Brewing Buds: Big Beer corporations enter the cannabis industry

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The rising tide of legal cannabis commerce is finally attracting the attention of so-called “Big Beer” corporations, and with good reason. Over the past seven years, home and craft brewers carved a niche for themselves by partnering with hemp farms and wholesale retailers with cannabis terpenes for sale to make infused beers — a novel and unique new line of products in a once oversaturated beer market. Since 2017, Big Beer has slowly begun to test the waters of the infused beer space with the rollout of a number of tentative, experimental products. What constitutes a Big Beer entity? The term “Big Beer” refers to beer brands owned by large corporations that have international networks of capital, production and distribution. Examples include MillerCoors, Molson Coors, Constellation Brands, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken. According to the Brewers Association (BA), an American trade group comprised of over 5,000 brewers, suppliers, distributors and retailers, craft brewers are distinguished from Big Beer via three main factors: Scale of operation: In order to be considered “small”, a craft brewer must produce 6 million barrels of product or less per calendar year. Brewing Processes: In order to be considered a “traditional” brewer, produced beers must derive its flavour from conventional brewing ingredients and fermentation processes. Degree of Independence: A craft beer brewer cannot be more than 25 percent owned by “an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.” A complicating aspect of the current distinction delineated by the BA is that Big Beer corporations can — and frequently do — buy up significant portions of small breweries without them ever being recategorized as Big Beer. This is of particular concern to legitimate craft brewers, whose specific BA classification was designed to protect them from the anticompetitive tactics that are regularly employed against them by…

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