Do We Really Care Who Makes Our Beer?

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Today, choices abound for beer enthusiasts and plain old beer drinkers alike. Choice is generally a good thing, though it is getting tougher to keep up with all the new options. The craft beer segment is still ablaze and forging new territory. Brewers achieve rock star status among the craft beer faithful. Beer Snobs, Beer Geeks, and anyone who wishes rate beers constantly. Numerous blogs and sites offer no shortage of information. Perhaps, the quality of the information is not as high as the quantity. Some "reviewers" have little beer knowledge, or may be short on style guidelines, etc. I like to read lots of reviews regardless of the writer's experience. I'm no expert, but I love good beer. Must it be craft to be good? What is craft beer?

Today Countless Beer Styles And Choices Abound
Beer, even as popular as it is, currently finds itself in a fluid state (pun slightly intended). Definitions in the brewing world seem to be changing like the weather. Beer Snobs are the most likely to keep up with all the minutiae of these changes to stay at the top of their game, good naturedly ribbing you later with their vast knowledge. While Beer Geeks share a high percentage of DNA with the Beer Snob crowd, I think they are usually more intrigued by the actual design of the beer itself. "How do I make this, only better?" Let's turn to the Brewers Association for some help with the definition of some terms:
According to the Brewers Association, "An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional."
Small - "Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships."
Independent - "Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer."
Traditional - "A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers."
Further from the Brewers Association, some concepts associated with craft brewers:
  • Craft brewers are small brewers.
  • The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
  • Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
  • Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events.
  • Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
  • Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.
  • The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.
So, does that help you decide who you'd like brewing your beer? Somewhat confused? Let's try clearing this up with more from the Brewers Association :
Craft Beer Industry Market Segments
There are four distinct craft beer industry market segments: brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries and contract brewing companies.
"A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site. Microbreweries sell to the public by one or more of the following methods: the traditional three-tier system (brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer); the two-tier system (brewer acting as wholesaler to retailer to consumer); and, directly to the consumer through carry-outs and/or on-site tap-room or restaurant sales."
"A restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery's storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer 'to go' and/or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent."
Contract Brewing Company
"A business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer. The contract brewing company handles marketing, sales and distribution of its beer, while generally leaving the brewing and packaging to its producer-brewery (which, confusingly, is also sometimes referred to as a contract brewery)."
Regional Craft Brewery
"An independent regional brewery with a majority of volume in 'traditional' or 'innovative' beer(s)."
Regional Brewery
"A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels."
Large Brewery
"A brewery with an annual beer production over 6,000,000 barrels."
EUREKA! What? Still confused? Me too. 10 Barrel, Goose Island, Elysian, Blue Point, Redhook, Kona, Magic Hat, Blue Moon, Shock Top, Pyramid, Leinenkugel, Third Shift... all fit where? How about Ommegang, Southern Tier, Matt's (Saranac), Genesee, Yuengling?
What is your favorite beer? Who brews it? Is it the same brewer/owner as last year? Does it matter? What if your favorite beer is brewed by Bud or Miller-Coors (BMC) and you don't know it?! Gasp! What's with all the large brewers buying those smaller than they, and micros buying micros, or regional---- argh, STOP!
The mergers and acquisitions maze requires real give-a-damn-geekiness to keep up. Goose Island (in my opinion) does NOT make the same beer as before the AB-InBev buyout. I will admit a bias towards smaller brewers, which may have played a role in the taste change I perceived. Can a "sell-out" craft brewer still make good beer? Are they still a craft brewer? I don't prefer smaller brewers because they necessarily make better beer. I'm a huge small business fan and do what I can to support them. However, if they make crappy beer I go elsewhere.
My gateway beer into craft beer, long ago, was Samuel Adams Boston Lager. I also turned many others onto this brew. Jim Koch may have his detractors nowadays. Sadly, it seems it's because of his success. I still to this day use Boston Lager to help BMC drinkers ascend to "real" beer- if they so choose to join us. As a Beer Geek (as opposed to a Beer Snob), I don't care what others drink. Instead, I stand at the ready to help BMC drinkers discover great beer. I also admire Boston Beer Company and Jim Koch for their tremendous success and the fact that they remain independent. Jim has also branched out with great success. Kudos to Jim Koch.
Large breweries have the money to buy up what they wish. However, they can't buy that which is not for sale. Who is to blame? Anyone? Is it a problem? Do you stop drinking a beer because the owner changed? Is there a quality difference after the acquisition? Are there advantages to beer drinkers when big buys small? Food for thought, I think there are as many answers to these questions as there are IPAs in America.
Personally, I drink what I like. I'll try nearly any brew, whether made by Joe down the street (actually Tyler is a better brewer), or by BMC conglomerates. Yet I do take issue with the way the mega-conglomerates abuse their size and power in shelf space, distribution, placement, etc against the little guy. Still, a company has to do something quite offensive for me to avoid them completely. Homebrewing is a great answer too.

A Satisfyingly Delicious Home Brewed IPA
I'm putting the final touches on my "keezer" (a home-made kegerator built from a chest freezer) to take advantage of the knowledge I glean from on a regular basis. My local homebrew shop has been very helpful at getting me up to speed on making highly acceptable beer as well. Beer has a bright future with fantastic organizations behind it. As the Brewers Association, American Homebrewers Association, numerous guilds, forums, and others push for improvement in the beer industry daily, the number of members in our "Beer Geek Nation" continues to increase!

My Oasis Of Cold, Flowing, Home Brewed Beer
Enjoy beer's great diversity (I didn't even mention imports) as you see fit. Cheers!
Good points. I don't like it when the big brewers buy out the little ones, then change the recipe to save money. Killian's Irish red is one example. It used to taste great with pit bbq'd ribs. I bought some again recently, & it just isn't the same flavor-wise. So I'm experimenting with brewing my own red. And that's over & above the changes in color & flavor, not to mention brewers of the local lagers & pilsners I remember from decades past. They've all gotten lighter to appeal to more people. All in the name of sales. Swallowing up smaller brewers isn't the answer. Improve your own product first, I say.
The reason I don't support the big conglomerates (BMC) is that they have strong lobbies and can get legislation passed that harms small brewers. They can get arbitrary rules passed that make it hard for the small guy to get shelf space in stores.
I don't like how Inbev treated the workers at the plants they acquired.
Also - I just don't like the "popular" light lagers. If Stone or Sierra Nevada brewed Coors light I wouldn't drink it.
I'm also not a beer snob that says the big guys don't know how to brew, of course they do. They know far more than we do. I just don't like their product.
Absolutely agreed on the abusive nature from the big brewers lobbyists. In Florida, we finally got rid of the "Must Support Tourism" for brewer's tasting rooms. Hmmmm, Busch Gardens lobby anyone?
It is getting so difficult to know who makes what though.
P.S. We can finally get 64 ounce growler fills.
I just see no point in supporting giant corporations with questionable ethics when there are so many great local brewers in my back yard. I have friends that have put their well being on the line to create great beer. I will support them as much as I can. Part of that support is to not put any of my money in the hands of competitors that would seek to destroy them. Oh no, but I'll never get to try Goose Island. Who freakin' cares? There's SO much great beer being produced by people who care. I choose to support those people, without compromise.
Of all the possible ownership situations, a freshly purchased microbrewery, now owned by a conglomerate, is the least likely thing I am to purchase.
Time will out, and by the time AB-Inbev purchased Goose Island I had tried their beers. Since there's already too many beers to try, I'll probably never buy a Goose Island again. Especially not any of their main line.
I don't even have to consciously do this. I just do it automatically. That said, I do still drink macro beer when the occasion calls for it. I've really started enjoying the Miller Lite the captain brings to our league softball games.
Also, something else I consider is the people who own the brewery. For instance, I've heard a few stories that the owners of Rogue are total dicks, and so I haven't purchased any of their tantalizing offerings for quite some time.
I personally don't care who brews my beer as long as it's good. The only exception is Stone. I bought a 6 pack of their beer a few years back, and the top of the necks broke when I was taking the caps off four of the beers. Not sure if it was the bottles or the glue holding the caps on, but when I sent them a message about it, they basically told me it was my fault for not knowing how to open a beer. I also discourage all my beer friends from drinking their products, and several have followed suit (for the most part).
Giving me a replacement 6-pack would've cost them next to nothing. Not standing by their product has cost them hundreds of dollars.
I echo the comments about the first craft beer being Sam Adams Boston Lager. I first had one over 20 years ago, and that started me on my home brewing career. Yes I really care who makes my beer. I still buy Sam Adams for my restaurant, but I will not buy Goose Island because they are AB-InBev. Pisses off my distributors, but I do not care.
I take it this article is in answer to the guy suing Molson-Coors over their marketing insinuation that Blue Moon is a craft beer? I doubt he'll win but I hope he does.
I do care who makes the beer (I also care about drinking great beer) Here in Mxico the craft brewers are having a hard time with Grupo Modelo and Cuahutemoc Moctezuma (Corona and Tecate) but its slowly getting better, just last year the goverment modified a law that forbid the large breweries to prohibit the sale of Craft beer in restaurants, bars and liquor stores, before that they forced an exclusivity clause on them so they wouldnt sell anything else craft beer included. They still force those exclusivity contracts on barley and hops producers, so its very hard to find a producer willing to sell to other than Modelo and Cuahutemoc. Fortunaly for me I live across the borther to the US and can buy all I need online and pick it up in the US, but all of the Microbrewers here in Baja need to import their raw materials and pay duty fees and shoots the beer price right up making it harder to get to the public, an avg. Baja brewed 12oz carft beer costs around 3 dlls in a liquorstore. And Craft Brewers from central and southern Mxico have even more trouble finding their ingredients. So down here its very importat that we support each other.
if you dont drink any of the BMC I doubt you drink Coronas, XXs and Tecates but if you do, please dont.
I too care who makes my beer. I have tried many beers from many brewers, including BMC. Although I don't recall the last time I bought any beer that was not from an independent craft brewer.
The more I see of abuses (IMO) of small craft brewers by the "Big Boys" and their lobbyists, the less likely I am to try any beers from them again.
I support education and free choice. If one knows the score and still chooses to drink BMC, so be it. I may not respect the choice but recognize the right to make it.
Nope, don't care who brews what. I buy (and drink) beer based on availability, price and taste. If the BMC megabrew Inc. could put a tasty IPA or a tart raspberry lambic type in my local store for 19.95 a 30 pack I probably be drinking the heck out of it. What they sell for $19.95 is something I don't like, so I keep on homebrewing.
The article above was OK, but didn't really cover any new ground, except for the author's awesome beer dispenser. I give it a C+.
I do drink High Life and Tecate on occasion. Cheap beer after hard work in the sun. It goes down easy and low abv.
However, I do not drink supposed "craft" beers made by the big guys. The few times I tried Goose Island it was a huge disappointment. There are so many good craft beers out there, why would I bother with a faux craft. GI stouts are no where near as good as offerings I can get from other regional breweries.
If I'm looking for good beer, I'll buy craft. If I want lawnmower beer, High Life and Tecate all the way.