This Bud's pour vous

Our view: America's brew goes Belgian

life expected to go on

July 15, 2008

In the brewery business, the big fish eat the little fish or, as the Belgians might say, les grandes waffles mangent les petites waffles. Even so, the news that Anheuser-Busch, the St. Louis-based maker of the iconic Budweiser brand, will soon be in the hands of Belgian brewer InBev, may prove unsettling to some.

For Baltimoreans, particularly those who remember when National Bohemian was the king of beers locally, it's a moment of deja vu. National brands either acquired or wiped out regional brewers after World War II. Now the biggest of them all has itself been gobbled up like so many pretzels during happy hour. What's next? McDonald's taken over by the French? Starbucks by the Italians?

We don't doubt InBev's brewing skills or motives - like Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch, the new owners just want to turn a profit, and one suspects consumers will hardly notice the change. It's just a startling (and for some of us, rather personal) reminder of the global nature of today's economy.

There's also something rather poetic about a company founded by immigrants using Old World know-how being bought up by a giant conglomerate from the Old World. Capitalism's march has intersected with an extended European family reunion.

InBev executives will no doubt have to be brought up to speed about American tastes in beer, TV commercials, and Clydesdale horses. Budweiser frogs are not for eating. Busch Gardens is not about the plants. And yes, Americans know light beer isn't very good - but we drink it anyway.

Still, la plus ce change. It's not hard to imagine Natty Boh looking down from his sign over O'Donnell Street and enjoying the spectacle with a wink.

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