News & Updates

MN Breweries & Consumers…Shake With Fear!

I think brewing and beer consumption as we know it in the state of Minnesota will shortly be turned upside down.  I was just informed by confidential, inside sources through a big black box in my living room that Michelob will soon be releasing a pale ale, a porter, and a wheat.  I know that many Minnesota craft beer drinkers only drink the Barley John’s and Surly’s of the world only because it’s convenient and because they like the variety craft brewers provide.  It’s not about quality or flavor.  How can these consumers not be swayed by the tantilizing draw of a big brewery putting out such a fine variety of beer?  Let me provide some very solid evidence to support my point.  Breweries like Miller and Aheuser-Busch constantly tout all the gold medals they win in the American Pilsner category.  Clearly, their brewing superiority and capabilities cannot be surpassed.  They absolutely dominate that category of beer.  Michelob is as equally capable as SABMiller and AB.  If the big guys would only put their minds to brewing Grand-Cru’s or IPA’s, they could quickly and easily douse the embers igniting the craft beer fad.  And now, Michelob has decided to do just that.  I’m gonna miss all the MN breweries and brewpubs.  What the heck am I gonna do with all my growlers?

 Incidentally, I couldn’t find the sarcasm emoticon.  I need a life.


  1. David Berg says:

    Ok, I’ll bite because I’m feeling a bit argumentative at the moment…

    “Michelob will soon be releasing a pale ale, a porter,”

    They’ve been doing that for a couple of years…it comes in a sampler box

    “It’s not about quality or flavor”

    As you apparently haven’t tried these, your statement is correct as it applies to you. You are denigrating beers simply because they are made by a very, very, very large brewery.

    “Breweries like Miller and Aheuser-Busch constantly tout all the gold medals they win in the American Pilsner category”

    A-B has also won medals for their Marzen. Bronze last year, silver the year before, and gold in 05, in the German Marzen category.

    “Clearly, their brewing superiority and capabilities cannot be surpassed.”

    Although you were being sarcastic, this is actually a true statement. They have the best of everything, including access to the market and very deep pockets. It’s hard to compete with that.

    Don’t confuse what they choose to do with what they are capable of doing.

    “If the big guys would only put their minds to brewing Grand-Cru’s or IPA’s, ”

    Coors has been doing it for years with Blue Moon. They sell about 500,000 barrels of it annually. That’s a lot of beer.

    The threat is actually very real, whether we choose to admit it or not. Hence the reason to support local beer.

  2. Chris L. says:


  3. Chaz says:


    Let me guess: was somebody watching the Vikings kick the tar out of a similarly ranked American Football team?

    I thought so.

    I saw the ads, too.

    No worries, we’re all here doing our level best to support Minnesota-brewed craft beer.

    > Don’t confuse what they choose to do with what they are capable of doing.

    Or what they choose to *promote* over what they are capable of brewing. BMC have deep pockets indeed, but they will not change stride overnight.

    Your Surly’s and Barley John’s are safe . . . for the time being.

  4. Cecil says:

    I don’t like the Macro Brewers, not because of the Beers they make, the brews they make are very good. But for me, it is because of there business practices. Example; when we were in Texas, we stopped at a store to get some Shiner Bock, next to it was a beer called Ziegen Bock, which touted “Made in Texas by Texans for Texans”. Well, it was made by Bud. What you have here is a large company trying to undercut a local beer. It pisses me off. I understand free enterpise but, damm it, leave these other Breweries alone. Bud is in the same category as Walmart. They are looking to take over the world. They just can’t be happy with what they have. It all comes down to personal taste. I can’t stand to drink Surly Furious, I don’ t like alot of hops nor do like any pumpkin beers. Personal taste. You can’t make someone like what you like or dis-like. We can only do so much. Again, support your local Brewers.

  5. Eric says:

    Way to go Mag. Way. To. Go.

    Maybe you shoulda just said you’re switching to NA beer and hops suck.

  6. mag says:

    Ha ha, touche, Dave.

    Seeing ads like that scares me a bit. Most contemporary business classes teach that companies succeed in their respective businesses by either 1) being a low cost provider or 2) focusing on quality or differentiation. Further, they speculate that companies trying to play in the middle ground put themselves at risk. Craft brewers can’t really compete on cost with the big boys for the obvious reasons. Large breweries probably have the ability to capture niche markets on quality or differentiation, but I don’t think they are as aggressive about it as they could be. At least not yet. That’s one thing that scares me. Should it?

    The beer experience is often about more than taste or cost. There is something about stopping at the local brewpub for a growler or swinging in to the liquor store to buy beer from a local brewery that the large companies can’t compete with. Additionally, the sense of community (friends made at tastings, familiar faces at the brewpubs, hell even this site) involved with smaller, local brewing activities is a very important part of my love affair with craft offerings. I don’t know if the large companies can offer that. That’s also part of what really scares me about seeing adds like Michelob’s.

    In any event, weird as it is, wondering about this kind of stuff sometimes keeps me awake at night. I shiver each time I see a new large company offering at the bar or at the store. What’s that going to mean to the products I know and love?

  7. John Quast says:

    If I might wade into this discussion, I see a bit of a distinction between the case of Blue Moon and the case of Michelob’s new product lines. Blue Moon is an interesting example of a long-term trend where the Macros (AB, Coors, SAB/Miller) are entering the craft brewing market either by creating and marketing a beer under a craft brew label or by simply buying up the most successful craft breweries. Blue Moon and Killian’s are and always have been products of Coors Brewing (my friend from the Denver Area proudly orders “Killian’s Colorado Red” when he’s at the bar) while the most notable example of the latter would be our friends at Leinie’s, who have been owned by SAB/Miller since 1988. Michelob (which is an AB label) has for a long time tried to exist as a hybrid label within the AB family with all sorts of products like Amber Bock, Honey Lager, Pumpkin Spice, which would sound familiar to the craft beer fan. The difference (and I suppose AB considers Michelob to be its “craft” label) is that Michelob has never tried to pretend that it isn’t a part of the AB family, while Killian’s, Blue Moon, Leinie’s etc. are attempts by the macros to gain craft market share without advertising that they are affiliated with the big label. To lesser or greater extents it works; most of us still consider Leinie’s more or less a craft beer, and most average people would probably put Killian’s and Blue Moon in the same category.
    Fear not my friends, for I seriously doubt that the big boys will ever make a significant dent in the craft market, certainly not to the point of driving any of our favorite labels out of existence. We can look at two major industries to see why. Wal Mart and Target can drive smaller groceries/convenience stores out of business because there can be little product differentiation; eggs are eggs, milk is milk, and with few exceptions most people will buy them at the place where they can get the best quality with the most convenience at the lowest price, and Wal Mart/Target win on all three counts. On the other hand, McDonald’s and Burger King (or Applebees and Chili’s if you like) cannot and will never drive Murray’s or the Lion’s Tap or Fitger’s out of business. You could open up every chain restaurant in the world across from these popular local restaurants and it wouldn’t matter much; the local restaurants offer a product that mass-marketed, mass-produced chains can’t match. It’s sometimes better food, sometimes the fact that it’s locally owned, or sometimes unique features that the chain can’t duplicate, but there’s differentiation there that can never be taken away. That “it” can be lost, which is what happens to some local places, or it can be that it was never that good to begin with, there were just no alternatives until the chain came to town, but the chains can’t take much away from the local restaurants. So it is with local brewers; the local brewers that didn’t have an “it” have already gone away. When you think about it, did Grainbelt or Hamm’s have something that really, really differentiated them from Bud when the big boys came to town? They had good marketing, but they were also the only game in town. Now ask yourself the same question about Summit or Surly. Those that are left (or have sprung up in their place) aren’t going to be driven out of the marketplace just because Bud comes out with an EPA or a Dopplebock or a Tripel (the thought of Bud trying to market a Trappist Ale makes me laugh). In any case, do you think it’s really worth Bud’s time to come up with a beer that would put Surly or Summit out of business? The costs involved in creating and marketing the beer wouldn’t be worth the market share they would gain if it was successful, and they have to be smart enough to realize that A) many of the drinkers wouldn’t drink the new beer just because it was a Bud IPA, and B) a Flat Earth or Brau Brothers would just spring up in it’s place.

  8. David Berg says:

    “Further, they speculate that companies trying to play in the middle ground put themselves at risk.”

    Which is exactly why a lot of regional breweries disappeared in the last 20 years. You had small craft breweries on one side, and large national breweries on the other. The middle is a bad place to be.

    “That’s one thing that scares me. Should it?”

    Absolutely. I think the A-B case is an interesting one. For years, they have stayed away from the craft market, outside of strategically buying portions of Red Hook, Widmer, and most recently Goose. Now they are dabbling more and more. Now, hardcore A-B fans are probably not going to drink the craft beer they make, nor are hardcore craft beer people. So where is the market? Well, by bringing in brands now, they can win over the people in the second group. How you ask? Because in 20 years, no one will remember a time when A-B did not make craft beer. The number one reason craft beer drinkers don’t like beer from the macros isn’t focused on the beer quality or flavor. It’s centered around the idea that they are pretenders. What happens when that goes away?

  9. mag says:

    …Ministry of Beer?

  10. Dave M. says:

    The Budweiser commercial that had Denis Leary, I believe doing the voiceover..”Think back to the best beer you’ve ever had. Now get ready to top it…” Seing that one always makes me laugh.

    Keep supporting the local breweries! If you have to pay a couple more dollars per sixpack, then so be it.

  11. Ben says:

    “Keep supporting the local breweries! If you have to pay a couple more dollars per sixpack, then so be it.”

    What will happen when prices continue to rise and it costs $10 or more for a 6-pack from anyone but the big guys? Will that drive some away from craft brew and keep others from ever trying it?

  12. mag says:

    I’ve got to imagine it will to a certain degree. Then again, I still buy gas even though prices have gone up. One could argue that good beer is as essential as gas…to a point (price elasticity issue w/ beer?). Using a bit of the Socratic method…
    1) I have not changed my gas buying habits even though gas prices have risen.
    2) Good beer gives me gas.
    3) Therefore, my good beer buying habits will not change with a price increase.

  13. Kris says:

    I have to agree with John and put my faith behind the fact no, the big boys wil not put a significant dent in the craft beer market. There are multiple reasons craft beer drinkers seek out the small guys and are willing to pay more for the quality product they offer. Those folks are quite similar to the foodies interested in the slow food movement and supporting their local growers/producers. They’re the ones questioning the “organic” label slapped on products sold by Wal-Mart or if Whole Foods is still able to hold true to it’s roots. I think the craft beer drinkers are just as smart and in fact will not forget who AB is, regardless of how many craft breweries they can buy up or create.

  14. Sean says:

    Ben states: “Keep supporting the local breweries! If you have to pay a couple more dollars per sixpack, then so be it.”

    I Concur.

    However, economics WILL determine my purchase (flexable or not) cutoff point – Rather than buy a case of Schells, I might buy a 12-pack or 6-pack. But, TASTE is a major consideration. I have driven to Hudson for a case of Spotted Cow (New Glarus brew).
    Rather than purchase Miller, Bud, Coors, etc. I will brew my own.
    I’m 43, so I’m digging my heels in here….now I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue….
    – GO BEER!

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