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Op-Ed from Breckenridge Brewery & Anheuser Busch’s The High End

Op-Ed from Breckenridge Brewery & Anheuser Busch’s The High End Staff

If the results of last week’s shakeup involving the Colorado Brewers Guild, and the newly formed Craft Beer Colorado were any indication, the craft beer industry has fallen on confusing time. While the rift between the two groups derived from a number of varying factors, one of the key points of contention involved the fact that Anheuser-Busch owned, Breckenridge Brewery’s, Todd Usry still remains a CBG board member.

In response to last week’s fallout, Todd Usry along with Anheuser-Busch’s The High End Division President, Felipe Szpigel have issued a joint op-ed letter to This Op-Ed in no way reflects the views or opinions of the PorchDrinking Staff, however we do feel it is our journalistic responsibility to share both sides of any story and thus provide this forum for Usry and Szpigel to express their views.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the current state of craft beer, especially here in Colorado. And there’s been discussion about Anheuser-Busch and Breckenridge Brewery. With that, we both felt compelled to share our views.

First and foremost, we both respect the Brewers Association and all of the state brewers’ guilds across the country. Some have shifted to drawing a line in the sand when it comes to independent breweries. From our viewpoint, this is divisive rhetoric and a distraction on what should really matter, namely the desire of all brewers to continue driving beer forward, both here in Colorado and across the country.

Beer as a whole needs direction and our mutual perspective is we need to focus on the challenges facing our category, together. With all of the noise the past few days a key point that has been overlooked is a willingness to work together as a community. All of us make our living in the beer industry and, we hope, love drinking great beer. From that foundation, only together through passion and providing the best experiences, can we move past the divisiveness and discuss a path forward that is inclusive, not exclusive.

When it comes to participation in the Colorado Brewers Guild, or any state guild, our viewpoint is simple:

  • We support beer and local guilds, whether at the state or local levels.
  • We want Breckenridge Brewery, and any partner brewery within The High End, to be welcome in state guilds.
  • We, as Anheuser-Busch and Breckenridge Brewery, are not asking for the right to vote. We simply want the ability to participate and join in discussions.
  • We want to participate in, host and support craft beer events throughout the country.
  • Most importantly, we want to provide knowledge and resources to other craft breweries – focusing on quality and safety. We’ll do this in Colorado by continuing to offer Breckenridge’s quality lab on a regular basis to local breweries who would like to come in and test their beers. We’ll also hold a safety or quality seminar every quarter at the Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton to any brewer who would like to attend, working together to identify the most important and relevant topics.

The partnership between Anheuser-Busch and Breckenridge Brewery employs approximately 1,600 Coloradoans and came together because both of us, at our core, brew beer for a living. Just like every other brewery in Colorado that is looking for support to continue to grow, Breckenridge wanted to partner with someone who is committed to the brewery for the long term.

We’re both positive about beer and celebrate the passionate brewers in Colorado who brew great beer and provide great experiences. As leaders, we want to stay above the fray and take a beer-first approach. We applaud all brewers out there who share this perspective and want to advance our community.

Those who speak negatively about either of our companies likely do not know what we stand for. There is heightened angst in the marketplace as the number of competitors within the beer industry continues to grow. Many times, the easiest thing to do is to find someone, or something, to blame.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is have an open dialogue. Rather than all of us running to a series of corners, perhaps we should come together for the industry, product and experiences we all deeply value and love.

We’re open, willing, and ready. Are you?

Todd Usry is the president of Breckenridge Brewery

Felipe Szpigel is the president of The High End, a business unit of Anheuser-Busch

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  1. Alan

    “We, as Anheuser-Busch and Breckenridge Brewery, are not asking for the right to vote. We simply want the ability to participate and join in discussions.” Sorry Todd, but you do not need to be on the board to just listen in, being on the board gives you a vote. Why not Follow Four Peaks lead as they did in Arizona and become an affiliate member and not a full member?

  2. Elise

    This op-Ed piece was hilarious. Read like a greatest hit from The Onion. ABI and their latest CO pawn claiming to want to move craft beer forward. What a joke! Todd Usry has no credibility.

  3. J

    Huh, remember THIS from an article about big beer buyouts from just 16 months ago?

    “Todd Usry, the brewmaster and general manager of Denver-based Breckenridge Brewery, which fits the production volume and brewpub profile for acquisition, said the company has not been approached to sell out and has no intentions to do so.

    “The big thing to me is, the craft beer industry was built on individuals and their stories,” Usry said.

    When craft breweries sell out, “I think there is some serious authenticity that is lost, and that the brand loses,” he said. “We’re not corporate. We are entrepreneurial and individual.”

    Usry, like others, is concerned about the business ramifications of big-beer buyouts. “It’s going to be harder and harder to get our voices heard at the wholesale level,” he said. “It’s hard enough for craft beer in general to get meetings with big chain buyers. Now, AB can go in and pitch Elysian.”

  4. IF AB-Inbev is so concerned about the beer and not being divisive then why do they continue to run commercials that directly attack craft beer companies? I think it is quite clear what is going on here. The big guys, Inbev, Miller-Coors, are scared because they continue to lose market share year-after-year. Of course they want the guild to stay together, that way they/Todd Usry still still have a vote. I have no idea what the new Craft Beer Colorado guild will look like or become, but after reading this I’m glad they are distancing themselves from AB and the Colorado Brewer’s Guild. The above comment that cites Usry’s comments prior to selling-out to Inbev are pretty good evidence of him as a disingenuous person. Todd, just own it. Be like Ballast Point. I know I’d have a hard time passing up $1B like they did, but I would also hope I’d own up to it, which Usry and Breckenridge have not done. Inbev has tried to tear down craft beer for years, just listen to the crap they pulled on Dogfish and Boston Beer in the early days with bogus lawsuits and other b.s. Craft is about making a high-quality product, AB is about making money. Usry clearly did this for the money, which is OK, but don’t hide behind AB’s rhetoric. Craft beer is not fooled, and neither are its supporters.

  5. B

    ABI has brought in Goose Island to China, S. Korea and Japan. They are claiming to only support and grow the craft industry here. I have spoken with them directly and they only want to support craft, at least they truly believe this on the ground level. Shortly after I talked with them I started hearing rumors of ABI offering large amounts of money, bonuses and such to bars to only carry ABI brands in China (I have only heard the rumors from some credible sources, but I’ve not seen anything first hand, though I don’t expect to). I believe ABI will tell it’s craft side one thing, but in the end, they are a never ending global corporation that literally can’t stop growing because of their company structure. I think a Craft Beer Association should be established on a global scale so everyone is informed of what the big giants are doing. I also agree, if ABI was truly for craft, they would stop the anti-craft commercials and actually admit that craft is good. Until then, I have a hard time believing anything they say.

  6. My, these are lovely words! So, on Monday will ABI-owned distributorships in Colorado and elsewhere throw open their doors and shelves to ALL craft brands? And tell the owners of non-ABI distributorships that they’re ditching the incentive program that “encourages” those distributors to push ABI brands?

  7. Jason

    This is completely laughable. An op-Ed that sounds as though it was written or at least edited by AB-InBev attorneys and pushed out as an original opinion of Todd Ursy. This is utter desperation from a company that has, is, and will continue to loose market share to real Brewers who are real people who are part of real communities and neighborhoods who are brewing real beer for real people who want to be part of something unique and original in their own neiborhoods and communities and support local people and business. ABI will simply never be able to replicate this beer revolution so they are aquiring craft breweries and brainwashing the personnel into believing that they are carrying the craft flag and that their goal is to move craft beer forward. Todd is simply a pawn who can no longer be taken seriously by those in the industry or by the educated consumer. Sorry.

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