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AB InBev Buys Minority Shares in RateBeer.com: Craft Beer Brands Ask to Be Removed From Site

by Alexander Frane on Jun 12, 2017 in Beer

Global conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev is well known for acquiring beer companies, including multiple craft breweries, as well as its #1 competitor, SABMiller, in a $100 billion dollar transaction. There is a growing concern in the beer community that ABI is growing too large and risks becoming a monopoly. For those that share the concern, the news that ABI now has minority stake in RateBeer.com, a popular beer review site, offers little comfort. It might be especially concerning considering the relative anonymity in which the purchase happened.

Good Beer Hunting was the first to report the news after clever sleuthing on their part uncovered information about the purchase in March of 2017. Writers at GBH found the LinkedIn profile of a product manager at ZX Ventures, a subsidiary of ABI, who was supposedly involved in a merger with Rate Beer. Though the Executive Director, Joe Tucker, originally declined to comment on the merger, it appears that the transaction began in early 2016. However, stakeholders were not made aware of the exact nature of the purchase, only that a “big investor” was interested. They only recently found out in a press release on Friday, June 2, 2017.
 
Tucker assured Good Beer Hunting that the purchase would have no effect on the ratings on the site. “RateBeer is acting independently,” Tucker told writers at GBH. “We’ve always acted independently. The value of our scores is based on our independence. We’ll continue to operate in the same way.” He described the purchase of stake by ZX as beneficial to Rate Beer, saying  it would help the company “keep pace with technology and keep pace with the growth of the community.” Likewise, a representative for ZX said that Ab InBev’s interest in Rate Beer was purely “Insight into consumer trends”, saying, “It’s a better understanding of the beer consumer, and the beer markets globally. That’s really going to help us kind of keep our finger on the pulse.”
 
However, not everyone seems placated by the statements made by Rate Beer and ZX/AB InBev. Sam Calagione, founder and president of Dogfish Head Brewery out of Delaware, has publicly requested that all Dogfish Head beers be removed from Rate Beer network. “We believe this is a direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics and a blatant conflict of interest.” Calagione wrote. Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn similarly has requested removal from the site, writing that,  “AB doesn't buy companies to be "bros" - there is always a strategic initiative at play. Buying up beer rating sites, the nation's largest homebrewing site*, and acquiring other grassroots companies is definitely part of a larger strategic initiative.”
 
It’s unclear whether more breweries will follow suit and ask to be removed from the site. If they do, Rate Beer may not be as pleased with the transaction as it seems now to be.
 
*link provided by The Drink Nation
 
Photo via Flickr user Image Catalog
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