As I write this news of Anheuser Busch being bought by InBev is breaking. Now I am no fan of AB’s “beer”, but it is an American company and they have been here for a long time. Not only that, but AB does give back to their community in numerous and often unseen ways. But InBev is a behemoth from Belgium. Of course everyone is thinking “hey, I like Belgian beer” but there is much more to this than meets the eye. You need to be able to see in to the future a bit to see how this is going to hurt us all.
Prices for grain are at an all time high. The price for hops has tripled and even quadrupled just in the last year. This means that brewers either put in less hops (read less flavor) in their beer or they raise the price (read less people buying it). As less people buy it they are faced with lagging inventory. This is where the small brewers get squeezed. They either minimize their profits to nil to stay in business, or they sell or go under. But who would buy a business like this? Who could buy a business like this? The behemoth can and will.
InBev is the largest beverage company in the world. They are the Wal-Mart of beverages which means they can affect prices. They can buy a large share of the worlds grain and hops and force prices upwards. The small guys either raise prices or cut quality or go under.
We will soon see the attrition in the ranks of small local brewers, not just here in Walla Walla but across the nation and even across the world. Your favorite brew will become more expensive then will disappear. This will begin to happen with other items as well. Corn is now being made into bio fuel. This will drive up the price of ear corn, tortillas and tortilla chips, popcorn, and even soda (high fructose corn syrup). Wheat prices are skyrocketing too. The price of pasta is at an all time high, the price of bread is beginning to go up. Cereals will soon start this upward climb. Can you imagine paying an extra dollar or more for your wheaties?
So what can be done? You can boycott all of InBev’s products (Beck’s, Stella Artois, Hoegarten (ever wonder why we don’t carry it?),Bass, Bohemia, Boddington’s, Fransiskaner, Kokanee, Labatts, Spaten, St. Pauli Girl) these are only a FEW. You can boycott Wal-mart, but since they are opening new stores in China it won’t make any difference.
The real solution is to buy local. Really local. Encourage your local brewer to buy the local grains. Encourage your local farmers to sell their grain locally. Here in Walla Walla we grow wheat. All kinds. Why couldn’t we be milling at least a portion of that wheat here in town and supplying local bakers and brewers with that grain? Support your local businesses. Don’t get your produce at Costco or Wal-Mart. Go to your local green grocer or even better your local farmer.
AB’s buy out may not be the end of civilization but it might just be the start.