Anheuser-Busch Bullies Microbrewery into Changing Name

pilule on Flickr”>Anheuser-Busch EagleI just read an article about Anheuser-Busch telling a new microbrewery in London to change its name. AB apparently though the Belleville Brewery’s name was too similar to their own Belle-Vue beer because it starts with “Bell” and ends in an “e.” Pretty weak argument, visit in my book. Belleville Brewery, which has since changed its name to Northcote Brewery, is run by some fathers who met because their children all attend Belleville Primary School, and distributes its brew locally in south London.

Come on, AB. Just admit that you don’t want to share the sandbox with anyone else. A small start-up with a similar name that probably produces far superior beer is not your real competition. Squashing small-scale competition like this is ultimately bad for the industry. Granted, AB did not put the microbrewery out of business but it did cause a disruption, to be sure.

One theory of business growth is that a rising tide lifts all ships. That is, the more the industry grows, the better off everyone is. Perhaps Anheuser-Busch is not interested in seeing the industry grow. However, it is true. The more people buy beer and try new things, the more beer gets sold. Those of us who are into homebrewing and mircobrews do this because we find brands like Budweiser to be ultimately unsatisfactory, but the American light lager is a legitimate style of beer. What makes it undersirable is its prevalence in the market, not that it is inherently bad. Thus, some people who get turned on to beer really like that style and will buy it. Microbrews can be that gateway drink that helps people learn that beer can be good and eventually lead them to buying Budweiser and similar products. It is not the normal order of things, but it does happen occasionally.

Anheuser-Busch Eagle by Steve Snodgrass, on Flickr