10_barrel

Anheuser-Busch sets its sights on San Diego

Beer lovers around Seattle know how it feels when Anheuser-Busch starts meddling with the local beer scene. Many local beer enthusiasts are still recovering from last year’s news that the beer behemoth acquired Elysian Brewing, one of the city’s oldest and most-treasured independent breweries. Now another West Coast beer mecca is feeling some Bud-fueled anxiety.

Last Wednesday, San Diego’s Downtown Community Planning Council approved a plan for Anheuser-Busch to open a 10 Barrel Brewing brewpub in the city’s East Village neighborhood. The plan is being met with some opposition from the local beer community.

No small affair, Anheuser-Busch’s plan calls for the construction of a 10,450 square-foot brewery and pub in the heart of the city’s downtown corridor. The East Village neighborhood is described as a collection of businesses and former industrial properties undergoing a redevelopment push.

The San Diego Union-Tribune called the A-B plan “another sign of corporate eagerness to crack San Diego’s beer scene,” referring to Constellation Brands’ acquisition of Ballast Point Brewing last November and MillerCoors’ acquisition of Saint Archer Brewing last September.

The San Diego Brewers Guild fears that the 10 Barrel brewpub will devalue local craft breweries whose beer is actually made in San Diego by small, independently owned businesses. The San Diego area is currently home to 117 breweries with an estimated 40 more in planning.

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“It’s OK to put your name on Petco, Qualcomm – any stadium you want to – and say, ‘Guess what? We are Budweiser. We’re here.’ That’s fine. But don’t say [you are] a San Diego craft company where you are really a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Kevin Hopkins, President Emeritus of the San Diego Brewers Guild.

Opponents worry that consumers may be deceived and think that 10 Barrel Brewing is a local, independently owned brewery.

“Beer drinkers here in San Diego may think that when they patronize [this brewpub], and buy and drink 10 Barrel’s beer, that they are supporting the local brewing community,” said a statement from the San Diego Brewers Guild. “That is not the case. Instead, 10 Barrel seeks to deceptively communicate itself as being part of the locally grown marketplace and leverage its resources and size as a corporation to compete against and ultimately harm the true local brewers and disrupt the market.”

The acquisition of 10 Barrel Brewing of Bend, Oregon in 2014 was Anheuser-Busch’s third foray into the realm of craft beer. Since then, Anheuser-Busch has gone on a buying spree, acquiring four more breweries in the past 13 months. The A-B “craft beer” roster now includes Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Beer Company, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing, Four Peaks Brewing Company, and Breckenridge Brewing.

Opponents of Anheuser-Busch’s San Diego plan also worry about the world’s largest brewing company using its financial muscle to curb the success of San Diego’s independent breweries.

According to Kevin Hopkins, “It’s not just what the definition of craft is, it’s what impact does that have on the passion of independently-owned businesses? If large companies can throw around millions, how are smaller companies going to be able to move in? … What they’re doing is putting a local flavor and feel to something that has been done in a factory.”

Hopkins says that the millions of dollars Anheuser-Busch would spend on the 10,450 square foot brewpub could ultimately prevent smaller, independent breweries from opening downtown locations because it would escalate property values beyond affordability.

In their defense, the Downtown Community Planning Council says that it does not have authority to regulate competition and looked at the Anheuser-Busch proposal strictly from a land-use perspective. The Council’s approval of the plan was just a first step in the process; to actually open the new 10 Barrel Brew Pub the project must earn the approval of the San Diego City Council.

10 Barrel Brewing submitted its proposal last month but the Downtown Community Planning Council just approved it last week.

The project can be appealed by anyone who files a written comment with Civic San Diego, and apparently plenty of people plan to do just that. According to reports, within an hour of 10 Barrel Brewing filing its notice last month, three individuals handed over their written protests. By all indications, there will be a lot more opposition.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Anyone who cares to only frequent craft brewers will be in the know, and anyone who doesn’t know, well, they don’t care. I understand the angst but…

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