AB InBev has acquired a minority stake in the beer rating website RateBeer, the company’s first web purchase following a number of independent brewery acquisitions in recent years.
The official announcement from RateBeer was posted online by Executive Director Joe Tucker on Monday, 5 June.
However, the website Good Beer Hunting was the first to break the news three days earlier, revealing that the deal had actually been closed in October 2016 after eight months of negotiations between RateBeer and ZX Ventures, a venture capital team backed by AB InBev.
According to Good Beer Hunting, the deal went unannounced to both the public and RateBeer stakeholders as both sides wanted to get “points on the board” and prove the value of the partnership without the “disruption” of making it public.
While AB InBev confirmed to Good Beer Hunting that it had invested in the website, the terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A spokesperson from ZX Ventures did, however, explain AB InBev’s decision to align with RateBeer.
“It’s really insight. It’s insights into consumer trends. It’s a better understanding of the beer consumer, and the beer markets globally. That’s really going to help us kind of keep our finger on the pulse,” said ZX spokesperson Samantha Roth.
Delaware brewery Dogfish Head was the first to react strongly to the news, asking AB InBev and RateBeer to remove all Dogfish Head beer reviews and mentions on the website immediately.
“It just doesn’t seem right for a brewer of any kind to be in a position to potentially manipulate what consumers are hearing and saying about beers, how they are rated and which ones are receiving extra publicity on what might appear to be a legitimate, 100 per cent user-generated platform,” Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione said in a statement.
“It is our opinion that this initiative and others are ethically dubious and that the lack of transparency is troubling.”
Harpoon Brewery in Massachusetts soon followed suit, tweeting a reply to Dogfish saying they had emailed RateBeer “asking to remove Harpoon and UFO ratings from the site. Cheers to true independence”.
Ratebeer’s Executive Director Joe Tucker, however, said that the deal was a necessity.
“One of the greatest challenges I’ve had in choosing this magical life for myself as a developer of an online community has been the monstrous amount of work I’d signed on to, and that the site required, day and night, every day of the year,” reads his statement.
“As the site’s only employee, this has meant I’ve always been on call… It’s with relief and gratitude that the site has finally received the resources and infrastructure it needs to move forward and develop for the coming technical challenges and opportunities.
“I’ve never been more excited about RateBeer’s future and our ability to achieve new heights.”
Beer & Brewer has reached out to AB InBev for comment on the deal.