The term "craft beer" annoys me. I wrote part of this diatribe a long time ago, but since a lot of beer friends have headed to San Diego this week for the Craft Brewers Conference, it reminded me that I think it's a silly term. Why?
- The Brewers Association promulgates a definition of "craft brewer" that excludes Widmer's parent company -- the ironically named Craft Brewers Alliance -- while including three larger breweries with similar product lines. The reason? Anheuser Busch owns a large stake in CBA.
- On the other hand, the Gambrinus Company -- parent company of Bridgeport, Shiner, and Trumer -- makes the BA's list of "craft brewers". All right, Bridgeport fits in with what people think of as craft beer, but Trumer? Everything from Shiner? I say that with love in my heart -- Shiner Bock was the first beer I loved, and I will always love the Spoetzl Brewery and its beers.
- Many perfectly fine imported beers would fail the BA's size or ownership tests: Spaten, Guinness, and Hoegaarden to name a few.
- Look at wine connoisseurs. Do they talk about "craft wine"? No. They know there is good wine and bad wine, and it's clear from the context which kind they are talking about.
A comment by Vasili Gletsos (now the Laurelwood brewmaster) on Jeff's post captures the matter so perfectly that it can't be paraphrased, and has to be reported in its entirety:
To me, the term is most useful as a historical movement to describe the resurgence of smaller breweries in a post-prohibition environment. We are now in a post-craft environment in which there is a wide variety of business models and ownerships in addition to a great depth of beer styles and experimentation.
"Post-craft environment": what a great phrase. Let's move on and just talk about "beer" from now on. If you need a word to distinguish beer from mass-produced macro-lager, turn the tables and call the latter "crap beer" as Brian suggested in his post.
Who cares how many barrels are produced, or what company owns a stake in the brewery? If the beer's good, drink it. If it's bad, complain.