For the last six generations, beer has defined Jim Koch's family.
And for much of that time, his family's story has criss-crossed that of another brewing company, Anheuser-Busch. Koch's great-great grandfather founded their family's brewery the same year Anheuser opened its doors. Both were housed in St. Louis. Koch's grandfather even worked as a brewmaster at the Anheuser brewery post-Prohibition.
But in the years since, the Anheuser and Koch breweries have taken very different paths, ones that have led them to become more foes than friends.
In 1984, Jim Koch used his family's lager recipe to start Boston Beer Company, which has since become the largest "craft" brewer in the country. He brews Samuel Adams, a rich lager named after the American revolutionary that comes with the tagline "take pride in your beer."
Anheuser, on the other hand, has spent the last two decades swelling in size. It is known for pale lagers like Budweiser and Bud Light, "the sure sign of a good time", both of which have become cultural icons. Fourteen of its more than 200 brands alone make the company over $1 billion a year in revenue. And in 2008, a merger with beer company Inbev turned Anheuser into a global conglomerate and the largest brewing company in the world.
In the past couple months, Anheuser-Busch InBev has been trying to expand that market share even further, with the purchase of Grupo Modelo, the Mexican beverage company that brews the popular import Corona. But the U.S. Justice Department effectively blocked that $20.1 billion deal in late January, filing an antitrust lawsuit against Anheuser because it said the purchase would substantially reduce the company's competition in the marketplace.
In a statement, Anheuser-Busch InBev said the action was inconsistent with the law and "the reality of the market place."
Although Koch doesn't want to comment specifically on the merger, he has a reason to welcome a restriction on the influence of big beer. In recent years, craft brewers have sounded an alarm over the clout of Anheuser-Busch Inbev and MillerCoors, who today control 90 percent of the beer market. Craft brewers hold just 6 percent. And they say big beer is using increasingly deceptive and strong-arm tactics to keep craft down.
"Their preferred business model is an oligopoly," says Koch of the company that was once interwoven with his family. "I don't see them as trying to deliberately set out to destroy us. But we are very potentially the collateral damage."
The Start of the Struggle
Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione, right, and Samuel Adams' Jim Koch, left, pose for a picture in Washington in 2011. (AP)
The battle between craft breweries and big beer stretches back to the 1990s, when the idea of buying a beer brewed by a small, independent brewery first took off. In 1991, annual volume growth of microbrewing was 35 percent. Four years later, it had leapt to nearly 60, according to the Brewers Association.