I’m sure that most, if not all, of you have read the statement that the Brewers Association released almost two weeks ago. If you haven’t, here is a quick re-cap: the BA has addressed the issue of big brewers (the likes of AB-InBev and Miller-Coors) being ‘crafty’ with their brews. In being ‘crafty,’ big brewers have developed ‘craft’ breweries to create beers that are quite distant from their typical offerings, like those offered by Shock Top, Blue Moon, and Goose Island (a relatively new brewery to my neck of the woods). The BA is calling for more transparency when it comes down to the consumer knowing who is brewing what they are purchasing. I feel like I should do my share of commenting on this quite hotly debated topic.
I’m very particular about some things. My grilled cheese sandwiches are always made with Kraft Singles. I also think that it is very hard to have a burger that’ll make you run home and write grandma about without putting mayonnaise on it. Duke’s in particular. I’ve had a couple, but I have stopped short of writing my grandma about them. And then are the things that I’m a purist about. It’s regular Cheerwine for me, not diet. If you haven’t had Cheerwine yet, you best get you some. Not a single drop of ketchup has touched my hot dogs for the last 12 years, only chili, yellow mustard, and onions. My tastes in beer just so happen to fall in line with the rest of these items. It’s local, craft, or nothing.
When it comes to labeling something a craft beer, what comes to mind? I, as well as a lot of people, think of something unique that is created with much care and love. Something that also comes to my mind is that there is something local in my glass. I side with the BA in believing that it should be more apparent to consumers who is producing what they are drinking. Ownership of a brand/brewery is more important to me than how the beer is created. I like buying from and doing my part to support local businesses, and living in North Carolina I’ve got an incredible number of craft breweries to choose from. Why would I want my money going to a larger corporation like AB-InBev when I can buy a better quality beer that was bottled the other day at a local brewery five minutes down the road? “But what about a brewery that isn’t wholly owned by a larger group, or one that is a division of a larger group?” It doesn’t make a difference to me. They are still under a larger umbrella. I haven’t had Blue Moon, Magic Hat, or Shock Top in quite some time, and I have yet to sample anything by the likes of Red Hook, Kona, and Goose Island. Nor will I ever again consider giving any of these beers space in my refrigerator.
I think I began feeling this way a few years ago. I had viewed “Beer Wars” not too long after I began buying beer, and learned just how much of the market that Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors have control of. Soon after, I decided I was going to drop their products from my grocery list. I also began paying attention to the quality of the beer I was buying. I began to realize that light beers were pretty much trash, and that I could get a more complex, flavorful drink from a craft brewery. I loved my first craft beer, Stone IPA, and I haven’t looked back. I thoroughly enjoy how differing notes and flavors can be experienced at different points in a sip. I also never thought I would get excited for a limited run of any beer (I bought up a good amount of Big Boss’ Knight Night). AB has noticed the number of people that are sneaking away from the cool kids’ table to sit with the ‘unique’ members of the Dungeons & Dragons Club on the other end of the cafeteria. In response to this movement, AB is releasing “Black Crown” early on in 2013 in hopes of taking back some of the momentum that craft beer has garnered, as well as in an attempt to win back millennial consumers. By adding to their product line they are hoping to compete more with craft brewers. I think it’s great that they’re exploring with more ‘unconventional’ products, but I don’t feel that it will have that great of an impact. I still won’t buy it, even if it is being touted as being the best tasting, highest quality beer that AB has ever produced.
I think I’m going to stick with my local brews. I’ve got a ridiculous number of breweries to buy from here in North Carolina, they all produce good quality beers, so I don’t see the point in my money leaving the state. I guess I see big brewers putting forth ‘craft’ beers as kind of like cheating academically just to stay in the game. Sure you’ve made it, but there are those of us that care how you got there. Big brewers should let their consumers know where their beer is coming from. I want to know that what I’m drinking has been made with care and quality ingredients. Pay attention to what you drink, do your research, and support the little guys. Drink local. Drink craft.