Culture / Foodie Events

The Karbach Controversy

Did the Little Guys Betray Houston’s Craft Beer Community By Selling Out to Budweiser?

BY // 11.03.16

When controversy strikes, the public has this amusing way of immediately pouncing on said scandal — and it’s usually accompanied by profound fury. The latest to experience this fall from grace is beloved (or should I say once beloved) local brewery Karbach, whose owners made the controversial decision to sell the burgeoning business to mammoth beer corporation Anheuser-Busch.

Karbach — which lasted five years as an independent after being founded in a warehouse on Karbach Street by Chuck Robertson and Ken Goodman — now joins the beer giant driven by Budweiser. It joins Bud’s so-called High End division, which already includes craft beers Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road, Virtue Cider, Four Peaks, Breckenridge Brewery, Devils Backbone and SpikedSeltzer.

To say that Houstonians are less than pleased is an understatement. Social media was riddled with criticism after news of the acquisition hit the Internet today, with several Houston restaurants even announcing the Houston-based brew would be pulled from their offerings.

Kevin Floyd, a partner at local haunts including Underbelly, Hay Merchant, Blacksmith, and Anvil Bar & Refuge took to Facebook to share his disappointment with the acquisition.

“It’s a sad day. I wish I could say I was surprised … but I’m not. On the upside, I am pulling all Karbach out of Hay Merchant and Underbelly. My first impulse was to dump it all, but realizing that everything I have in stock was brewed while they were a true, independently-owned Texas craft brewer, I decided to celebrate who Karbach was by selling everything we have for as cheap as possible,” Floyd professed. “All drafts are $1; all cans are $1.50; and all 22oz are $3. Feel free to take it home. Half growlers are $3; and growlers are $6. We are working hard to pull all the kegs out of the cellar and will have a full draft list ASAP on the Hay Merchant FB page.”

Houston-based brewery Saint Arnold opted for a more subtle dig.

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“We wish well going forward. We are proud to remain Texas’ Oldest Craft Brewery and will continue to serve Houston community,” Saint Arnold tweeted. Twitter user @_itsmatthew_ replied: “Thanks for remaining independent and dedicated to quality!”

Industry professionals weren’t the only ones expressing their opinions, with many Houstonians taking to Twitter to slam and defend Karbach’s decision.













Goodman tells the Chronicle that it wasn’t about the money, it was about resources. (The sales price has not been disclosed.) He insists that Karbach will still mostly operate independently. Karbach is on pace to produce more than 80,000 barrels of beer this year — and Anheuser-Busch expects to boost production of Karbach to 150,000 barrels a year by 2019.

Anheuser-Busch already controls more than 45 percent of the nation’s beer market and it has upset craft beer lovers by working to keep legislation in place that makes it harder for independent beer producers (it aired an anti craft beer ad during last year’s Super Bowl).

What do you think? Did Karbach sell out? Did its owners abandon the local craft beer community? Or is this just a smart business move?

Sound off in the comments section below.

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