The other day as I was drinking down the knowledge (and opinions…) fermenting on the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Page, I came across an interesting piece on the proposed purchase of the remaining half (that it doesn’t own) of Grupo Modelo by Anheuser-Busch InBev – itself the result of multiple acquisitions and mergers. (Since that article ran, both companies have still been maneuvering to try to complete the deal.)
Now, of course, U.S. antitrust law has something to say about potential monopolies, especially when it comes to consumer protection. So, of course, the U.S. Justice Department stepped in, and poured water on the alcohol merger fire by filing suit and saying “you’ve got a potential monopoly brewing”.
Well, I’ve never had an issue with the prices and the variety of beers, and it was my amateur impression that the variety of beers available has actually been increasing in recent years. That WSJ piece provided a clue of where to look for some interesting data – specifically, the number of sanctioned breweries in the United States.
A History of Legal Breweries in the United States
Here’s an graph of the number of sanctioned breweries from the Brewers Association:
How about that drop during Prohibition? Pretty hilarious, if you follow the slope until Prohibition ended. How many breweries do you think continued operating during that span?
Anyway, the relevant data points are the number of breweries operating in the last few years: 1,793 in 2010, 1,989 in 2011, and 2,126 in 2012. It’s true – we’ve had a bit of a beer renaissance over the last few years. You’re looking at the beer singularity, and this is only breweries registered with the association. No, this doesn’t count your cousin’s brew operation in the basement.
Beer Variety at Risk?
You tell me – do you think letting the beer merger go through would affect your enjoyment of getting buzzed on oat soda? Do you think two mega-breweries joining up will adversely affect any consumers, even, perhaps, the college beer-pong crowd?
And, more importantly, any craft beers you like from your area? In the Bay Area I turned into a wine snob, but back East I was a fan of Magic Hat’s #9. Milwaukee, what is Milwaukee’s b(B)est?
Oh, and you tell me… was this Friday DQYDJ piece watered down?