Defending Delaware’s craft brewers at Senate hearing

 (photo courtesy Dogfish Head Beer Facebook page)

(photo courtesy Dogfish Head Beer Facebook page)

Senator Chris Coons questions mega beer merger’s impact on Dogfish Head and other Delaware craft brewers during Tuesday hearing.

Will the combination of the parent companies of Anheuser-Busch and Miller have a negative effect on craft brewers in Delaware? That’s the question Coons asked at the Subcommittee on Antitrust hearing in Washington on Tuesday.

“We all want to make sure that we have an open marketplace in which they can continue to thrive and grow,” Coons said. “Nobody wants to take a seat at a bar and discover that their only choices are between a Bud and a Miller. We want to continue the dramatic growth in craft breweries.”

Coons has joined other Senators in calling on the U.S. Dept. of Justice to investigate if the proposed merger will limit craft brewers’ ability to access the market.

Coons’ concerns were echoed by Bob Pease, CEO of the Brewers Association.

“It’s the American craft brewer that’s creating jobs in every state and every congressional district, and we just want to make sure that nothing arises or is the result of this transaction that would hinder that.” Pease said he’s concerned that the merger could negatively impact the ability of small craft brewers to distribute their product.

In response to similar question from the committee, company leaders insisted the merger of the beer giants would have little impact.

“What this combination is not about is changing the landscape of the U.S. beer market,” said Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev. “It will have no impact in our operations in the U.S. market, that I can guarantee you.”

There are more than 4,000 breweries currently operating in the United States. “On average two new breweries open every day,” Brito said. He said craft brewers have driven a massive increase in choice on store shelves. In 2007, craft brewers accounted for just 3.8 percent of the marketplace. As of 2014, craft breweries made up 11 percent, with a projected 20 percent of the market share by 2020.

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