Two titans of craft beer—Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head Brewery—recently made waves in the industry when they announced their surprise merger. We asked The Fervent Few what they hope results from these two breweries joining forces, followed up by the age-old question: does a merger like this feel different than acquisitions by multinational companies like Duvel and AB InBev? Here’s what they thought.
Barnabas Schickling: “I think the merger will hopefully—fingers crossed—lower the cost of goods, allowing Dogfish Head to experiment, but at a lower price to the consumer. This feels different from Duvel—because Dogfish Head has been beating the independent drum for so long, it seemed like maybe this merger wasn't a thing on anyone's mind, which is why it was such a surprise to see it happen.”
Ryan Brower: “I ultimately think it’s a good thing if it means they can both better compete with macro-brewers now. I do wonder if craft beer has finally reached peak collab—will we see more mergers along these lines? I was lucky enough to be invited to a PR event the day after with both Jim Koch and Sam Calagione, and they did say both breweries’ labels will eventually end up on all the beers, which is pretty neat if you think about it.
I do think the whole deal brings up a much larger question, though: what even is an independent craft brewery anymore? Combined, Dogfish and Boston [are approaching] the 6-million threshold that the Brewers Association had to change years ago so Boston could stay within the definition. Toss in all the other categories Boston Beer has in its portfolio that aren’t beer, and I think it’s valid to wonder what the meaning of ‘independent craft brewer’ is moving forward.”
Patrick Guo: “Personally I don’t care about mergers as long as the target is to produce better beers, or to bring craft beer to more people. It will be money-making of course, but just don’t prioritize that, please. I don’t think either type of merger will change my buying behaviors. I know Firestone Walker is still making ass-kicking beers, and I’m still a happy drinker.”
Matthew Curtis: “The biggest thing for me here is not what happens next, but the careful use of the term ‘merger.’ Boston Beer Co. is struggling, and they needed to make an acquisition; Dogfish Head *is* that acquisition. It’s important to me, as I’m sure it is to many consumers, that this message is clear. Although I’m sure the two companies will work well together, I see this purchase as essential for Boston Beer Co.’s continued survival as a beer business.”
Casey Street: “I think it is the most important deal in the history of craft beer. There is going to be a lot of pressure on both sides to be successful because of their stories and histories. Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head are two of the godfathers of craft beer and have both been outspoken against Big Beer; the future of craft mergers like this rests on their shoulders. As far as the deal itself is concerned, it makes a lot of sense. Boston Beer is well-established everywhere but having trouble being innovative. Dogfish has the innovation, but not the distribution... Boston Beer has to make it work for their fans and, more importantly, for their shareholders.”
Rob Steuart: “As this is touted as a ‘merger,’ I think it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years, as the two companies start to rationalize how they operate as one entity. Will they compete with the same styles of beers in the two portfolios? Will they pursue efficiencies in the back-of-house areas of the business (a single HR department, etc.)? Will they change where products are made to drive these efficiencies?”
KC Cupp: “The ‘merger’ makes complete sense, and is a wonderful fit for both companies. Boston Beer and Dogfish make some of my favorite beers.
I was happy to see this happen, yet at the same time the deal left me questioning the BA’s Independent Craft Brewer Seal agenda that I've henceforth been a huge supporter of. What does the seal mean when a company like Boston Beer keeps growing?
I understand that craft is a blip on the radar compared to Big Beer, and Big Beer works very hard to control the market, but when you look at the fantastic breweries that have been acquired by multinationals (Goose Island, Wicked Weed, Ballast Point, etc.) is the entire argument moot when what we’re all looking for is just a great beer? Does the seal stop you from drinking these brands?
It's like the T-shirt floating around that reads: ‘F#CK AB-INBEV except Bourbon County.’ We wait in line every Black Friday for this beer, while at the same time waving the ‘Independent’ banner. I personally own a BA Independent Seal Hat (LOL).
My personal opinion is that the definition of craft beer is becoming very muddy, and I find myself asking more and more: ‘what is craft beer?’”
Finally, I’m going to let John Gross make this joke because it's pretty good:
John Gross: “I hope the 2020 Record Store Day release of Dogfish's 'Beer To Drink Music To' series is nothing but Mighty Mighty Bosstones hits.”