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Monday, May 30, 2011

Molson Coors Goes "Craft" in Canada

Time travel, anyone? This is the future:
Molson Coors Canada has launched the Six Pints Specialty Beer Co., a new stand-alone segment targeted at the craft and specialty beer industry....Six Pints will initially carry Creemore Springs and Granville Island beers, but its portfolio is expected to expand to Linkinclude other specialty Canadian beers as well as import beer. Molson acquired Creemore Springs Brewing Co. in 2005, which then bought Granville Island Brewing Co. in 2009. Mr. Freedman said the company will operate separately from Molson and come up with its own pricing, distribution and promotion strategies.
When macros get crafty, they have a few options. In a ham-handed effort to seize the market, the early, failed plan was to set up shell, faux-micro brands. They have had mixed success buying brands and incorporating them into their brewing operations. Blue Moon has been a winner, but it's the only example I can think of off-hand. Finally, there's the Gambrinus model of acquiring ownership of existing micros and leaving them as intact, stand-alone breweries. This one seems like a pretty smart winning strategy for the parent company (if not the most efficient), but a big problem for those who want the term "craft beer" to mean anything.

Inevitably, small breweries will gain value and be prime targets for consolidation. And just as inevitably, there will be consolidation. So North Americans will come inevitably to this question: if a brewery gets sold, but the beer remains molecularly unchanged, can that identical beverage still be called "craft beer?" The answer is obvious: yes. But that won't be the answer a lot of people want to hear. There will be some especially painful reckoning by beer fans, too, as fiercely independent brands like Hair of the Dog or New Glarus or Stone start to fall.

On that happy note...


  1. From a 'craft beer' standpoint, does Gambrinus have any drinkable beers? I know that has nothing to do with success/failure, but does anyone who cares what they drink (that's a loaded phrase, I know) think anything that they make is good? Shiner Bock? Blue Heron? Pete's?

  2. re: shawn
    Texan friends and family hold Shiner beers in high regard; likely, local pride and lack of exposure to better beers. Last summer I taste tested Shiner 101 Czech Style Pilsner against three Colorado craft pilsners; it did not fare well; ranking #24 on my list.

  3. Why would you expect any differently from the "rugged entrepreneurs" of the post 80s craft brew movement? Even Sam Calagione lists Ayn Rand as one of his inspirations. This is the inevitable result of a market based solution to a market caused problem. The problem is consumer capitalism and the only winning move is not to play (ie -- to homebrew).

  4. I would also add that Stone has been engaging in the same kind of reverse colonization of the old world recently that is typical of American consumer capitalism. Don't doubt for a second that greg koch will blanket the market in McBeers the second he has the opportunity to dominate it.

  5. Last February, Pete Brown reported that Molson-Coors purchased Cornwall's Sharp's, a British craft brewery.

    If memory serves, Brown was hopeful Molson-Coors would leave it intact.