“The government doesn’t have the resources to stand in the middle of an industry where there are different deals every day and pronounce which ones are right and which ones are wrong,” Pirko says.
The craft brewers’ only recourse will be to sue to enforce the antitrust agreement, and Big Beer has a lot more money for lawyers. “It’s going to be an absolute litigation disaster,” Pirko says. “If you’re looking for the government to uphold restrictions on how you compete, that effectively cannot be done.
Still, the craft brewers may have gotten the best deal they could. The Justice Department had no grounds to block the merger, because SABMiller is selling its U.S. business to Molson Coors.
Dan Kopman, co-chairman of St. Louis Brewery, is on the board of the Brewers Association. He says small companies like his, which makes Schlafly beers, “are going to have to remain active and vigilant forever” to guard against anti-competitive behavior.