The brewery that produces Texas' iconic Shiner Bock beer, has taken out a full-page ad in its hometown paper blasting conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev for buying billboards that take aim at its flagship product.
Last month, Houston-based Karbach Brewing Co. purchased a trio of billboards in Spoetzl Brewery's tiny hometown of Shiner to tout its sponsorship of a music festival — and Crawford Bock beer, which launched earlier this year.
Karbach, which A-B bought in 2016, based its Crawford Bock on the same European-originated style as Shiner's top brand. The Houston brewer has used the slogan "There's a new Bock in town" to advertise its beer, a clear reference to Shiner's brand.
Spoetzel's open letter-style ad in the Shiner Gazette
points out that the brewery has been around for 110 years and provides jobs in the community. What's more, it's still an independent craft brewer that makes all its suds on-site — a claim Karbach can't match.
"A-B is a public multinational company with its global headquarters in Belgium," the letter states. "A-B acquired Karbach Brewing Co. in 2016. This was part of A-B’s larger scheme to acquire craft breweries around the United States and use its huge plants to produce the former craft beers they now own."
The letter continues: "A-B does not want you to know that Karbach is produced at the formerly craft Karbach brewery and at its large, low-cost A-B plant in Houston. This is a huge company with deep pockets seeking to force its way into our town."
Some in the craft beer community have accused A-B of using its ownership of Karbach to squeeze other locally produced brands
out of bars and restaurants. Spoetzl, in contrast, is owned by San Antonio-based beer distributor Gambrinus Co.
In a statement emailed to the Current
, Karbach said it purchased the billboards after Shiner-based Del Papa Distributing asked the company to help it sponsor Shiner Music Fest, a benefit for the town Lion's Club. The company also supplied a photo of one of the billboards, pointing out that it didn't use its "There's a new Bock in town" slogan on the Shiner signage.
"Shiner Music Fest has a rich history in the area, and one that is important to the community, so we were happy to sign on and support the event with Crawford Bock for the occasion," said David Graham, Karbach's brand manager.
“When the Shiner brand decided to no longer sponsor the Shiner Music Fest supporting the local Lions Club, we were given the opportunity to sponsor the event with dollars and merchandising as we do for many events across our 17 county footprint," added Jeffrey Wheeler, Del Papa's director of marketing.
However, Spoetzl officials denied that they passed on sponsoring the festival. Indeed, Shiner Beer is listed as a sponsor on the event's website
So far, social media is giving the letter traction well outside of Spoetzl's hometown, which only boasts 2,000 residents. As of midmorning Thursday, the ad had been shared roughly 3,300 times from Shiner's Facebook page.
Spoetzl wraps up its letter by mentioning that Karbach isn't the first to try to hem in on the bock market. A-B's Ziegenbock and Michelob AmberBock have also tried to go head-to-head with the brewer.
"But they can try again," the letter concludes. "It won’t be the first time some local Texans faced unbelievable odds. ... To the drinkers who love Shiner, we say 'Cheers' and to the giant breweries, as our friends down the road once said, 'Come and Take It.'"
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This is an open letter published today in the Shiner Gazette. See below. . . . . To our friends in Shiner: We have heard some chatter about uncommon sights around town last month—three billboards and a concert sponsorship touting: “There’s a new Bock in Shiner.” That’s not Shiner Bock my friends. They are talking about Karbach Brewing Co., which is owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, the largest brewer in the United States and in the world. It is not the Shiner Bock that’s brewed here in Shiner at the K. Spoetzl Brewery. This brewery has been providing jobs and giving back to our community since 1909—that’s 110 years. It is not the 110% independent and family-owned Shiner Bock. Our beers proudly wear the Brewers Association’s “Certied Independent Craft” seal on our labels—something an A-B-owned beer will never be able to do. A-B is a public multinational company with its global headquarters in Belgium. A-B acquired Karbach Brewing Co. in 2016. This was part of A-B’s larger scheme to acquire craft breweries around the United States and use its huge plants to produce the former craft beers they now own. A-B does not want you to know that Karbach is produced at the formerly craft Karbach brewery and at its large, low-cost A-B plant in Houston. This is a huge company with deep pockets seeking to force its way into our town. It is not the first time they have tried to imitate our iconic Shiner Bock—A-B’s Ziegenbock and Michelob AmberBock have been around for years. Now, Karbach’s Crawford Bock joins A-B’s family of bocks: “There’s a new Bock in A-B.” But they can try again. It won’t be the first time some local Texans faced unbelievable odds. We’ve got pride on our side. We are proud of our beer, proud of our independence, proud of our heritage, proud of our authenticity, and proud to be in Shiner, Texas. To the drinkers who love Shiner, we say “Cheers” and to the giant breweries, as our friends down the road once said, “Come and Take It.” Thank you for your support. Your friends at the Spoetzl Brewery