The Antitrust Roadblock: Preventing Consolidation of the Craft Beer Market

January 1, 2019

University of the Pacific Law Review, 50 U. Pac. L. Rev. 403


Wicked Weed Brewing Company opened its doors in 2012 to a thriving North Carolina craft beer scene, and it grew like a weed. In 2014, Wicked Weed introduced the Funkatorium—a popular taproom and barrel-aging facility. The following year, the brewery opened a third production facility, which included a 40,000 square foot, 50-barrel brewhouse. To put that number into perspective, this facility alone is capable of brewing 1,550 gallons of beer in a single batch. Then in 2016, Wicked Weed opened a 57,000 square foot brewery and barrelhouse built on 17 acres; the company’s largest facility. After opening four production facilities in less than five years, the brewery employed over 200 workers and produced over 150 unique beers a year. Wicked Weed’s creations have won numerous awards in notable tasting competitions, and the brewery itself won the title of best craft brewery in North Carolina and in the 17-state South.

In May 2017, Wicked Weed announced what it called a “strategic partnership” with The High End, a division of the Belgian beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (“AB InBev”). In other words, “Wicked Weed sold out to a Big Brewery.” Why would a wildly successful craft brewery decide to sell to a large corporation? Looking at the beer industry as a whole, the trend is not an uncommon one.

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