When MillerCoors bought Saint Archer Brewing for $35 million, fans of San Diego’s craft beer community grumbled, but consoled themselves with the thought that Saint Archer was always about the money, anyway. But when Constellation Brands bought Ballast Point for $1 billion, the incursion of soulless Big Beer — “where it’s all about the brand and not the brew” — could no longer be ignored.
“These were guys who started out of a home-brew supply store,” says local beer drinker Bud Gutt. “You can’t get more crafty than that.”
And when 10 Barrel Brewing Co., a former Oregon craft brew now owned by Anheuser-Busch, got approved to install a brewery at 15th and E Streets downtown, “it became clear that we were under attack. But sadly, it did not become clear to everyone. Joe Gaslamp is probably gonna see a name like 10 Barrel and think he’s all set to enjoy another fine offering from the craft beer capital of the world.”
Unfortunately, recent developments indicate that the corporate creep into craftland is not limited to the beer scene.
Yesterday, San Diego’s highly regarded Coffee & Tea Collective announced that it had been purchased for $50 million by the coffee giant Starbucks.
“People are naturally going to regard this as the little fish getting swallowed by the big fish,” said C&TC CEO David Howcome. “And it’s true that I’ve gone on the record in the past with my criticisms of the one-note dark-roasting style at Starbucks — the way it tends to obscure varietal characteristics. But I prefer to think of it as a powerful virus entering a much larger, much less vital organism. I’m hoping my enthusiasm for great craft coffee will prove infectious to the whole Starbucks culture. If not, then I will just have to console myself with a yacht and a place on St. Bart’s. I hear the coffee’s pretty good there!”
And that’s not all.
While enjoying a brisk Saturday-morning stroll from the alley behind The Alibi to the Mencken domicile, this reporter stumbled across what may be the first sign of Big Juice’s push to get in on San Diego’s sweet craft action.
Unfortunately, as of press time, SD on the QT was unable to confirm rumors that Walmart had entered into negotiations with the City of San Diego to bottle the city's toilet-to-tap purified drinking water under its Great Value label. Also unconfirmed: the slogan “From crap to craft.”