CT craft breweries worry about 'big beer' merger - WFSB 3 Connecticut

CT craft breweries worry about 'big beer' merger

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U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Back East Brewery in Bloomfield on Thursday to tour the facility. (WFSB) U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Back East Brewery in Bloomfield on Thursday to tour the facility. (WFSB)
BLOOMFIELD, CT (WFSB) -

There is trouble on tap for craft breweries in Connecticut. Craft breweries fear a mega-merger poses a major threat to their budding sales.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Back East Brewery in Bloomfield on Thursday to tour the facility. He also discussed ways to help protect local breweries against unfair trade practices.

Production was in full swing at Back East Brewing Company where their signature brews are made in Connecticut and sent out to store shelves in the region.

On Thursday, the brewery's owner said he wants something else canned. There is a proposed "big beer" merger that's brewing between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller.

"We are all are really producing a great quality product and we're standing up to the big guys as far as quality and taste,” Tony Karlowicz, who is the co-founder of Back East Brewing Company said.

The $106 billion merger is falling flat with craft breweries for a number of reasons. Local brewers said they are most worried about the beer behemoth's ability to interfere with getting craft beer products to the public.  

"Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller merging threaten to take over distributors and carry their beer and not the craft brewers’ beer,” Blumenthal said.

Breweries depend on distributors to get their suds onto store shelves and bar-tops. “Big beer” has the "big bucks" to buy their own distributors, which could give their brews prime placement, over craft beers. Those concerns even extend to the very essence of beer, which is hops.  

"When we take a merger of two companies and what it could do to the raw materials we purchase from all over the world there can be some negative effects,” Curt Cameron, who is the owner of Thomas Hooker Brewery, said.

The craft beer movement has exploded in recent years. The brewers association said craft beer has turned into a $19 billion industry.

Connecticut is fertile ground for the beer revolution with more than 40 local breweries and more popping up each day. Connecticut's craft brewers said they are taking a stand to make sure they don't get drowned out.

"We need that unified front to make sure what makes our product great is not taken away from us or at a minimum made more difficult to obtain,” Karlowicz said.  

On his end, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev is trying to reassure lawmakers and said the proposed merger is not about putting the squeeze on the little guy, but to open up markets in Africa, Asia and Central America.

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