on tap in bars all across the country: craft beers.

These are not merely beers, but jewels of the brewer's art – yeasty, hoppy, and malty local delights with unique, deep flavors that put the "fizzy yellow" suds of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors to shame. And, not surprisingly, while the sales of Big Beer's fizz are declining, the craft brewers are up by 17% last year alone. And the number of craft brewers has nearly doubled since 2010.

The giants have noticed, and are responding. By making better beer? Don't be silly. Instead, they're trying to co-opt the good name of local beermakers and dupe consumers by pretending that the likes of Bud and Miller are "craft" brewers, too. How? Two ways.

First, they've created false fronts like Blue Moon Brewing Company, Tenth & Blake, and Green Valley Brewing, pretending to be upstart independents. You won't see the name of MillerCoors, or Anheuser-Busch, on the labels – but those are the macrobrewers that own and make such ersatz microbrews as Blue Moon, Killian's, and Shock Top.

Second, the deep-pocketed beer behemoths are simply buying up small craft brewers, including Goose Island (Anheuser-Busch) and Leinenkugel (MillerCoors). Again, they're co-opting the imagery of cool independents, but – shhhh – it's the same old Big Beer hiding behind the small guy labels.

When all else fails, the giants get thuggish, using their marketing muscle and political punch to knock the craft beers out of bars and off the shelves. But the independents are scrappy – and it's up to us quaffers of real beer to stand (and drink) with them. Cheers!

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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