Fans worry that their favorite beers will be compromised by the corporate giants. That the heart and soul of brewer will be overcome by the spreadsheet of the bean-counter. That their favorite beer will decrease in quality or even be taken out of production. Are these concerns real? Of course. All of these things has happened sometime before in the history of beer. Are these concerns worthy of the repeated Chicken-Little routine every time a brewery changes hands? Probably not.
There are more than 4,100 breweries in the United States today and the vast majority of them were started by scrappy entrepreneurs in the last three decades. Many of these breweries operate on a hyper-local business model, with some only selling their products in the brewery taproom. There is going to be plenty of beer variety out there for the foreseeable future. The days when a person wanting something other than an American Lager needed to brew it at home are gone (although brewing your own beer is fun and rewarding - you should try it sometime).
Perhaps the greatest reason for trepidation is the prospect of losing access to distribution. Most vulnerable are small and medium sized breweries that compete for shelf space, cooler space, and tap handle space. Breweries located in regions with few distributors have limited avenues for getting packaged beer into the marketplace. Will that distributor's truck have enough space for your favorite brand on board when they are pushing the flagship's craft portfolio? That is the real question. More than one brewery sale announcement has included greater distribution access among their reasons for selling.
I believe a wait-and-see approach is best when a brewery sells out to one of the big guys. We've seen examples ranging from the place keeps doing what it's always done (sometimes with the same leadership) to shutdown after a brewery sells out. Most sales so far have resulted in the beer maintaining quality and its place in the market. If one is truly interested in elevating beer, quality is about all that matters. In the mean time, the locavore movement is a real thing; support your local brewery by enjoying your favorite local beer.