I just finished off a bottle of the tremendously tasty Big Hoppy Monster from the Terrapin Beer Company.
It is the last Terrapin beer I will ever drink.
On Wednesday, the brewery’s founders sent an e-mail to their employees explaining that they were converting debt from Tenth and Blake, a subsidiary of MillerCoors, into a minority stake in the company. In a nutshell, that means that MillerCoors now owns a part of Terrapin. If this strikes you as eerily similar to the Goose Island situation, well…I agree with you.
When I moved to Alabama in 2007, Terrapin quickly became my favorite Southern brewery. Actually, it became one of my favorite breweries period. With excellent year-round offerings like their flagship Rye, Hopsecutioner IPA and Hop Karma India Brown Ale, Terrapin was a session-lovers dream. They also offered some crazy-delicious, high-gravity seasonal brews like their Big Hoppy Monster, Rye Squared, and outstanding Wake ‘n’ Bake (a Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout). Whenever a new Terrapin offering hit the shelves, Brother Barley was there to snatch it up.
Last year, Spike and John, the Terrapin founders, found themselves at odds with their investors. They disagreed as to what the direction of the brewery should be, so Spike and John looked for another option that would allow them to wrest control of their company back from the money-men. In stepped Tenth and Blake, the so-called “craft” division of MillerCoors. They offered Terrapin thirty pieces of silver…and Spike and John never looked back.
If you’ve read any interviews with Tom Long, the CEO of MillerCoors, you’ll know that he sees craft beer as a huge potential revenue stream for his company. Like AB InBev, Long wants to sink his company’s fangs into some of the more successful craft breweries in the market so he can ride the coat-tails of craft’s unstoppable rise. MillerCoors has seen incredible success with pseudo-craft beers like Blue Moon and Leinenkugel, but they know that true Aleheads shy away from these macros in craft’s clothing. To really take advantage of the market, Long has decided to prey on reputable brewers.
Last year, MillerCoors spun off Tenth and Blake. The division handles Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, and now Terrapin. The innocent-sounding sobriquet is a pathetic attempt to keep the stigma of the MillerCoors name away from any craft breweries they get involved with. Some Aleheads were concerned when Tenth and Blake offered cash to Terrapin to allow Spike and John to take back control of their company. Me? I played the fool and noted that as long as it was just a cash/debt deal, there really wasn’t a problem.
I was an idiot.
Truth be told, I stand by my original premise. If the deal had stayed as it was, then Tenth and Blake (aka MillerCoors) didn’t own any of Terrapin (just as a bank doesn’t own your house as long as you keep paying your mortgage). I argued as such with loyal reader Danner who pointed out my hypocrisy when I mocked other breweries that had the stink of Big Beer on them. At the time, I honestly believed I was right. But now? Danner’s looking a lot smarter than me.
I honestly thought Spike and John were better than this. I thought they’d see what happened when InBev bought a piece of Goose Island and then eventually…inevitably…snapped up the entire company. Now, when you buy a Terrapin product, you’re supporting MillerCoors. When you buy a Hopsecutioner or Moo-Hoo, you’re filling the coffers of a company that doesn’t give a damn about the growth of the craft industry (actually, they’ve been trying to destroy the industry in a variety of ways) . Tom Long may say he wants to grow his company’s craft portfolio, but trust me…he’d like nothing more than for craft beer to go away entirely. As long as small, independent breweries keep gaining market share, MillerCoors is taking a hit.
This is a sad, sad day for Aleheads everywhere and the McHops household in particular. I truly loved Terrapin and its offerings. You can argue that if they continue to make consistent, quality brews, that it shouldn’t matter. But it DOES matter. There are other ways to grow a company. You don’t have to sell out to the enemy just because you need a quick cash infusion. We’ve known for awhile now that some craft breweries were going to take the bait and sell their souls for a huge payday from Big Beer. I just never thought Terrapin would be one of the first to go.
I enjoyed my Big Hoppy Monster tonight. I really did. I’m sad it’s the last I’ll ever have.
Farewell, Terrapin. When MillerCoors buys you up entirely, I won’t shed a tear. You’ve made your bed…
Good luck sleeping tonight.