Against the backdrop of yet another brewery acquisition by A-B InBev, some of critics’ biggest fears about the beer megacorporation seem to be coming true.
If you pay anywhere near the attention to brewery social media accounts that we do, you may have noticed a few brewers on Wednesday morning sharing something akin to this Facebook post from Portland, Oregon-based brewery Great Notion:
Great… A-B InBev just swooped in and bought all of the exciting new South African hops we thought we had coming to us this summer. tweet
What do these brewers have in common? All of them acquire their South African hop varieties through ZA Hops, a Colorado-based distributor that works with South Africa-based SAB Hop Farms to provide the hops to American craft brewers. And on Wednesday, ZA Hops owner Greg Crum informed them all that Anheuser Busch InBev—which gained control of SAB Hop Farms through its 2016 merger with fellow brewing conglomerate SABMiller—would no longer allow him to buy those hops.
ZA Hops is one of very few (read: maybe two or three) American distributors of South African hops, and is far and away the largest. Crum purchases his hops from SAB Hop Farms for distribution to brewers in the U.S. and has been doing so since 2012. All of the in-vogue varieties he provides to American brewers—Southern Passion, African Queen, Southern Star and Southern Aroma, as well as some experimental varieties—are grown by SAB farms. The partnership has until now been beneficial for both parties, Crum says, as the company regularly had excess that he was able to help sell off to American brewers. He even convinced SAB in 2014 to expand its hop production and investments in the export market.