13 Comments

  1. Tony Robertson
    August 29, 2018 @ 7:58 am

    Interesting outlook.

    Does anyone know the back story on when the BA started referring to things as “craft” ? Was it just a decision on how to label beer that wasn’t made from the traditional big brewers? They got to define what “craft” means. What does it mean to you?

    What about other “craft” products? What makes a “craft” or “artisanal” cheese different than KRAFT cheese? I’d argue that its not about output as much as it is the process in which it is made. How much thought goes into the product, from the ingredients to the manufacture, to the quality. That plus how much automation is needed to produce on what scale seems to be the differentiator between a non-craft vs craft product.

    Beer is business. It’s just a matter of the size of your company, if you’re a group of 4 people brewing on a pilot system, or a conglomerate brewing millions of barrels. The process sure changes from a small business to a large business. As your “craft brewer” grows, they buy automated canning and bottling lines instead of hand-filling. They automate the filling of the tanks. They develop a tried and true formula and don’t deviate. It’s less about experimentation/innovation and more about producing consistency and profit margins.

    No one who’s sane would call Yuengling a “craft beer,” despite the BA’s wishes to call them family-owned and they fall into the definition. They have been automating and operating with the same methods as Miller, Coors, and Bud. They haven’t hand-bottled a beer in probably over 100 years. What about one of the “High End” Brands that still have pilot breweries? Are they craft? Do they experiment/innovate with new formulas? How much automation goes in? I bet its a lot less automated than some of your larger “craft” breweries.

    The point is, the term “Craft”, semantically speaking, is dead. What the BA (the beverage industry’s lobby, not one fighting for consumer’s best interests) should have done, is identified those non Macro Beers as “Independent” Breweries. Like Independent Films don’t get made by 20th Century Fox / Universal Studios and are largely start-ups from independent funding, breweries generally start as small start-ups, ride the quality beer wave, and become larger over time.

    The hate and vitriol people have against “baby-eaters” is nothing but brainwashing by lobbying organizations. If your beer is brewed by Joe Smith, Brewer on one day, and on the next day, a corporation buys the brewery and the next batch is still brewed by Joe Smith, Brewer…. do you really think the flavor and quality have gone downhill? Let’s be realistic. It’s just mental at this point. If that corporation then says “you must buy this malt and this hop from this facility” and Joe Smith is handcuffed to re-tool their winning formulas, THEN you can start complaining about “big beer” ruining things.

    But ultimately that becomes a function of the free market. If the beer is terrible, you won’t drink it. There’s plenty of terrible “craft beer.” That’s why craft brewers make new beers all the time. Trying to capture lightning in a bottle (or at least a bucket full of money.)

    Reply

    • Mark
      September 2, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

      Exactly. Well said.

      Reply

  2. Derrell
    August 28, 2018 @ 6:34 am

    Great article, my worst fear now coming in at an angle, is how AB started really blurring the lines with craft beer writers. Pointing out that we have sellouts among us in order to obfuscate the landscape is the worst tactic yet. The mere hint of cannibalism in the market being laid on so subtlety that the average craft beer consumer starts to subconsciously believe that the majority of us brewery owners are looking to become ballast point or wicked weed is disingenuous on its face and an absolute mockery of the small independent brewery at its worst. Most small independent brewery owners are just trying to make a decent living doing something they enjoy rather than working for someone else. Pointing out that many would “take the money” if it came calling is like saying every broke kid living on the dirt road would take that multimillion dollar contract to play sports if it came calling. It happens, but to so few its almost silly.

    Reply

  3. Tim
    August 28, 2018 @ 5:42 am

    Reply

  4. 1SadObserver
    August 27, 2018 @ 11:36 pm

    I don’t hold it against sell-outs. Being a capitalist, I congratulate each and every one that makes money and each that sells for big bucks. Hats off to them, they did the work and are entitled to benefit from it. And then, if the buyer is ABI/Miller/Heinekin/Sapporo/BigBeer no more of my money. I’ve had exactly 1 Goose since 2011. I largely pass on Constellation but I take no issue yet with Duvel, Canarchy or PE.
    And you have no take on Anchor/Sapporo? Magic Hat, Portland, Pyramid/North American Breweries (Costa Rica)? Mendocino/United Breweries Group (India)

    Reply

  5. Jordan St.John
    August 27, 2018 @ 10:13 pm

    A masterclass in convoluted casuistry

    Reply

  6. Matthew Fuerst
    August 27, 2018 @ 7:55 pm

    An interesting comparison, but I think “selling out” by signing to a major record label is categorically different than literally selling out to another multi-national beer company or hedge fund. I don’t see many people lamenting their favorite small brewery just making it big and going mainstream.

    Reply

  7. Bill Haines
    August 27, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

    This is a quandery. I love local craft beers and lots of others out of state. Big beer is not wanting to keep good craft beers around. Buy and dispose. God help us if Dogfish Head is bought. I would be crushed.

    Reply

  8. Aaron
    August 27, 2018 @ 6:22 pm

    IMHO, a private equity purchase/investment is far worse than being purchased by a large beer maker. PE does not care about beer. They care about exactly one thing: making a higher profit than anyone can realistically and sustainably expect. If they don’t, they lose THEIR investors when it’s time to raise a new fund. At least the macro brewers actually care about making beer. PE brought us big box stores and shitty suburban chain restaurants. They will do the same with craft beer if they can. And if they can’t, they will mercilessly cut their losses.

    Reply

  9. Jimmy
    August 27, 2018 @ 5:24 pm

    What an amazingly sophisticated viewpoint, Tim. Thanks for sharing. Some of us have standards and ethics that are more important to us than just buying whatever piss happens to tickle our fancy

    Reply

  10. Roger
    August 27, 2018 @ 4:26 pm

    Well done Mr. Becker! Very informative post with just enough opinion to make it interesting! As for me, I only buy from whatever brewery I’m visiting. Right now I’ve stopped at Paradox in Divide, CO so taking a crowler home with me 😋 Cheers!

    Reply

  11. Rusty
    August 27, 2018 @ 4:06 pm

    Selling out to Alchemy and Science (Sam Adams). That might be the least worst?

    Reply

  12. Tim
    August 27, 2018 @ 3:03 pm

    So what. Drink what you like, there’s plenty of good beers to choose from. BTW, I’ll still enjoy BCBS.

    Reply

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