If you thought beer making at once-local craft breweries on America’s East Coast was going to stay local after being acquired by a $213 billion company headquartered in Belgium and decided in Brazil, here’s a wake up call for you.
As Brew Studs reported in May, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) disclosed that an announced $2 billion U.S. facilities upgrade program contained an $11 million earmark for adding tanks intended to ferment “craft beer” at its brewery in Merrimack, New Hampshire. At the time, we could only speculate as to which brands on The Cut Off would be brewed there, as AB InBev did not respond to our inquiries for further information.
Now, we know that at least one ex-craft beer brand acquired by the world’s largest beer company has joined the brew schedule at the New England facility, which recently added an 8,000 square foot building to house the new fermentation tanks. We also can be pretty certain that the beers from this brand, Blue Point Brewing Co. of Long Island, NY, will not max out the brewery’s production capacity of 220,000 barrels per year. Blue Point’s current annual production is listed at 51,000 barrels per year, and the brewery broke ground in September on a new 54,000 square foot facility that could have capacity for 120,000 barrels annually.
This leads to the question: What else will be brewed in Merrimack? If the new tanks are intended to be logistically purposeful, it makes sense to speculate that out of the remaining brands in AB InBev’s The High End division portfolio, the ones who will find their labels in New England are now located East of the Mississippi — that is to leave out the possibility that there a plans for breweries who are as yet not acquired. Going with the premise that the space is meant for existing High End beers, we’re left with Goose Island (Chicago), Devil’s Backbone (VA) and Wicked Weed (NC).
Only the passage of time can tell if outsourcing the production of InBev-acquired breweries will negatively impact the economic contributions or employment rates of the towns that bore them, but it is evident that the production growth being added in Merrimack will not be having any direct positive impact for those breweries’ origin communities.
Regardless of which or if all of the High End brands will be brewed in places no longer considered local to legacy consumers, AB InBev is still positioning these brands to blend into local craft beer retail shelves. Observant beer lovers around the country have seen these impostor beers gradually creep closer in sets to the ones brewed right down the street, and nonobservant consumers really can’t tell the difference.
In the end, it doesn’t appear that InBev’s offloading of Blue Point beer production will kill any jobs in Long Island, but there is an increasing possibility that it could kill jobs and businesses wherever else Blue Point beer is sold.