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    Entries in Craft Beer (2)

    Saturday
    Jun222013

    International Beer News

    It seems that even China has a growing Craft Beer movement:

    The latest news is about the second annual China Craft Beer Festival being held today in Beijing.

    The folks at CNN also are covering Beijing's microbrewery boom.

    For my Canadian readers in TO… the local press is running a story on Where to Learn About Beer in Toronto.

    Should you be planning a trip to Ireland don’t forget to check out the International Brewing & Distilling Convention being held in Dublin Ireland on 19-20 July…

    And that’s what’s happening in the international world of beer and brewing…

     

    Wednesday
    Jan302013

    The “Craft” Beer Craze

    The first shot that I heard was a statement published by the Brewers Association, one of the industry organizations that are comprised of brewers and breweries that define industrial standards.

    “An American craft brewer is defined as small and independent. Their annual production is 6 million barrels of beer or less and no more than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer…”

    “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?

    For a full list of U.S. breweries, please visit BrewersAssociation.org.”

    There are, of course, industrial giants. These businesses produce as much beer in the United States as all breweries in Europe. Then there are breweries that supply particular regions of the United States. The North East, South East, Deep South, Mid-West, North West and South West all have breweries that do not distribute out of specific areas. These are called “regional” breweries. Then there are the “micro-breweries” these are breweries that (according to the Brewers Association) can produce no more than 6,000,000 gallons of beer a year and cannot be more than 24% owned by another alcoholic beverage company that is not itself a microbrewery or risk the bump up in class to “regional”.

    These are the industrial terms used to describe these three parts of the industry; “Mega-Brewery”, “Regional Brewery” and “Micro Brewery”.

    There is no question about those terms. What is in question is the use of the word “craft” to describe a particular breweries beer. The products of the “Micro Brewery” seem to obviously fit that definition. Now comes the tricky part…

    In order to maintain their credibility as staunch supporters of the “craft” beer label, the Craft Beer Cellar, in Massachusetts, took a selection of beers that did not meet the Brewers Association definition of a “craft” beer. Their side of the story…

     “On January 1, we made the decision to stop carrying beer made by Narragansett, Magic Hat, MacTarnahan’s, Butte Creek, Pyramid, and Mendocino breweries because they no longer met the Brewers Association’s definition of what it means to be a craft brewer. We chose to adopt the Brewers Association’s definition of a craft brewer into our business model when we opened in 2010 because we believe in, respect, and align with your mission “to promote and protect small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.”

    “After making this decision, we received a lot of commentary and feedback from our customers, local brewers, and beer geeks in the community, surrounding the definition of “traditional.” Understandably, some were disappointed that we chose to stop carrying Rhode Island’s Narragansett, though most were confused (rightly so) about the rationale. Narragansett’s flagship product, Narragansett Lager, is an adjunct brew that accounts for the majority of its sales and yes, as an adjunct beer, it is brewed with corn and rice…” 

    “We respectfully request that the Brewers Association’s definition of a “traditional” craft brewer be updated in a way that’s more modern and inclusive of all small and independent brewers. For example, “Traditional: A brewer who has either a) an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands), b) an historic recipe, c) 50% of its volume in all malt beers, or in d) beer made with non-traditional adjuncts (vanilla, rye, pumpkin, etc.), they are intended to enhance flavor.”

    “As one of the links between brewers and consumers, we wanted to share our thoughts with you all in the spirit of collaboration, conversation, and working toward keeping craft cohesive.”

    Cheers,

    Craft Beer Cellar

     Allow me to point out the most obvious… the Brewers Association and Craft Beer Caller is talking about the same thing but at cross-purposes. It’s a non-clash! Let me try and sort things out…

    The point that the Brewers Association is making is that mega-brewers are foisting off mass-produced product as “craft” beer. I present two of the offending labels…

    In the case of the Shock Top, it is clearly labeled an “A-B” product. In the case of Blue Moon, I once had Peter Coors swear to me that Coors did not brew that beer. I had to agree that “Coors” did not brew that beer but it was brewed at a brewery in Golden Colorado and there is only one brewery licensed to brew beer in Golden , Colorado. Case closed. If the words Golden, CO on the Blue Moon label doesn’t tell the consumer that it is a Coors product nothing will. If the consumer is truly ignorant but likes the “Belgian wheat style” brew (notice they know they have to use the word “style” eh?) they will look for others and find the real stuff. Think of Blue Moon at best as a “gateway” beer for the less informed.

    Next we get to the point that the folks at Craft Beer Cellar are making. Put simply, why can’t the products of the Yuengling, Boston Beer Company, and Magic Hat be called “craft” beers? The quality of their products speaks for themselves. The label is redundant.

    The consumer has spoken in this case. They know what they like and they also know what a “craft” beer was or they would not shop at that establishment. Let me take this opportunity to state that consumers are not stupid. They may be brand or price loyal and they may be not-so-well-informed but that is what the retailer is there for. If the retailer treats the customer with respect and sells them information as well as product the customer will tell at least five of their friends. If the retailer abuses their customers the customer will tell the world. It works that way in the food service (restaurant) business and it works that way at the retail level of business.

    That still leaves us with the problem of what criteria to use for the label “Craft” when it comes to beer. Unfortunately, unlike the words Champaign and Bourbon and Cognac, there is no regional license to hang the name on. In fact one of the definitions in the English language dictionaries is less than complementary. Craft and imply a devious nature. In that case the Brewers Association should have no trouble labeling the Mega-brewers as “Craft” brewers.

    There are similar problems with the words “natural”, “organic” and “low-calorie”. If you have the time you might take it to read all the sugars there are in “low-fat” foods… but they are low fat!

    Finally I say let the consumer decide what the words on the label mean. They are not stupid. And if they are the choice of a “craft beer” is the least of their worries.

    It makes good press for the Brewers Association to take a shot at the big boys but it is wise before opening fire that you assess collateral damage.