Right now is arguably the best time ever to drink beer. The phenomenal rise of craft beer has led to an all-time high in the number of American brewers, and most beer enthusiasts would say that the quality and selection in the marketplace has never been better.
Yet in light of Anheuser-Busch InBev buying SABMiller—a massive merger that would combine the world's two largest brewers—some beer lovers are worried that the current golden age of brews could turn sour. The concerns focus mainly on how the merger could result in higher prices and fewer options for beer drinkers.
The Oregonian reports this week that a group of beer enthusiasts in Oregon, California, and Washington state have filed a lawsuit to stop the merger, which has been approved by the companies involved but hasn't been finalized yet. "Plaintiffs are threatened with loss or damage in the form of higher beer prices and less consumer options," the lawsuit states. "If defendants' proposed transaction is consummated, plaintiffs will sustain irreparable harm for which damages will be unable to compensate plaintiffs, in that competition once lost cannot easily be restored."
Apparently, the 23 plaintiffs in the suit are simply regular beer drinkers and have no business interests in craft breweries—the segment most likely to be squeezed by the emergence of one huge corporation dominating the market. "Why do we want to allow one entity to control that market?" James DeHoog, the lead plaintiff and the owner of an Oregon consulting firm, told the Oregonian. "I don't think it's good for consumers, I don't think it's good for industry, I don't think it's good for the tax base, I don't think it's good for any of that."
Naturally, Anheuser-Busch InBev claims that the beer marketplace is as competitive and varied as it's ever been, and the merger with SABMiller won't change that.
For now at least, the lawsuit isn't seeking monetary damages. Instead, the goal is to stop the merger, thereby avoiding any negative effects on the robust brewing scene beer drinkers enjoy today. Overall, the message the suit is trying to send is one that many bar patrons can understand: Don't mess with our beer.