Things just got real. As a beer geek with a little bit of a voice on the Internet, I’ve tried to educate people about the difference between real craft beers and the lookalikes that Big Beer pump out in an attempt to capitalize on the craft beer craze.
Most recently, it was a review of Budweiser Project 12 for the Today Show, and I plan to continue to beat this drum until people understand that Blue Moon and Shocktop and Landshark Lager aren’t craft beers – they’re counterfeits.
Apparently, the Brewers Association feels the same way, as they’ve just released a statement calling for more clarity as to who’s behind that brand name on your beer’s label. Here’s the whole statement:
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.
The community of small and independent craft brewers has grown as beer enthusiasts embrace new, diverse beers brewed by their neighbors and friends who are invested in their local communities. Beer drinkers are voting with their palates and dollars to support these entrepreneurs and their small and independent businesses.
In 2011, small and independent craft brewers saw their industry grow 13 percent by volume; in the first half of 2012, volume grew by an additional 12 percent. Meanwhile, the overall beer industry was down 1.3 percent by volume and domestic non-craft was down 5 million barrels in 2011.
Witnessing both the tremendous success and growth of craft brewers and the fact that many beer lovers are turning away from mass-produced light lagers, the large brewers have been seeking entry into the craft beer marketplace. Many started producing their own craft-imitating beers, while some purchased (or are attempting to purchase) large or full stakes in small and independent breweries.
While this is certainly a nod to the innovation and ingenuity of today’s small and independent brewers, 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?
I just had a nice conversation with Julia Herz from the Brewers Association, and I asked her why the BA is coming out with this statement now, especially because they’ve tiptoed around the topic whenever I’ve tried to get them on the record about it in the past. She simply said that talk about Big Beer offering up imposter brews has been growing increasingly louder in the craft beer community, and the BA felt it was time to state their point of view on the topic.
Whatever the motivation (perhaps the imposters are selling too well), I’m happy to see the Brewers Association say enough is enough. Up until now, I couldn’t get Sam Calagione or Charlie Papazian or anyone else to admit that there’s an “us against them” mentality when it comes to craft brewers and the Big Boys, so I find this statement from the Brewers Association to be very, very refreshing indeed.