Speaking at The 2017 Beavertown Extravaganza beer festival at the weekend, Sierra Nevada brewery ambassador Steve Grossman said that the likes of AB InBev and SAB Miller lacked the philosophy and passion to lead the way in global beer trends, but the growing influence of “big breweries”’ in the craft sector was an area of concern.
“In the past 20 years this industry has gone nuts,” he said. “The big breweries have taken notice of this as the sales of their flagship beers started going down. They didn't want to get into craft because the beer is expensive to make, but they had to try it, so they started making craft beer styles themselves, but the consumer didn't buy it.
“This went on for a few years until eight or nine years ago when they decided to start buying breweries. Now all the major brewers have purchased craft breweries. I don't know if it’s the best for the industry. There's a lot of collaboration within the craft brewers themselves and I don't think it will happen within the majors.”
Independent still really important
“They have a different philosophy of how to sell beer,” he continued. “For us, education of the consumer and passion for our beers is really important. We've been brewing beer for 50 years; it's been our life. Buying a brewery that is already established can never maintain the same amount of passion than if you'd built it from the ground up.”
“Independent is still really important and it is going to move this industry forward with innovation and with exciting projects”
Grossman insisted that he had no problem with breweries selling out, and that he would recommend any brewery owner without someone to take it over should seek to find one.
“I'm not denigrating anyone who builds a brewery and sells it,” he said. “It's a business and in order for a business to sustain it has to be profitable and viable for years and years. If someone puts a lot of their sweat and equity into a business they have every right to sell that and make their money. I really congratulate the people that have built their business and sold it at a fair profit.”
“However, we're a family owned brewery and we've been grooming the next generation to take over, and many other breweries around the country are planning the same thing. I think we have a great future in this business and we are going to see it thrive.
“Those that don't have heirs to pass the brewery on to should go ahead and sell their brewery and have their life's work pay off.”
Support for SIBA and Brewers Association
The Sierra Nevada ambassador also confirmed that he supported initiatives by the US Brewers Association and The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) to try to distinguish independent beer in supermarkets and pubs.
Both SIBA and The Brewers Association have introduced seals – indicating that a brewery’s beer is independently produced – to be displayed on bottles in recent months.
“It's important for the consumer to know,” he said. “A lot of the independent brewers are supporting it, and I support it too, but it’s not something we have on our bottles yet.
Grossman’s speech was organised as part of the Good Beer Hunting Symposium, a collection of talks, seminars and debates at the two day Beavertown festival, which featured beers from more than 75 craft breweries from around the world.