Ten years ago, the thought of a huge corporate brewery pumping out IPA’s was some people’s idea of utopia. For others, it was the apocalypse.
Whatever you might have thought about that, it’s happening now. In a recent press release, AB Inbev announced a two billion dollar capital investment program that includes “$15 million to begin innovative cross brewing capabilities at the Fairfield brewery through Elysian partnership, including significant updates to brewery infrastructure.” Elysian Brewing, as you may recall, was acquired by AB InBev in January of 2015 and roughly a year later, six packs, bomber bottles, and tap handles of Elysian IPA’s like Spacedust and DayGlo started showing up all over the Bay Area
It’s not a surprise that AB InBev will migrate some production of Elysian to their Fairfield, CA facility as they continue to expand distribution of their recent acquisitions. In fact, according to a Tweet from Monterey beer writer Leslie Patino, the Fairfield, CA facility was already brewing beer from another AB InBev acquisition, Golden Road Brewing.
It’s worth pointing out that AB InBev’s plans also include “$58 million to improve and increase sustainability at our facilities”. Say what you want about AB InBev’s diabolical plans to grow their business, crush the spirit of craft beer, dupe the masses, ect. they are one of the more environmentally sustainable businesses out there and continues to invest in lowering their environmental footprint.
But let’s get back with the news about the Fairfield brewery. You’re going to see more AB InBev “craft” brands in the San Francisco Bay Area as they leverage their existing manufacturing facilities to earn better returns on the investments of their brewery acquisitions. Retooling corporate breweries to produce less light lagers and more IPA’s sounds like the march of progress. Economists calmly explain that this is how everyone benefits: AB InBev sells more beer and consumers, who increasingly prefer more flavorful beers like IPA’s over light lager, have better opportunities to buy beers they want.
Most craft beer fanatics would claim this is simply more of AB InBev’s evil corporate plans to crush small breweries, and despite the fanaticism, they have a valid point. Whether or not most consumers care if their beer comes from a local independent brewery or from a major conglomerate, AB InBev is clearly hiding involvement in their craft brands and has long engaged in various anti-competitive practices against smaller breweries. And if you’re a small or mid-size brewer depending on retail sales for a significant portion of your revenue, life is only going to get harder when Elysian comes online at Fairfield.