I believe that all beer is good, and I don’t like seeing beer lose market share to wine or spirits as it has been recently. …we don’t want to tell our consumers which beers they should give a shit about. That’s why we make 34 different kinds of beer.
The above quote is from Sam Calgione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, and current board of directors chairman at the Brewers Association. I’ve always admired Sam’s stance on craft beer because he truly is an advocate of both promoting beer, as well as allowing consumers to make their own decisions, whether it be for Dogfish Head or not.
I play on an adult hockey league team. And every week it’s one of my teammate’s job to bring a 30 pack of cheap, cold cans of lager. And whatever one it is, whatever brand it is, I look forward to having it. There’s nothing like that light lager for refreshing after a hockey game. There’s really not any other occasions in my week where I’m craving that kind of beer. But I’m a beer geek, not a beer snob. And all beer is good. And there’s a time and place for any kind of beer.
Seriously, Sam truly is a promoter of beer, if there ever was one. The next question is, how do you align this with the Brewer’s Association’s recent Craft vs Crafty campaign?
To get you up to speed: The Brewers Association was founded in 2005 to promote and protect craft brewers in America. The next obvious question would then be, what is a craft brewer? To answer this, the Brewers Association made a definition themselves: small, independent, and traditional. Fair enough, though the lines begin to blur the deeper you look:
Goose Island, a longtime Chicago based brewery, has won countless awards and its Belgian style ales are highly rated on craft beer sites. However, Goose Island is not a craft brewer according to the Brewers Association. The Brewers Association considers Goose Island to be “faux craft,” or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, attempting to infiltrate and trick consumers. This is because in 2011, Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser Busch, immediately making them neither small, nor independent.
Or look at Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery and still family owned. Not only that, their flagship beer is still brewed to the same recipe used in 1829. Despite Yuengling’s traditional usage of traditional, and historical, ingredients, they too are a “faux brewer.” Their traditional usage of corn makes them non-traditional by Brewers Associations standards. What many forget, is that during the early days of America, brewers were forced to use corn, due to limited availability of premium barley. These days, premium barley is far more readily available, however breweries like Yuengling and August Schell Brewing still use corn out of tradition, and despite popular belief, corn is actually more expensive than barley. That’s correct, using higher cost ingredients to brew historically accurate and traditional beer, makes you a non traditional brewer, and thus, a “faux brewer.”
The Brewers Association felt the need to publicly attack those whom it describes as faux brewers. Don’t get me wrong, some of these breweries deserve it. However, to quote one of these faux breweries: “…whatever style beer you might prefer, all we ask is that you judge us by the quality of the beer in the glass.” Despite the craft beer snobs snubbing their noses at this statement, I agree with it. Judge the brewery by the beer. Because ultimately, I don’t see Blue Moon or Shock Top being awarded any sort of recognition. Goose Island may be a faux brewer, but they make incredible beer. Yuengling may be a faux brewer, but they deserve respect for staying family owned and staying true to their roots for almost 200 years now.
Say what you will about Blue Moon, but they are getting millions of people to try a beer that isn’t a light lager. I can’t stand Blue Moon, and I’ve refused to ever try Shock Top. However my entrance into craft beer was through Pyramid Hefeweizen, New Castle Brown Ale, and Guinness, none of which are “craft brewers” by Brewers Association standards.
All beer is good. And there is a time and a place for any kind of beer. Judge brewers by their beer, and make your own informed decision. Support the breweries that you care about that align with your values. For me, it happens to be independent craft breweries who are constantly reinventing themselves and making solid beer.