There’s been a lot of debate in the beer press lately over what a craft beer is or is not. The Brewer’s Association, essentially the trade group for “craft” brewers, is drawing a line in the sand about the production and promotion of craft-like beers by large, non-craft breweries.
This basically means Blue Moon, Shock Top and the like are excluded from the craft beer boy’s club.
My question – does it really matter? To use the words of Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, “a rising tide lifts all ships”. While some of the “craft-y” beers might be a little “crappy”, they still represent a shift away from watered down American light lager (a.k.a. Budweiser, Miller and Coors) to beers that offer more flavor and variety. Ultimately, the more variety that is being produced, the more choices consumers have and that makes a better environment for craft beers to find new customers.
The Bud Light drinker of 2010 tries a Blue Moon in 2012 and by 2013 is trying Harpoon, Breckenridge or Southern Tier. I don’t see anything wrong with that side of the picture.
Where I think that the Brewer’s Association might have some issue with “craft-y” beers is in getting into new markets. If a bar puts Bud, Bud Light, Coors, Miller, Shock Top and Blue Moon on their taps (all pushed by a distributor that doesn’t care to bother to stock craft beers), why does that bar have any motivation to find a craft distributor to fill out their beer menu?
I applaud some of our Cincinnati bars that have taken their taps “all local”. When in Akron on Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of dining at a restaurant that had over 100 beers available, BUT NO BUDWEISER! Amen! I can only hope that once beer drinkers get a taste for better beer, they’ll start to ask their favorite watering hole to carry more variety.
To close, a question for the Brewer’s Association… If craft beer grows so strong as to dominate the market, causing Budweiser to have to dramatically cut distribution, do they get to call themselves a craft brewer? Let’s not argue over semantics. Let’s sit down with a good beer and talk about what makes a good beer.