Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is craft?

What exactly is craft beer? Why is it if AB makes good beer through some other name, it is automatically bad? Is craft beer a result or an intent? Are all small brewers craft?

Back in the 90's, what are now called craft brewers were called micro. Sam Adams was the largest of the micros, but they were nowhere near the magical amount cut-off. Fritz Maytag was seen as the father of micros and most of them were regional.

Now-a-days, the word craft brewery is used for basically this same group. Capacities have grown by leaps and bounds, styles have been created, morphed and redefine and lines have been fully blurred. Coors bought/created/whatever Blue Moon. AB has created several small brewery labels. Both of which are snubbed by the craft beer drinker. Why?

As the craft beer drinker has become more educated, it is no longer enough to just be small. It is not enough to adhere, or at least pretend, to standards and guidelines for style. What is becoming more important is the intent of the brewery. Is it run by marketing or do they let the brewers make what they want? The latter is better to the discriminating consumer.

When the intent is to make great beer, customers will respond in kind. They will realize your mission and purchase. And what of the macros who create micros? They are just looking for market share, not produce good beer. Blue Moon is ok, but it is a pale version of the Belgian beers it tries to represent. AB's has hinted they are capable of making good beer with some of their Michelob offerings, but again they fail because the marketing department will not allow any brand erosion of their major titles.

The result? Macros have been losing sales over the last few years while craft beer has enjoyed double digit growth. Integrity goes a very long way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AB buys GI

Much has been made about the buyout of Goose Island by AB/Inbev. The fallout has yet to be totally determined, but many in the craft beer world are outraged. Some have tweeted they will never buy a Goose Island beer again. Some have lamented Goose Island’s choices to raise capital to expand. Others just seemed to have shrugged.

In perspective, the Goose Island brewery is a business and like all businesses, choices have to be made to go in a certain direction. Several years ago, the choice was made to partner with A-B to get exposed to a wider distribution chain. RedHook did something similar. Though they claimed there would be no changes, fans of the ESB took note of some. The same wonders were present among some fans of Goose Island, but given their beer line additions of the last few years, it looked as though A-B was more hands-off. It was good that their beers garnered a wider audience, even if the evil A-B was helping.

On the latest news, I’ve decided to wait and see. Will this end up being like Rolling Rock where the brewery was eventually closed and the beer suffered greatly? Will it be more like RedHook where changes were minor (and perhaps only in the heads of the drinker)? If it is the latter and Goose Island beers are to be had unmolested, it really doesn’t bother me that A-B gets a cut. I still shop at Wal-Mart. Not because I like the store brands, but I can get the brands I like. My eyes will be warily watching though, as should A-B interfere, then it will be time to cut the cord.