Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) is the parent company of Budweiser, and has long been accused of anti-competitive practices. It's the reason why I refuse to buy any product they make, including beers produced by the many breweries they've purchased in recent years (e.g., Devils Backbone, Wicked Weed, Elysian, and Goose Island). Their acquisitions have been targeted such that the breweries are in most regions of the country (nothing yet in the Midwest), with various areas of specialization and style strengths. I'm not anti-big beer, I'm anti-ABI.
Friday's announcement that RateBeer had sold a minority stake to a subsidiary of ABI hit me like a ton of bricks, and while I've made a couple of posts on FaceBook about it, I've still been coming to terms with it, and what my response should be. With 48 hours to digest everything, I'm pretty sure that I now know my full response.
What concerns do I have about the announcement?
- It's eight months late. The deal went through in October, and only when an article was about to be published about what had happened did RateBeer finally acknowledge that ABI was already working with the site. There's no telling how long the silence would have continued without that outside discovery. I don't buy the claim that the delay was "because the two sides wanted to get 'points on the board' to prove the value of the partnership without the 'disruption' of making it public." I mean, perhaps that's also true, but there are far greater benefits of silence, including:
- ABI access to the data without anyone getting upset and potentially leaving (as users are now contemplating doing);
- No potential walkout of brewers from the big beer festival RateBeer holds in January;
- No association of the change in the Terms of Service last Fall with the corporate investment; and of course
- No scrutinizing what's going on at the site for the time folks were unaware.
So what am I going to do about it?
I've given this a lot of thought over the last 48 hours or so, and consistent with my approach of not buying any ABI products, what I've decided is that I'm not comfortable providing any help whatsoever to ABI's desire to expand further into craft beer. This makes continuing to enter ratings on RateBeer problematic. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as finding another site for my ratings, because my existing ratings aren't readily transferable, I'm used to rating beers in the RateBeer format, and no other site has the information as readily able to be compiled as RateBeer (there's a reason why I've stayed with RateBeer all these years). Perhaps as importantly, what's to stop ABI from making an acquisition of another ratings site?
So with no good alternative to RateBeer, and discomfort with continuing to use Ratebeer, I'm left with the solution of taking my ratings private and independent, just like I was before I joined RateBeer. It's not that big of a deal -- the primary reason for entering my ratings has always been to compile my ratings, and these days it's not so hard to do so in your own file accessible from anywhere you have an internet connection.
As I'd like to have all my existing and future ratings in one place, fortunately RateBeer lets you compile your ratings. And even though it does so in blocks of 1000, and the data is wonky as Hell, it's about as good as I'm likely to get. So I've downloaded my old ratings, am in the process of cleaning them up and converting them into a single file, and will enter new ratings into that file.
Goodbye RateBeer, and good luck to Joe and all the folks still active over there. I'm fortunate to have made many friends through the site, and over the years have connected with many of them on Facebook and in real life -- I look forward to seeing you/them in the years to come.