Shock-Top is Made by the Biggest Brewer in the World.

Despite what (apparently) 75% of you think, Shock-Top is produced by an international brewing conglomerate. Actually, the biggest one there is, Anheuser-Busch/InBev (ABIB).

Surprised? Maybe. Do you care? I’m sure readers here cover the spectrum from “Nope” to “Yup”.

Before we get to the real issue here, let me say this: there is a lot of talk/chatter/in-fighting in the craft beer scene about what has come to be called “craft vs crafty”. This post is not about that. I have no problem with small brewers being bought by big brewers (think Creemore by Molson-Coors or Goose Island by ABIB). If you do have a problem with this, then you’ll be even more outraged by what I’m about to say. But I tend to think that beer is either good or bad, based on the actual beer. ABIB produces some fantastic beers. I’ve had truly awful beers from tiny mom n pop craft brewers. I like that — for instance — not only did Molson-Coors buy both Creemore and Granville Island to bring their products to a much wider market, but that they also opened The Beer Academy here in Toronto, where they make many lovely craft beers and host all manner of beer education programs.

So, with all that in mind, why am I telling you that Shock-Top is made by the biggest brewer in the world? Simply put: because they are planning on launching a campaign to try to hide that fact from us all. And not just a small social media effort, but an elaborate, $2.7 million campaign to specifically support the notion that Shock-Top is made by a small/craft brewer. They know from market research that 75% of people already think that (and yes, they do this type of market research *all the time*) and they think that they can convince more.


Fony 2015, it's huge

Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit here.

We know all this, thanks to Ben Johnson, another excellent beer writer here in Toronto. Yesterday, Ben published all this on his blog ( Unsurprisingly, the story kind of blew-up.  I would strongly suggest you read that post, and if you can handle it, the actual memo that was the basis of the post. The memo is awful. Lots of brutal marketing-talk and other grossness. You will immediately think of that slimy sleazy sales-type person that I swear everybody knows at least one of, and read the memo in their voice.

But now, so what? No shortage of people, particularly people exposed to the craft scene in the states have more or less said “Who cares? Big brewers lie all the time”. And that’s true. I’ve consumed a Coors Light and at no point did I find myself suddenly snowboarding down a glacier, sitting around a campfire with my buddies playing an acoustic guitar, or arm-in-arm with two absolutely smoking-hot, bikini-clad babes in a jacuzzi with the rocky mountains in the background.

How is this different?

Well, I think in my example above, nobody really believes that drinking a Coors Light will make that stuff happen. It evokes a sense of being connected to those types of things (if you are the kind of person who buys into advertising like that, and many/most of us do, on some level). But certainly, nobody who is legal drinking age (and that’s a whole other issue) thinks that they will suddenly discover exceptional snow-sports skills, virtuosity on the guitar, or physique that looks at home between two models, upon sipping a Silver Bullet (do they still call Coors Light that?).

But choosing to drink local is something everybody *can* do. And it’s a very good choice. It supports jobs in the community, and profits stay in the immediate area. Often you can get excellent beers made within a few dozen kilometres of your house. This beer will (ideally) be fresher, and will have travelled a shorter distance (saving on carbon emissions).

I spoke with Ben briefly today, and his view is the difference between motivation:

But the thing that’s extra greasy about this is that craft brewers generally work hard to differentiate themselves from their corporate counterparts who presumably care more about profits than taste. Consumers have reacted to that and (to some extent) have begun to embrace craft beer as a result. Now the big guys are trying to pretend that their focus is taste first in order to drive profits.

On the one hand, the little guys generally just want to make good beer and make enough money to put their kids through college. On the other, the big guys are looking to claw-back the large chunks of market share they’ve been loosing to smaller, “better” tasting beers.

So when a giant brewer, who’s ownership is Belgain/Brazilian and who enjoys a 25% share of the global beer market, decides to stage a $2.7 million campaign implying that one of their products is made by a small/craft brewer, yes, I’m with Ben, I have a serious problem with that. And I think anybody who knows it’s not true and has any type of reach, should tell people. Like this:

Shock-Top is brewed by a company who’s 2013 global revenue was
$43 200 000 000.00 USD

And there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t particularly like Shock-Top, as it’s a fairly insipid example of a Belgian-style wit. It’s a lot better than a Bud Light. I have zero interest in trying their new Spiced Pumpkin or Chocolate flavours. Nor will I want to try the Cotton Candy or PB&J varieties, which seem inevitable given what’s happening in the mediocre-vodka-world or their own “-a-rita” range of drinks. Where problems arise is when they spend more on a single marketing budget than most craft breweries will earn in their first years of operation, to make themselves appear like they’re a small brewery.

So, on behalf of every brewery everywhere with marketing budgets of nil, regardless of the quality of beer they produce, let me just say

The people who own Shock-Top got two Emmy nominations for ads they ran DURING THE SUPER BOWL

Don’t believe the hype.




  1. Curtis
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Dope article bro.

  2. Posted September 24, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    We do realize how small a 2.7 million ad campaign is, right? Sam Adams must burn that in a week.

  3. chris
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    “They have so much money, so them throwing a lot of money around is no big deal” is beyond a bad argument. For what they’re spending on a Canadian-only campaign, they could easily build and start 5 actual small/local breweries across Canada, say, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, and actually employ locals to produce decent quality beer. That they could spend much much more hardly gives them a pass.

  4. Al
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I think that the biggest test is whether this will impact people negatively from trying different beers. In this case, I don’t think there will be a negative impact as the product is not horrible, it’s just not very interesting.

    There is as much potential for people to start trying other white/wit beer styles as sending them running back to Bud so at the very least it may work as a gateway to craft.

    I question the strategy though. I think that many people that already drink macro brews are actually OK with that, identify with brands and think that big breweries mean quality control etc. I think that people that actually are into craft already know what Shocktop is.

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