Since the selling of Wicked Weed Brewery to InBev on May 3rd, the fallout continues to this day. I talked to customers at various Charleston, SC breweries to get their opinion on matters and this is what I learned.
Most were against the sale. The reasons they gave are numerous and varied but can be distilled down to these points.
A lot of people felt that this would affect the quality of the beer produced. Some said the quality of ingredients/supervision would change. Some said the brewing would be moved to different locations and therefore be supervised by different people with different opinions on how to perform the manufacturing of the beers.
Others felt the company would no longer hold to the former owners values. The value that Wicked Weed placed on being a part of the community and being involved in the day to day operations of a brewery in a beer lovers heaven. They even questioned whether the employees would be treated the same way.
I also heard from people it was mainly InBev themselves as a business. Most feel they are working the way of “we can’t beat them, let’s buy them out” mentality. In the long run, the goal of a business is to make money and the feeling is that InBev would do that by cutting costs wherever they could.
But perhaps most importantly, it was what they felt was a betrayal of the customers ownership of the breweries. When you taste a good beer at a brewery, it usually doesn’t stick around for long. It may be a seasonal, a one of, or just not back up in the rotation. (My personal example of this is Holy City Brewing’s Brain Squasher. It is only available in the fall but I yearn for it all year long. It’s delightful blend of pumpkin stout with a dose of peppers.)When you enjoy this brew, you want to tell people about it, whether in person, text, Facebook, Untappd, or whatever other method you may use to communicate. And the next time someone asks about your favorite beer, you tell them about this awesome place that has this awesome beer. It becomes a part of a craft beer drinkers person. In all of the brewer interviews I have done, they all remember that first good beer. The one that set them on the path. That love… of that beer… at that place… that you introduced to other people, that’s what makes a customer feel like they own a part of the place. That’s why craft beer lovers always have a favorite spot and are always proud to introduce it to someone new.
Wicked Weed patrons are no different. There is a tremendous passion for the beer they make. There was a line out the door for most of the evening at Craftsmen Kitchen and Taphouse when they had their Wicked Weed tap takeover. The love for the product is still there, but is now tarnished and will never be the same. Customers have lost their ownership of the brewery and will move on to other venues.
The industry will go on and Wicked Weed will continue to grow with sales throughout the country. But it will no longer have local owners. In more ways than one.