Big Beer’s “Trojan Horse” Strategy is quite simple. The first step is to create so-called “stealth craft” brands. Originally, Big Beer did this organically. For example: Blue Moon (Miller) and Shock Top (AB In-Bev). Over time, Big Beer has come to realize that it’s much quicker and safer to just acquire successful local brands. This acquisition approach began around 2005, but has accelerated in recent years. In 2015 alone, Big Beer has bought or announced takeovers of five craft brands – Golden Road, Saint Archer, Lagunitas, Elysian, and now Four Peaks.
Once acquired, Miller, Heineken, and AB In-Bev sell their “stealth craft” brands nationally like they’re still local, craft brews — but the original brand is not craft after acquisition. (See the Brewers Association definition.) In step two, Big Beer can utilize its market power to pressure distributors into paying more attention to its “stealth craft” brands than pesky hometown brews.
(By now, you’ve probably heard about the AB In-Bev incentives program announced early this month. This program is specifically designed to further AB In-Bev’s “Trojan Horse” strategy.)
As local brewers under the current barrel cap, we are much too small to compete against “stealth craft,” but we are being forced into these “stealth craft” dominated portfolios anyway. The North Carolina barrel cap law requires involuntary participation in a business deal that will result in our demise. Conversely, an increase in the cap will allow us hometown brewers to naturally grow and compete. Additionally, over time, native NC distributors will benefit from our growth by having stronger local partners to offset Big Beer’s influence. Hometown brewers are not against distributors, just being forced into distributor portfolios without choice or say. Craft Freedom is all about this simple request: We want to have a choice. We think this choice should belong to us, and should not be a government mandate. We hope you agree and support our efforts to raise the self-distribution barrel cap in NC.