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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Craft Beer March/April 2017• Beverage Dynamics 71 structure of the product and not what size system you're brewing on. 'Craft beer' is a descriptor for more avant-garde styles or what used to be considered boutique fl avors, not national brand lagers." He bridles at the idea that an organization can defi ne what is and is not a craft brewery. "Take Devils Backbone, for instance [purchased by AB InBev last year]," he says. "What makes Devils Backbone a great brewery is Jason Oliver, their brewer. Jason Oli- ver is still Jason Oliver, even if his paychecks come through an AB InBev corridor. The same thing with Blue Point Brewery in Long Island [purchased by AB InBev in 2014]. I've known those guys since they opened their doors." "I think there are some people that believe they have a right to tell the rest of the world it's not a craft beer because it comes in the package of a billion-dollar organization," he continues. "But I think the large part of people who are looking for what could be called artisanal ales and lagers recognize that great beer is great beer. They're more interested in the variety they can get—we can get Golden Road [purchased by AB InBev in 2015] in Connecticut now, and we can get Goose Island [purchased by AB InBev in 2011] barrel-aged stuff that you wouldn't ever have been able to get." IS IT ALL ABOUT THE LIQUID? Not far to the east, Brent Ryan holds a different opinion of the need to protect the label "craft." As a founder of Newport Storm Brewery and Newport Distilling Company and—perhaps more importantly to this issue—the president of the Rhode Island Brewers Guild, Ryan has quizzed both members and consumers about what craft means to them. "Not only does it mean quality; it means some connection to a community, and authenticity. When somebody says some- thing is craft, that implies that this is not a mass-produced thing, it's not being sold by a publicly traded company, or some private equity fi rm. It's real people in a building somewhere, making this stuff on something that is less than completely automated. That's a vision that consumers have, and it's the same vision that a lot of small producers have." To the large producers who would insist that, "If the beer tastes the same, why isn't it craft? It should be just about the liquid," Ryan responds that the consumer is buying more than a commodity. "They're buying it not just because it's something they like, but because their money goes towards something they believe in." Small companies have watched with some alarm as former col- leagues have sold to the largest brewing concerns. With the mar- "'Craft beer' is a descriptor for more avant-garde styles or what used to be considered boutique fl avors, not national brand lagers." —JEFF BROWNING, HEAD BREWER AT BREWPORT BREWING COMPANY

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