|Brewsearch & Development -
|A brewery's size is measured by how many "barrels" (usually stainless-steel kegs, really) it
produces each year. Before 2010, to be considered "craft" by the Brewers Association —
craft beer's trade group — a brewery had to produce fewer than 2 million barrels per year. By
comparison, A-B InBev produces more than 100 million barrels annually.
Today the definition of a "craft beer" is literally changing to accommodate brewers' growing
output. A brewery can now be considered "craft" if it produces up to 6 million barrels, which is
why the Boston Beer Company, the brewery that makes Samuel Adams, is still included
among this group. Higher production doesn't necessarily mean a lower-quality product, of
course, but the BA also now allows craft brewers to use so-called "adjunct" ingredients in their
recipes, grains such as corn or rice that brewers will use in place of barley to keep costs
down — a strategy most associated with mass-market macrobrewers like Anheuser-Busch.
As a result, the country's biggest craft brewer today is officially Yuengling, the independent
Pennsylvania brewery most closely associated with a lager that is light and easy to drink.
The other, perhaps more significant change is that the biggest craft beers are rapidly aligning
themselves — or being sold outright — to bigger brewers. For example Lagunitas sold 50% of
their operation to Heineken. Michigan's Founders, one of the most celebrated and
recognizable craft breweries, sold a 30 % stake to Mahou San Miguel, a massive Spanish
brewing company, and A-B InBev has taken over brands like Goose Island, Elysian Brewing,
and Long Island's Blue Point.
When the definition of craft beerchanges to include beers made to resemble Budweiser, or
the breweries are simply sold to the company that actually brews Bud, it raises a number of
red flags for me. I sometimes worry that the quality of the beer itself might go down. On the
bright side, the consolidation of craft breweries nevertheless gives these large companies
more leverage over their distribution so that more good beer is available in more places. The
danger here is that a company like A-B InBev can force distributors to carry its beers — both
Budweiser and craft options — exclusively. It's called the "100 percent share of mind"
strategy, and its aim is to squeeze out upstarts and, in turn, reduce the actual number of
options available to beer drinkers. It's all a bit confusing so concentrate on one thing - does
your beer taste good? That's my main consideration when I pick a beer no matter what
brewery makes it. Don't be fooled by a name; trust your own taste buds!
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|Does Size Matter In Craft Beers?
|To all my readers and friends, I want to thank you for all your support during my time at Nik's
Wunderbar and at the Northside Lounge. I'm moving back to the enviromental/ecological field so
the next time you see me at a pub it will likely be on a stool next to you. I'll continue to write my
column here on BeerNexus giving you my take on what's happening in the beer world with my
insights derived from many years in the industry. Cheers!