Beverage Dynamics

Beverage Dynamics - March/April 2017

Beverage Dynamics is the largest national business magazine devoted exclusively to the needs of off-premise beverage alcohol retailers, from single liquor stores to big box chains, through coverage of the latest trends in wine, beer and spirits.

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70 Beverage Dynamics • March/April 2017 But what was it, exactly, that they were brewing, and what to call these new companies? The fi rst writers called these "micro- breweries," and their products, "microbrews." All About Beer Mag- azine called the companies "independent breweries" in 1980, and "boutique" breweries in 1983. (Full disclosure: I was co-owner and editor of All About Beer). The fi rst term refers to the size of the company, the second to its ownership; "boutique" suggests some- thing both small and sophisticated. In the mid-eighties, Seattle writer Vince Cottone used the term "craft" in the now-familiar context for the fi rst time: "Perhaps a better defi nition of the breweries who make traditional, handmade beer in small batches primarily for local sale and local consumption would be 'craft breweries' instead of the currently popular term 'microbreweries.'" This was the fi rst defi nition that alluded to the aesthetics of the beer, and the term gradually gained acceptance. What to call these ragtag companies didn't matter until they started to gather fans. As craft breweries grew in number and pop- ularity, national brewing companies fi rst mocked them, then tried to muscle them off the shelves, then started to brew their own versions of the craft styles. More recently, national and interna- tional players have simply bought craft companies outright, and the cachet that goes with them. As the term "craft" acquired marketing value, it became import- ant who could legitimately wear that badge. TRUTH IN LABELING The Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, is the trade asso- ciation for small brewers, and so has a stake in defi ning eligibility for membership. "Craft beer is different things to different people," says Julie Herz, the BA's Craft Beer Program Director. "Since 2006, we've had a defi nition in place for the small and independent craft brewer. And I say that designation—which frankly represents 99% of the 5,200+ brew- eries that qualify as small and in- dependent—has become a very relevant one." Who is included in the BA craft beer defi nition? Large companies such as Boston Beer or Sierra Nevada that nonetheless remain independent and traditional. Who is excluded? Huge brewing con- cerns such as Anheuser-Busch InBev or Coors that brew beers in accepted craft styles. Who else is excluded? Every one of the once-craft breweries that have been purchased by AB-InBev, Heineken, Constellation or other corporations. Herz describes the attempts by the largest beer companies to call themselves craft brewers as a "land grab." She says, "Anyone can claim to be a craft brewer, but our defi nition is very specifi c, even though it's very inclusive. The larger importers and multi-con- glomerates are not going to be considered craft brewers by our defi nition." The value of the qualities implied by "craft" is clear in Nielsen data cited by Herz. In a 2016 survey of 1000+ beer lovers, 63% said that there is some level of importance to knowing that a beer comes from a small, independent producer when ordering at a bar or restaurant. The trade association tasked with promoting craft brewers can be expected to have iron-clad requirements for membership and support. But among brewers themselves, and among consumers, there is a range of opinions about who is a craft brewer, the value of the label "craft," and whether it matters. Jeff Browning, head brewer at Brewport Brewing Company in Bridgeport, CT, embraces the term "craft," but defi nes it al- most entirely in terms of quality. "I've been in this business since the mid-nineties, so I've watched it grow from less than 1% of the beer-drinking population, back when the term was 'micro,'" he says. "That term doesn't fi t anymore, because craft beer is more about the "Anyone can claim to be a craft brewer, but our defi nition is very specifi c, even though it's very inclusive." —JULIE HERZ, BA'S CRAFT BEER PROGRAM DIRECTOR We are nearly four decades into the movement that transformed American beer. It was begun by enthusiasts who were bored with pale lagers, or keen to recreate at home the variety of beer styles they'd encountered abroad. By the end of the 1970s, a few entrepreneurs were trying their hand at brewing these styles commercially.

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