Thursday, 13 December 2012

Is that craft beer - or merely crafty beer?

It's good to see a statement today from the US Brewers Association (BA) standing up for its definition of craft beer, and against deceptive practices by the big brewers such as setting up crafty sub-brands - even though the big brewers are BA members and are important to its funding.

In particular, the BA makes it clear that if a craft brewery - which it defines as one producing less than 6m barrels a year* - is more than 25% owned by a big brewer then it no longer qualifies as 'craft'. That means Goose Island is no longer officially 'craft', nor are Mendocino Brewing or Old Dominion, say. Imitation craft brands such as MillerCoors' Blue Moon are also excluded of course - there's a full non-craft list online here (PDF).

The statement goes on to say that the problem is not that the big brewers are trying to capitalise on the success of craft beer - hey, that's business - but that they are doing it covertly and unfairly.

The BA explains: "It's important to remember that if a large brewer has a controlling share of a smaller producing brewery, the brewer is, by definition, not craft.

"However, many non-standard, non-light 'crafty' beers found in the marketplace today are not labeled as products of large breweries. So when someone is drinking a Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Beer, they often believe that it's from a craft brewer, since there is no clear indication that it's made by SABMiller. The same goes for Shock Top, a brand that is 100 percent owned by Anheuser-Bush InBev, and several others that are owned by a multinational brewing and beverage company.

"The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today's small and independent brewers. We call for transparency in brand ownership and for information to be clearly presented in a way that allows beer drinkers to make an informed choice about who brewed the beer they are drinking.

"And for those passionate beer lovers out there, we ask that you take the time to familiarize yourself with who is brewing the beer you are drinking. Is it a product of a small and independent brewer? Or is it from a crafty large brewer, seeking to capitalize on the mounting success of small and independent craft brewers?"

Strong stuff, eh?

*This is a very US-centric definition, as I noted in an earlier post here!

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