An interview with Graham Mackay, executive chairman of SABMiller, conducted by by Beth Cowitt of Fortune Magazine, debuted today on the CNN Money website. The basic theme is how MillerCoors is trying to work its way into the craft beer world with its Tenth and Blake Division and if you read it all, most of you will find something in there to infuriate you. These first two answers, though, are kind of interesting and suggest that the world’s second largest brewer has at least an inkling of what craft is all about.
Fortune: What’s your global outlook on craft? Is what’s happening in the U.S. specific to this country or broader?
Graham Mackay: It’s U.S.-specific in the sense that the U.S. had gone in a particular direction of large-scale consolidation, dominance by a relatively small number of big brands, and trends toward less and less flavor, more repeatability, less satiating, and the rise of light beers. The U.S. was not the only one moving in that direction, but it moved furthest in that direction.
What drove that?
The endless quest in the U.S. for repeatability. Obviously, every modern society has a bit of that. Also, the elimination of harsh and intense flavors has been the central sweet spot of the beer industry for decades, if not generations. If you go back 30 or 40 years and look at the formulations for the big brands that still exist, their bitterness levels in the U.S. are 7 to 9 [measured in International Bitterness Units]. Those brands, 30 or 40 year ago, were up at the 17, 18, 19 kind of level. European lagers are somewhere between 20 and 25.
The consumer has gone back to saying, “Let’s get a bit of interest, let’s have a bit of difference.” So, there’s been the growth of craft beer. But it’s also local, anti-marketing, anti-global, anti-big, and more focused on experience and knowing the brewer who produces it.SHARE