This morning I received a press release from the Brewers Association announcing the keynote speaker at the upcoming Craft Beer Conference in Portland. The theme of that address will be innovation and passion in the craft beer industry, things that differentiate it from big beer.
That concept has been an integral part of craft beer's cover story from the beginning. Most brewers got into this business because they believed strongly in creating something special and doing things right. Money was a secondary concern for these folks.
I guess someone at the Brewers Association decided now might be a good time for 11,000 CBC attendees to hear a renewed talk on the "Why" concept. Possibly this has something to do with the recent buyouts and sellouts in Oregon (10 Barrel) and Washington (Elysian). Just a guess.
Buyouts past, present and future damage the psyche of people who work in the craft beer industry. I'm not talking about the owners of the sellout breweries, who are essentially trading their ideals for boatloads of cash. I'm talking about the rank and file.
One of the best things about the craft beer scene is the countless people you run into who have a deep passion and commitment when it comes to making and selling good beer. Most of these folks are hooked on that feeling and do what they do for a relative pittance.
I've seen this movie before. I've worked it before in industries where we thought we were selling something authentic and special. You work in these industries because you embrace the "Why" concept. Later on, you find out you weren't so smart.
When a craft brewery is bought by Anheuser-Busch, it isn't just those employees whose ideals are looted. It's people who work in pubs, taverns and stores where the sellout brands are sold. These folks thought they were representing a product with soul and integrity.
Only to discover they were taken in and that money was all that mattered. That's what gripes me most about these buyouts.