Take Craft Back: Indie Brewers Take a Stand Against Big Beer

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Take Craft Back - US brewers association

As attention-grabbing stunts go, it’s pretty great: Crowdfund the $213 billion purchase of Anheuser-Busch InBev. The campaign, part of a new Take Craft Back campaign by the Brewers Association, aims to help America’s independent beer brewers punch back above their weight against an increasingly powerful and conglomerated industry and what the association calls an “illusion of choice.”

“America’s independent craft breweries turned the beer industry upside down. That’s why Anheuser-Busch InBev and its Big Beer cronies are buying American independent and small craft breweries up left and right. Taking our independence—and your freedom of choice—away. But we won’t be muscled out. We’re launching the largest crowdfunding effort in history to turn the beer industry upside down one more time!”

Take Craft Back logo

That is the salvo from the Take Craft Back Facebook page. The campaign is fronted by a humorous video that builds in energy and is full of vim and vigor. The cheeky campaign is funded by the Brewers Association, an industry group that supports independent breweries.

“More and more we are seeing the illusion of choice and we need to ensure this does not become a marketplace reality,” Julia Herz, the Brewers Association Craft Beer Program Director, told brandchannel.

“Where exclusive contracts with retailers, stadiums and music venues can exist, they do, and much of the time they are tied to ABI. For example, even those very few beer-related companies who could afford the millions it takes for a Super Bowl ad cannot place one as ABI has an exclusive agreement with the NFL.”

In the face of sagging sales of traditional labels and the explosion of interest in craft beer, so-called Big Beer has been on a buying spree to acquire well-regarded craft labels. For example, Shock Top and Goose Island are now part of ABI. AB InBev’s recent $108 billion takeover of SABMiller only accelerated that trend.

The Take Craft Back campaign has enlisted the active support of independent beer brewers. For example, Port City Brewing Company participated in a video extolling the virtues of the campaign and declaring they are “proud to be small and independent.”

The campaign to crowdfund the takeover of AB InBev is a great PR stunt for stirring the pot and attracting attention but the Brewers Association is taking more practical measures to push back against conglomeration and support craft brewing.

There is a Take Craft Back toolkit for independent brewers to join the movement. The organization is also promoting an independent craft brewery seal that denotes independent breweries.

“In terms of supporting beer lovers, a significant number of craft beer drinkers know that Anheuser-Busch InBev and other large brewers have acquired companies, but there is confusion as to which companies were acquired and who the small and independent craft brewers truly are,” says Herz.

The Take Craft Back campaign is, at heart, a stealth campaign to support the visibility of the independent craft brewer seal, launched this summer to increase beer drinker awareness of and preference for truly independent beer. As its marketing materials state, “The seal is a smart, cost-effective means of communicating our complex story, and Take Craft Back borrows a page from the same playbook.”

Herz says the seal will help inform beer drinkers of the authenticity of its members, and that more than 2,400 breweries have signed on to use the mark “on their bottles, cans, packaging, tap handles, menus, coasters, festival banners, websites, social media and more.” Beyond the Take Craft Back movement, independent craft brewers are (ahem) getting craftier with buzz-generating marketing.

As for ABI’s response? “We can take a joke!” stated an email that the beer conglomerate’s press team sent to Forbes. “While the fake money for this campaign ‘piles’ up, we will keep focusing our donations on giving back to communities across our country.”

By “fake money” ABI is referring to the fact that Take Craft Back’s crowdfunding program collects only pledges and no real cash. More than 8,000 had made more than $2 million in support pledges at press time.

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