Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Craft vs. Crafty: The On-Going Debate

 By now I'm sure you've all read, seen or heard about the Brewers Association statement published Dec 13, 2012, entitled "Craft vs.Crafty: A Statement from the Brewers Association" . This "statement" has aroused quite a stir among the craft brewing, and beer drinking communities. Social media outlets and online news publications have all chimed in with their perspective and or opinion, on the subject of what actually constitutes a "craft brewery". As  the industry experts choose up sides and take a passionate stand for whichever position they favor (be it craft or crafty), the fact still remains that, in my opinion, the Brewers Association's only intent was to clarify the definition and criteria of a "Craft Brewer".

 The Brewers Association originally began as The Small Brewers Committee, a precursor to the Brewers Association of America, in 1942. It wasn't until 2005 that the Brewers Association was established in a merger of the Association of Brewers and the Brewers' Association of America. "Our goal is to unify the combined 94-year history of service and to promote and protect the U.S. craft brewing community's interest. This merger of trade groups will allow the craft brewing community to speak with one voice on legislative and regulatory matters and with the media.".

As the organization evolved into what is now the Brewers Association they sought to define their organization like this.. 

Courtesy of the BrewersAssociation.org

The Brewers Association is an organization of brewers, for brewers and by brewers. More than 1,500 US brewery members and 34,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association are joined by members of the allied trade, beer wholesalers, individuals, other associate members and the Brewers Association staff to make up the Brewers Association.

To promote and protect small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.

Because the BA is solely comprised of members of the craft and home brewing community, they have an obligation to their constituents to not only protect their livelihood but to protect the integrity and image of the great beer which they produce. In doing so they have defined the criteria for what is the "Craft Brewer".

Craft Brewer Defined

An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.

Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.
The following are some concepts related to craft beer and 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 ten miles of a craft brewer.

Having clearly defined the three integral  characteristics of the "craft brewer", the BA in their "Craft vs. Crafty" statement simply point out those breweries who choose to call themselves craft brewers but clearly don't meet the BA's guidelines for such. I don't believe Brewers Association was in anyway attacking those Macro and Adjunct breweries for jumping on the Craft Beer Bandwagon by producing beers of a "craft style". I believe what the Brewers Association has done, is tried better educate beer drinkers on what really constitutes a Craft Brewer.

I strongly encourage everyone to visit the Brewers Association website for more information. Cheers!

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