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WALKING WITH THE DINOSAURS

September 15, 2014
Seems almost every-other tweet I see over the past day or so has to do with Heineken's rejection of an SABMiller takover bid. Now, beer industry watchers everywhere are breathlessly predicting a new round of mergers between the world's mega-brewers.

For most craft beer drinkers, the issue is moot. They don't drink that stuff anyway. Most watch with a degree of satisfaction as the market share of the large industrial brewers continues to slip while the number of microbrewers and craft breweries continue to expand almost daily. It's like watching the slow end of the Age of Dinosaurs--remembering, of course, that it took a long, long time for them to finally become extinct.

Some observers are already predicting a possible purchase of SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which--for nostalgia's sake alone--would be slightly disappointing. For someone older like me, it's just hard to accept that the Gog and Magog of the brewing universe would ever be joined together. The huge international brewing conglomerates have long been blamed for everything that was wrong in the beer world. But they were not always so huge.

I can remember when brands like Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Strohs, Pabst, Schlitz, Carling, Hamms and others were all separate entities. Yes, they all brewed a similar product, which was generally undistinguished in overall character--but an experienced palate could still tell the difference between them.

When there wasn't a huge variety of beer available, the concept of a "Champagne of Bottled Beers" seemed to have some merit. I may not have been clear about the advantages of being "fire-brewed"...but a cold bottle of Stroh's was not such a bad thing--especially if it belonged to your dad, and you thought he might not miss one if you snuck it out of the fridge. One of the most enjoyable beers I can remember was a fresh, tasty Black Label I had at the Frankenmuth Carling Brewery tasting room back in 1983.

That brewery is no longer there. It's gone, now. Just like a lot of other things.

But that's not a lament. In may ways, things are better for American beer drinkers now than they've ever been--at least in my lifetime.

I still drink a lot of "major" imports along with my craft beers, and I really don't care who owns them, since they generally taste just as good as they did 30 years ago. I do refuse to drink almost any domestic light beer, with the exception of Bud Light Lime, which is a mainstay in my pool on a hot summer afternoon, along with Corona and Modelo. I don't automatically "write off" any product that comes from a large brewery, just because it comes from a large brewery. I drink for satisfaction, not to make a political statement.

I sit here now writing this and watching Monday Night Football with a Miller Fortune next to me. It's not a superb beer, but it's decent, not over-hopped, and reasonably priced. I'll save my better craft beers and local offerings for the weekend, and time with friends.

As for the dinosaurs, well--I guess it takes one to know one.


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