It's new brewery season in San Diego. As many as six new operations are opening to customers in May alone. That includes the new brewpub 10 Barrel, which plans to close off a couple of East Village streets for a grand-opening block party on May 27.
1501 E Street, East Village
However, unlike the other new businesses, 10 Barrel is not locally owned. Garrett Wales, Chris Cox, and Jeremy Cox founded 10 Barrel ten years ago, in Bend, Oregon. Since that time, it has expanded to open brewpubs in the reliable craft-beer markets of Portland, Boise, and Denver. And it's been doing so as part of the largest beer company on the planet.
It's old news by now: Anheuser-Busch parent company, AB InBev, purchased 10 Barrel Brewing in 2014. AB InBev currently controls an estimated 30 percent of the global beer market.
It's also well documented that San Diego craft breweries are not happy about this. The San Diego Brewers Guild has accused 10 Barrel of being a "sheep in wolf's clothing," co-opting the San Diego craft-beer brand on behalf of a large corporation that uses its massive resources — sometimes unethically — to take market share away from the companies that established San Diego as a beer mecca. Recent news backs up this idea.
Just in the 16 months since the 10 Barrel brewpub was announced, California's ABC fined Anheuser-Busch $400,000 for using illegal "pay to play" practices to entice beer retailers to buy its beers. More recently, it leveraged its ownership of South African hop farms to completely cut off the supply of South African hops to all the craft-beer companies that have been using them.
Garrett Wales insists 10 Barrel is simply spending InBev's money, and production will not be influenced by its corporate ownership. He pledges that Benny Shirley, who moved down here from a 10 Barrel location in Bend to be the brewpub's head brewer — has free rein to produce beer he wants, and the priority is placed on making a quality product. There's no reason to think this will not be the case, nor that the beer won't taste good.
However, neither Wales nor the Coxes will be moving to San Diego to operate the business. In fact, their names aren't the ones listed on its brewing license. Instead, it names Andrew Goeler, Thomas Larson, and Michael Taylor as its managing officers, along with the corporate entity: Anheuser-Busch, LLC.
Larsen, Taylor, and Goeler are employed by AB InBev. In fact, three days before the ABC issued 10 Barrel's East Village license, Anheuser-Busch promoted Andrew Goeler to be head of marketing for its Bud Light division. This means the man responsible for improving sales of the top-selling beer in the United States quite literally has a license to make and sell beer in San Diego under a brand name that explicitly implies small-batch production.
Due to its ownership, 10 Barrel's brewpub doesn't qualify for the type 23 small-beer manufacturer license possessed by over 90 percent of San Diego's beer businesses. Its is a type 1 license, designated for breweries producing more than 60,000 barrels annually. This 10 Barrel brewpub does not have the capacity to produce that much, of course, but it does have the capacity to brew more than a 10 barrel brewery. Despite its name, the multimillion-dollar brewpub Anheuser-Busch is opening in East Village actually has a 20-barrel brewhouse.