Blog: Craft brewers cut up rough
James Wilmore | 21 December 2012
Fresh battle lines were drawn over craft beer last week after the Brewers Association took a swipe at the big beer firms.
The US group accused the majors of trying to “blur the lines” between their mass-produced products and "genuine" craft beers. More "transparency" over the labelling of products was also needed, was the verdict.
No doubt this outburst was partly inspired by moves this year by Anheuser-Busch InBev to get a bigger foothold in this increasingly attractive sub-sector. The brewer has even set-up its own craft advisory board.
For added extra, the Brewers Association re-stated its definition of a craft brewer: "Their annual production is 6m barrels of beer or less and no more than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.”
The problem the group has - and it must be acutely aware of this - is that only a small percentage of the population really cares about whether the beer they are drinking has been brewed by a so-called "craft" brewer, or a company where profit is perhaps more a priority than palisade hops.
As beer writer Will Hawkes says in his new book - Craft Beer London - for some, craft beer is a "rather ambiguous term which merely serves to obsure what really matters about beer - whether it tastes good or bad".
Hawkes does suggest, however, this is more the view of mature drinkers who turn their nose up at the young bucks revolutionising the brewing world.
But this distinction does draw out what the Brewers Association has in its favour. With the mis-trust of big corporations at an all-time high, the glare of social media, and savvy consumers caring more about a product's origins, there is a wide space to push the craft beer message - particularly among the younger generation.
My message to the Brewers Association would be: don't worry too much, trust the people.
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