The groups last craft acquisition was Goose Island in 2011

The group's last craft acquisition was Goose Island in 2011

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s swoop for Blue Point Brewing Company, announced this week, is further evidence of how seriously the global brewer is taking the threat, and opportunity, craft beer represents. 

The deal, which industry sources estimate has cost around US$24m, is the first significant play by the Budweiser brewer’s craft beer board. Established in late 2012, the board's aims include seeking out craft beer opportunities.

And, as the US's 34th largest craft brewery, with its flagship brand Toasted Island, Blue Point is very much an opportunity.   

For Blue Point, eyebrows were certainly raised among members of the US brewing community and consumers at Long’s Island’s largest and oldest beer company giving itself up to a global giant. For some, selling out to "the man", in this case the world's biggest brewer, can never be a good thing.

But, the clue to the brewer's owners, Mark Burford and Peter Cotter, giving up of the reins may lie in the fact that A-B InBev has a secret weapon on its craft beer board: Goose Island founder John Hall. The respected brewer, who sold up to A-B InBev in 2011, will no doubt have had a significant role in persuading Burford and Cotter that taking the A-B InBev dollar is not so bad after all.

Even so, a blog on Blue Point’s website confirming the deal featured the rather defensive headline: “We’re not going. We’re growing.” 

The New York State Brewers Association also gave a 'no hard feelings' type reaction to the news. “We’re confident that the folks at Blue Point made this deal with the best intentions, they obviously make a quality beer, otherwise this opportunity would never have come to them,” executive director Paul Leone was quoted as saying. “It’s really the only way big beer can curb the tide.”

A-B InBev must have plenty more potential targets on its radar. As John Hall said to me in an interview a year ago. "There's no way that all these (craft) companies starting up are going to be successful by themselves," he said. "It's pretty hard to do that, it's just the nature of the business.”

So, who will be next to fall? 

Expert analysis

The Craft Beer Phenomenon

The Craft Beer Phenomenon

This report provides an overview of the market for “craft beer” and the drivers behind the growth in the category ....read more