Monday, July 16, 2018

Craft Beer Connections - Brewery Influence Web

The newest version of the graphic can be ordered here!

Most recent update, December 2019:

On Friday I posted a visualization of the connections between the ownership of American breweries, both craft and macro. I was inspired by this graphic of American food companies and leaned heavily on existing aggregations. The response was enthusiastic. Between Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit it was viewed ~150,000 times, plus being featured in a Paste Magazine article.

However, it's the Internet so of course there were complaints:

- You're missing (insert recently sold or Canadian brewery)!

- You're lumping in total ownership with partial!

- List the rest of the 124 AB InBev owned breweries!

- That brewery is closed now!

- That logo is for the 7 Bridges in Da Nang, not Jacksonville!

I spent far too many hours over the weekend correcting, tweaking, and expanding the graphic to address many of those issues. Thanks to those who created other sources I could use as source material (/u/Hraes' spreadsheet, Craft Beer Joe, Philip H Howard, and of course Wikipedia).

Any visualization is a balancing act of information and intelligibility. My first version was likely too simple to provide any deep understanding of the complex web of brewery ownership... while the updated version may be so complex that it is overwhelming (and that's still without 108 AB Inbev brands).

Feel free to let me know if I missed anything. I intentionally left-off private equity firms that own a piece of a single craft brewery (e.g., BrueryStone). I'm sure that there are other conglomerations outside the US that didn't come to mind. It's already starting to look like one of those crazy conspiracy diagrams, so I'm not sure how much more I could add.

With this many complex relationships it is difficult to be completely accurate while maintaining legibility... especially when it comes to unique situations and convoluted relationships. So here it is without distinguishing different levels of ownership.

If you're reading this after July, 2018 don't expect the graphic above to be up-to-date. Obviously no rights other than fair-use claimed on the brewery logos.

I didn't start working on this with the goal of changing what beers people drink. I don't refuse to buy beer from "sellout" breweries... but all-else equal, I'd rather my dollars didn't go to a company that uses its size to muscle small craft breweries off the store shelf or tap list (for example). It's the same reason I stopped shopping at Northern Brewer and Midwest. In that regard there is a big difference between breweries owned by AB InBev, and to a lesser extend Molson-Coors, compared to those owned by CANarchy and Duvel-Moortgat. Even with those though, I'd rather support a small brewery where the money goes back into the brewery, rather than a private equity firm or international conglomerate.

Independent craft beer isn't always delicious. Wide-scale distribution of delicate beers takes both skilled brewers and a level of packaging and distribution channels that many small breweries don't have funding for. That said, I'm not going to buy an insipid or uninspired beer simply because it has a low-level of DO (dissolved oxygen) and an absence of diacetyl and acetaldehyde. There are enough great beers available that I don't need to sacrifice on quality or consistency!

Here is an interesting piece on the Old Dominion-Fordham relationship with AB InBev. Jim Lutz, CEO: "In the years I’ve been here I’ve only met with the AB InBev people twice..." I was fond of Old Dominion before they were acquired in 2007. The first noticeable change was that the tasting room went from smoke-free to smoking permitted. Pretty quickly they closed the brewery in Ashburn, VA and moved production to Fordham's facility in Delaware. The old head brewer didn't follow (he, along with the equipment, became Lost Rhino). I may be out of the loop, but I remember Old Dominion producing a few interesting beers (like their Millennium barleywine aged in barrels... and even a version with Brett). Now all I see from them are pin-up girl logos and uninspired beers. Whether that is the result of AB InBev or the brewery itself doesn't change many of the reasons I don't buy their beers.

While the Brewers Association had to draw a line somewhere for what is craft, I don't find anything special about the 25% non-craft brewery ownership definition. What really matters is the relationship between the brewery and ownership. How much control of the beers is put into the hands of marketing or accounting? What sorts of incentives/investments are there for brewing innovation versus sales growth. Are resources primarily used to increase consistency/quality, or reduce costs? In the past BA has been all too happy to raise the barrels-per-year cap for Boston Beer, even though producing ~4,000,000 bbls/year as a publicly-traded company owned by a billionaire puts their trade-group needs much closer to a macro brewer than it does mine as a ~1,000 bbl/year start-up brewery.

We're at an interesting time in the growth of craft beer, hopefully the visualization helps illustrate that!


  1. Hi,

    Few more information missing in this drawing :
    1 - Del Ducato italian brewery has been bought by Duvel :
    2- Kirin, the japanese group has bought another london based brewery last week, Fourpure. They did it through their australian subsidiary company

  2. Thanks, by no means a complete list! I left out a brewery here and there to get things to fit nicely. I'll see if I can squeeze them in on the next iteration (and thanks for the sources). It's amazing how many people have commented that I need to move a brewery here or there without realizing that something changed a few years ago!

  3. I think some of the more disappointing buyouts have been market leaders in young craft beer markets. Ireland is now under a lot of pressure from Franciscan Well (Coors Miller)
    Carlow brewing -Estrella Galicia
    Eight Degrees mentioned elsewhere. That coupled with Diageo's brands like Hop House and Heineken's 'Cute Hoor' make a small market smaller.
    Birra Del borgo a leader in Italy is now 100% inbev and brewing some Goose Island brands by some accounts.
    Nomada and La Virgen are now also partially or fully owned by larger multinationals
    Doesn't seem helpful in markets saturated with macro lager where the green shoots of craft beer are beginning to poke through

  4. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought Lagunitas was originally 50/50 but then went all in?

  5. Yep, one of the things I need to fix in the next version!

  6. Swinkels also owns 35% shares of Brouwerij De Molen + some exclusive distribution

    Duvel took an undisclosed amount stake in Brouwerij Ij

  7. I appreciate the love for a lot of those indie small guys. But I think Sierra Nevada should be in there since they are the OG, the Largest, and one of the best.
    Also maybe a box for +xx% of PE. Ie Stone, Bruery, etc?

  8. Many thanks for producing this chart! It would be awesome if it could be updated. Maybe some sort of google doc that you review periodically?

  9. Hi there,

    BOON is not owned by Swinkels! Boon brewery is owned 50% by the Boon family and 50% by the Diepensteyn Holding (which used to own Palm breweries, now owned by Bavaria/Swinkels). Boon was never part of the sale to Swinkels and has never been part of that group.

    Kind regards,
    Karel Boon of Boon Brewery

  10. Hijos De Rivera is a independent family owned craft brewery out of Spain. Would be great to see them in the chart.

  11. Hey Brewdog insist they they are fully independent. TSG did purchase shares in them but they insist TSG have no control over them at all. Not sure if that changes anything?

  12. Thank you Karel, I'll make that update for Boon on the next version!

    There are plenty of minority stakes featured on the chart. I certainly hope most of them really do have zero influence on the beers and business, but all I can show is where the ownership falls.

    It is amazing how complex some of these relationships are. I'll also need to fix the chain between Brooklyn and 21A and Funkwerks. Kirin has a piece of Brooklyn, which has a piece of the other two. So much less than it currently appears. It was also noted that while Mahou San Miguel has a brand named San Miguel they are not affiliated with the San Miguel corporation of the Philippines.

    The award for least likely to squeeze on the chart currently goes to Foster's:

    Australia and India: AB InBev
    Latin America, Europe and CIS: Heineken International
    Canada: MolsonCoors
    US: MillerCoors

  13. Don't Anchor still own a % of BrewDog as well or is that just Griffin Group now since the Sapporo sale?

  14. @Rob Cooper

    TSG have directors on Brewdog's board so that's definitely part ownership.

  15. Great job distilling the complexities down to an incredibly useful and easy to read diagram. Keeping it current will likely be a full-time job given the pace of consolidation, especially if you plan to add VC-backed investments.

  16. Agreed, although easier with half the Internet letting me know what needs updating. For examples that CANarchy just picked-up Three Weavers.

  17. Interesting and important document. Thank you!

  18. Don't forget that Virtue Cider is in ABI's craft portfolio too. What a great effort. Thanks!

  19. Didn't know that. I decided to keep cider (wine and liquor) out, crowded enough already!

  20. I taught BROOKLYN BREWERY was owned by CARLSBERG

  21. I'll second the need for Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to be on the list of fully independent craft brewers!

  22. This is a superb piece of work Mike!

    Anyone who cares at all about the Craft Beer scene needs to be aware of these ownership connections.

    I am trying to actively avoid any Macro-owned brands, where there are independent craft beer alternatives available.

    Of course, there will be times when I find myself at a venue where Macro-craft is the only logical choice...

  23. Just a thought.....but I would love to see a version of this chart that focuses-in just on brands that are positioned as "craft", and so could be interpreted by the uninitiated as being independent brewers.

    You could get rid of Carling, Coors, Bud, Kirin, Guinness, etc which are not really open to any confusion.

    This would leave you with a chart with maybe 100 or so logos, which would really be delivering a public-information service!

  24. Excellent graphic!

    Here are a few more for the Heineken box if you ever get around to another iteration:

  25. Intrigued with the Trappist breweries being on the outside squares? Surely with much of the charitable work they do with the proceeds of the sales of Trappist beer they would be more in line with the independents? I find it hard to compare the Trappists to AB InBev.

  26. I don't see beer as morally different from any other product I purchase. Can you do a similar chart for everything else I spend money on, whether it's at the grocery store, a monthly bill etc. Thanks!

  27. Not trying to make a value judgement with where they are located, just noting that they are associated with each other through the Catholic Church. For the new version I added breweries run by the Benedictines and Franciscans too!

    Everyone needs to make their own decisions on what ethical consumption is for them. Some may want to support or avoid the Trappists because of their religious connection. While AB InBev is a huge company that throws its weight around to the detriment of small brewers, they are also far more efficient beer-for-beer compared to small breweries in the amount of water/energy they use. Their brewers are often paid more, and conditions are almost certainly safer. I can't tell anyone that it is "wrong" to drink a Bud Light.

    Ha, just breweries is trick enough for me to keep track of!

  28. @Martin Veillette, Carlsberg and Brooklyn have a partnership in Europe, no ownership either way. But Kirin is owned by Budweiser in parts of the world too, so that's fun:

    Also, some South African stuff that's left off, as in Jack Black's is owned by Heineken:

  29. Great work! I assume the UK one will be much easier and therefore out in a few days ;)

  30. I added Marston's to the most recent version, seemed like the biggest UK-centric group.

  31. I would add Stanley Park Brewing to AB-InBev. Molson-Coors Canada has a Craft Division called Six Pints Specialty Beer Company which includes Granville Island, Creemore Springs and Trou Du Diable. Rickard's is another big Molson Coors brand. Are you going to add the new company called Legacy Breweries (EPR Properties) which bought Ninkasi ?

  32. Oh. How about adding Okanagan Spring to Sapporo. Plus Sleeman. And Asahi with Fuller's and all their brands.

  33. Sharps under Molson Coors is huge too

  34. How about some Canadian Craft conglomerate connections ?

    See Craft Collective Beerworks - Our Brands.

    And the recent merger with Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head ?

    Oh, and add Alberta's Wild Rose too Sapporo.

  35. Hey, take a look at the version at the bottom that is the most up-to-date. I've added many of those over the months since I first started! No way to fit everything though!

  36. I'd like to see a list or spreadsheet of this information.

    Great chart though! I think it's difficult to determine who owners what, on purpose...

  37. There are a few lists out there, like this one:

    I just make notes and update as I go so I never made a complete list.

  38. Hi ! Is it normal to put the logo of Omnipollo as an independant brewery ?
    It's a brand, not a brewery, they are gipsy brewers and brew in other breweries, they don't own a brewery... just bars.

  39. There are many types of brewers and breweries. A brewer who designs recipes, sources ingredients, but doesn't own a brewery isn't automatically "less than" those that do. Many great breweries started out by contracting, still have some of their beers contract brewed, or buy wort.