Having completed the Lagunitas purchase earlier this week and the buyout of Wicked Weed last week, the AB/InBev public relations department must’ve said “what the hell” and plunged along with an announcement that certain South African hops will only be available to their own subsidiaries, creating outrage among industry professionals, home brewers, and beer geeks in general.
Cries of monopoly and anti-trust aside, the Monster of Malt is able to do this because either the growers, or the distributors, or the cooperative, or whatever it is in South Africa was owned by SAB/Miller. Now that Bud owns Miller, Bud says you can’t have any of our trendy hops.
Brewers and beer fans are calling foul.
Oh it smells indeed, but let’s think about this in realistic terms. AB/InBev is an economic entity, and the boardroom is NOT comprised of bearded Subaru owners in flannel shirts fantasizing about lupulin. They are there to make money, for them and for their stockholders. If trendy new hops will give them an advantage in the marketplace, they’re gonna take it.
By the same token, let’s continue along these free market thinking lines…
If none of these hops are available from any independent grower elsewhere in South Africa, shouldn’t those growers start planting them? But if (now) InBev subsidiaries developed and own the intellectual property/genetics etc. for this particular rhizome, then it is theirs to protect and market, is it not? If I create something, or even if I buy something someone else created, there is no law requiring me to sell it to you, no matter how bad you might want it.
Let’s say I own a restaurant, and I decide to buy the chicken farm where the chubbiest, tastiest, free-rangyist chickens are raised. If I decide that said chicken farm will no longer sell chickens to my competitors, would there be a similar hue and cry?
As for me, I simply don’t buy InBev products. Oh I may tip back a Goose if someone gives it to me, but otherwise no. It’s a free market. they can do what they want with their property, I can do what I want with my money.