"Craft or crafty? Consumers deserve to know the truth"

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Todd, Dec 13, 2012.

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  1. Todd

    Todd Founder (6,495) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society Trader

    The Brewers Association calls out large brewers and urges consumers to get informed in this op-ed by Charlie Papazian, Bob Pease and Dan Kopman that's just been published in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch.
    Full article:

    Craft vs. Crafty: A Statement from the Brewers Association
    Beer Drinkers' Right to Know by Paul Gatza
    Brewers Association's List of Domestic Non-Craft Brewers (PDF)
    Fortune: Big Beer's response to craft: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em


    While I agree that consumers do deserve to know the truth in order to make an educated purchase, this should be applied to small/contract brewers too.
  2. sirtomtom

    sirtomtom Initiate (0) Dec 10, 2010 California

    Well that explains why I'm seeing a lot more Kona beers on tap, next to the other macro brews.
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  3. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Consumers deserve to know the truth in regards to many products and topics...yet, few people take the time to educate themselves. Those that purchase the products listed above probably wouldn't take the time or care.

    But, that's what we're here for and I will continue to do what I can to educate people in regards to the antics of large corporations; AB-Inbev being at the top of my list.

    So for those of you that don't know, here's a list of what "brands" they own:

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  4. pixieskid

    pixieskid Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2009 Germany

    Agreed about the contract brewed thing as well. I appreciate it being listed on here, any chance you can add a section to the brewery's info that if it is contracted brewed, where it is brewed. As opposed to the "brewed at/by another brewery"...
  5. dauss

    dauss Zealot (588) Aug 9, 2003 Colorado

    If we are going to be serious about this, the notes section should be updated to reflect this information. I look at the profile of Goose Island and Leinenkugel and there is no mention that it is mentioned that it is 100% owned by Anehuser-Busch InBev.
  6. MN_Beerticker

    MN_Beerticker Initiate (0) Jul 10, 2012 Minnesota

    At a local liquor store in MN there is a banner in the front window with CRAFT BEER HEADQUARTERS and the logos of Shock Top, Goose Island, Red Hook (Not owned by ABI but Distributed by), and Stella Artois. Nice that they have a wolf in sheep's clothing approach to craft beer.
  7. Hanzo

    Hanzo Savant (973) Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    The better question is, if suddenly Blue Moon slapped SABMiller on the label, do you think they would sell less? In my opinion I don't think people care (outside of us). They were drinking their Bud Light or whatever, tried a Blue Moon, it was very approachable, they liked the taste and went with it. Hell I even enjoy a Blue Moon every now and again.
  8. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,279) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Gee, you'd think the B.A.'s Papazian would be aware of the joint venture between MolsonCoors' US Coors division and SABMiller's US Miller division that is known as MillerCoors, circa 2007-8 (it was in all the papers). Without Coors' barrelage (around 11% of the US market at merger) the other two would not be at a combined 75% share.

    Well, yeah, Miller bought Leinenkugel --- in 1988, back when it was just another small brewery that primarily brewed the same adjunct light lagers that long dominated the US market. It certainly was not in any respect what now or then would have been considered a "craft beer" brewer.

    But even more perplexing to me is how "Henry Weinhard" is often discussed in craft beer circles as if it was long an independent brewery. Pabst (at the time the #4 brewery in the US, with a yearly barrelage of 15 million) bought the brewer of the Henry Weinhard brand, the Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co., in 1979. Before creating the HW brand in the mid-70's, B-W was best known for it's popular-priced "Blitz-Weinhard" brand AAL --- and Olde English 800 Malt Liquor.

    A few years later, Heileman (#4 US brewery) took the brewery over after buying and then spinning off a "new" Pabst to keep ahead of the DoJ's Anti-Trust division. Heileman ran it as their Blitz-Weinhard subsidiary, and Stroh (#4) did they same when the bought Heileman in the mid-90's.

    Miller then bought the brand in '99 (after Stroh closed the Portland brewery), brewing some HW label's at their Irwindale, CA facility and the rest in OR under contract at Full Sail. The "Henry Weinhard" brand might hold the record for being owned and brewed by the MOST US "macro" companies.

    Probably, in the latter case, it's because "The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, brewing since 1867, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Miller Brewing Company." as noted in most Press Releases, such as this one :wink: .
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  9. dauss

    dauss Zealot (588) Aug 9, 2003 Colorado

    However, for the average consumer, looking to find out more about the rating of the beer, may not see that information outside a press release.
  10. notjustgc

    notjustgc Initiate (0) Nov 15, 2008 New Jersey

    Someone needs to set up a black list. As more of these brands get swallowed up, it's going to be harder and harder to stay up to date and remember where your dollar is ultimately going when you spend it at the bar.

    I understand there will be people who don't give a shit, and only care about what's inside the bottle. Personally, I'm really not comfortable supporting what's happening in the industry, and I have a feeling there are others who would agree.
  11. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,279) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Jay Brooks (of the Brookston Beer Bulletin) maintains a list of brands owned/partially-owned/imported/distributed by ABInBev and MillerCoors in the US.

    The Big Brewers' Brands
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  12. 5thOhio

    5thOhio Initiate (0) May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    Yeah, more government regulations will do the trick. Just one more set of regulations will fix things, one more bureaucracy will make it all right.

    Do people know who owns which wineries? How about distilleries? Or candy companies? How much of your car is made in the US vs. foreign made?

    As Hanzo points out, those of us who like craft will know, the remaining beer drinkers won't care.
  13. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    I agree with the article save one point. It doesn't matter who owns a brewery, there are still jobs created by that brewery. Granted, when the big guys take over a craft brewery or create their own brand, the small brewer gets the short end. But the jobs are still there. I'd like to find out how many people lost their jobs when AB/InBev took over GI.
  14. BeerTwigs

    BeerTwigs Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2009 New York

    I agree. Great piece.

    Can I get some thoughts on TommyKocker and their partnership with Coors Distributing.... suddenly this year they are all over NY. I went to Denver almost 2 years ago at this point, on the way back from a Ski Trip I was thrilled to find a nice small craft brewery on the way back to Denver. Now I see this beer everywhere. To make it worse, they made a beer to celebrate their case sales with CDC.
  15. SamCalagione

    SamCalagione Initiate (113) Feb 22, 2004 Delaware

    The Beer Institute (The group representing large international brewers and a number of American craft brewers as well) released this statement yesterday:

    The Beer Institute announced new data today showing that the number of active permitted brewers rose to a historic high of 2,751, as reported by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This high water mark is up from 2,309 active permitted brewers in 2011. This is the highest number of U.S. brewers ever recorded by the Beer Institute.
    In 2012 the industry gained 442 new brewers with California gaining 31 brewers, Texas gaining 29, and Colorado, Illinois and Washington all gaining 28 each.”

    Yes there are a record number of breweries open today but the fact that roughly 2,700 of them are small American-owned craft brewers who collectively SHARE 6 percent marketshare in a country where two international conglomerates control roughly 85 percent of the market is an indication of how marginalized we are. Our access-to-market issues up against the big two and their influence at the distributor and retailer levels are very real and we as craft brewers need to let beer lovers know this. Craft brewers, beer advocates and craft consumers deserve the credit for the fact that there are now over 2,700 breweries in America. This is a grassroots consumer-based movement. But craft consumers also deserve to know who makes the beers that are being marketed as craft.

    Our frustrations with the lack of transparency from the big breweries led to this Op-Ed piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today:

    The Brewers Association represent that vast majority of craft breweries in America. Every member of the Brewers Association board of directors, of which I am Chair, voted in support of releasing this Op-Ed piece. From the board members representing small brewpubs, to those representing homebrewers, to those from regional craft brewers. The Brewers Association has defined a craft brewery but we have not defined craft beer. Yesterday Executive Chairman of SABMiller, Graham Mackay, defined craft beer and I think we should all embrace his definition. In an interview with Fortune he said that craft beer is local, anti-big, and anti-global (see full quote below). So, by his own definition, SABMiller and ABI and the brands that are owned and affiliated with them do not make craft beer because these two international conglomerates are big, they are global and they certainly are not local. The part where he notes the importance of "knowing the brewer who produces it" is particularly interesting considering it doesn't mention SABMiller anywhere on a Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, or Weinhard label and all three of these brands are 100 percent owned by SABMiller.

    Graham Mackay: "The consumer has gone back to saying, 'Let's get a bit of interest, let's have a bit of difference.' So, there's been the growth of craft beer. But it's also local, anti-marketing, anti-global, anti-big, and more focused on experience and knowing the brewer who produces it."

    If you want to keep the diversity excitement of the American beer landscape healthy, support indie American craft breweries.
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  16. savagewhisky

    savagewhisky Initiate (0) Aug 8, 2007 Virginia

    I agree consumers should have access to this kind of information and as craft beer fans we should do our part to talk up really good craft beer...but I don't think we should necessarily assume that just because a big brewer made the beer that it's bad. Especially when we are talking about craft brewers who were bought, or at least in part bought, by the macro-brewer. I'm not in the business, but I imagine that it isn't necessarily the case that AB investing in a small brewer means they'll change the beer. So, for the craft brewer getting distribution by AB would be an awesome thing (good for drinkers too).

    I guess what I'm saying is, it's important to support small brewers, but I don't think we should go around bad-mouthing small brewers who attempt to utilize big beer's resources. I know folks out there are going to say that there's limited shelf space yada yada, but I think that particular problem needs to be addressed in a different way (rather than holding big beer down freeing up small brewers to sell/distribute beer more easily). Hell, at the very least a huge positive of this whole thing is that big brewers are realizing that people want higher quality beer instead of the swill they've been pitching.
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  17. Rosty

    Rosty Initiate (26) Nov 29, 2006 California

    Well said as always Sam.
  18. notjustgc

    notjustgc Initiate (0) Nov 15, 2008 New Jersey

    Man, Sam's been lurking for 8 years just waiting for this thread to make his first post.

    I remember being kind of struck by the "they spill more beer than we brew" figures on the DFH tour.
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  19. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,279) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    The major difference is the number of jobs - especially when comparing a macro-brewed craft-ish beer (like a Blue Moon) vs. a small brewery's beer, on a "barrels brewed per employee" basis.

    For just one easy example:

    MillerCoors' Milwaukee brewery employs 720 people who turn out 10 million barrels a year.
    1 job for about every 14,000 bbl. of beer​

    Dogfish Head employs 120 people and brewed 144,000 bbl. last year.
    1 job for every 1,200 bbl. of beer​

    Granted, that in the case of a macro buying an existing brewery like the AB/GI situation the job situation stays about the same - altho' it's certainly common for some jobs to be eliminated due to the "synergy" of a buyout, where some back-office jobs might now be done at the parent company's headquarters, etc.

    Can't find it right now, but I think it was Nick Matt (of F.X. Matt and the Brewers Association) while pushing the proposed reduction in the Federal Excise Tax for small brewers, who claimed that the small brewers accounted for 50% of the jobs in the industry, while only brewing 5% of the beer. (Though that figure is probably inflated by the number of waitstaff and other restaurant-type jobs at the more than half of small breweries that are brewpubs).

  20. Hanzo

    Hanzo Savant (973) Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    So slap Miller on Blue Moon and AB on Shock Top labels? I honestly don't think people would suddenly stop drinking these beers. For me these pseudo craft beers were a gateway for me. They were the step right before I got into some Sam Adams offerings, and then some Sierra Nevada and then the rest is history. At the time I had no idea Miller or AB owned anything outside of beers with their names on them, but to me it didn't matter.

    Now that I have joined this site, and am more in the know, sure it matters. But to your average consumer looking to switch from their watered down light lager to something with some flavor I don't think they care who brews what.
  21. phanlon

    phanlon Initiate (0) May 7, 2012 Pennsylvania

    Sam - What's the solution to the access to market issues? Is it really the big brewing companies, or is it the 3 tier distribution setup? Would you rather see restrictions/requirements on labelling for the big brewers, or would changes to the distribution setup? Or is this about getting consumers to care more about where their products come from?
  22. phanlon

    phanlon Initiate (0) May 7, 2012 Pennsylvania

    The other side of this argument (which I suspect ABI or SABM would use) is that big brewing companies benefit the consumer by reducing the price of beer through more efficient use of labor and through more efficient distribution.

    We focus a lot of taste, selection, etc as consumer benefits, but a lot of consumer likely would prefer less brands but lower prices.
  23. evilc

    evilc Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2012 California

    The market share of craft breweries will remain small as long as 4 packs of beer cost $10, and a 22oz bomber of BA Stout costs $25. The market share for breweries who produce 36 packs for $15 will remain as is.

  24. Hanzo

    Hanzo Savant (973) Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    And this is where breweries like Sierra Nevada will have to fight the good fight for us. The gap between a six pack of macro and six pack of something like SNPA needs to shrink even more.
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  25. sommersb

    sommersb Initiate (0) May 25, 2010 Tennessee

    I was surprised to see August Schell listed as a primarily adjunct brewer in the BA report, since they seem focused on German styles in large degree. Maybe its their ownership of the Grain Belt brand?
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  26. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,279) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    But the "argument" as stated by otisdriftwood was simply one of "jobs", not a broader one of economics, efficiency and pricing at the consumer level BUT, even if we expand it to that, the macro side still falls short, job-wise, when other factors are equal. (DFH 90 Minute Ale, after all, is not really competing head-to-head with Keystone Light).

    Take two craft/craft-ish beers that are sold at the same price segment (since that's what the thread's topic is- macro-sized breweries' faux "crafty" brands), one from a "macro", one from a small brewer.

    Blue Moon - $6.99 sixpack - from MillerCoors Trenton, OH* - 560 employees brewing 10 million bbl/yr​
    1 job for every 18,000 bbl.

    Saranac - $6.99 sixpack - from F. X. Matt - 125 employees brewing 196,000 bbl/yr (and maybe a like amount of contract brewing, so we'll even double that to 400k)​
    1 job for every 3,200 bbl.

    * M-C facility closest geographically to Matt.​
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  27. Flyway

    Flyway Initiate (0) Oct 22, 2012 Wisconsin

    **simultaneous smashing of glass as advocates drop their BCBS nationwide**
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  28. coreyfmcdonald

    coreyfmcdonald Initiate (0) Nov 13, 2008 Georgia

    Of course people want lower prices and a lot of people wouldn't mind less brands, but part of what we are paying for is the craft of the product. It's sort of like buying an original painting versus a reproduction, though the analogy is admittedly not perfect. We go to beer festivals and breweries and actually meet the people that produce the product we are consuming. Much of what we are buying is the story, the culture, and the craft behind the product. Once the product is mass-produced (a very subjective term, more so than I think people here generally think), this is lost.
  29. evilc

    evilc Initiate (0) Jan 27, 2012 California

    I'll keep buying GI as long as it stays as good as it is today.
  30. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Aspirant (299) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    I think Falls City would give it a good run.
  31. Tballz420

    Tballz420 Meyvn (1,114) Mar 4, 2003 Minnesota

    Who cares who owns a brewery? If a beer is good, then its worth drinking. If its not good, then its not worth drinking.

    If a big brewery buys a beer like beck's and makes it worse, then it then becomes not worth drinking.
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  32. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,279) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Nah, way behind. Bought by Heileman in the '70's IIRC, then spun-off with/to Evansville, and then to --- Pittsburgh (I guess- do they still brew it at Latrobe)? And it's debatable whether the latter two owners would even be considered "macro" these days.

    But, yeah, with Heileman buying Pabst, keeping Lone Star and Weinhard, then Stroh buying Heileman and then Stroh selling out a few years later to mostly Pabst but some to Miller, there are a bunch of brands that bounced around the Big Brewers Pin Ball Machine there in the '80's and 90's. Still few, if any, were able to maintain the fiction of being a "local beer from a local brewery" better than Henry Weinhard.

    Hey, and what happened to Drummond Bros., anyway!? :grimacing:
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  33. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Aspirant (299) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    Yes want to add on that this number is fairly typical from the data Ive seen. For craft brewers, about 3/4ths of an employee per bbl.
  34. Grohnke

    Grohnke Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2009 Illinois

    Hanzo and evilc both said great things.

    That being said, I do find it slimey, the unethical business practices of these guys with their lack of transparency. Consumers in any industry have a right to know where the product is being made, and by whom. Nevermind the argument about whats craft and whats not (however the article does a good job finally breaking that term down), people are being lied to. Now with regard to the argument about whats craft and whats not, its hilarious that this Graham character said what he said..again lending to the unethical practices, this time its pretending to be something youre not, in order to increase sales and to attract a growing market.

    /ethical business rant...
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  35. kelvarnsen

    kelvarnsen Disciple (377) Nov 30, 2011 Canada (ON)

    Honestly the more I read these kind of articles the less I care. I mean if a huge company can make great tasting beer I will drink it. If a tiny local company makes crap beer, I won't buy it just because it is a small local business.
    Wreckoncile likes this.
  36. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Aspirant (299) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    I believe there was one more step between Evansville and Pittsburgh, but I would have to look it up.

    And while its no longer "macro", its owned in Louisville again, although being contract brewed (in La Crosse, IIRC).
  37. Grohnke

    Grohnke Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2009 Illinois

    i dont think the article is disputing that...
  38. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Aspirant (299) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    Found the in between and can answer your last question, somewhat.

    Falls City bought by Heileman, was brewed in Evansville and Newport, KY (former Weidemann Brewery). After Heileman announced closing of Evansville brewery, it and the Falls City name was bought out by Evansville Brewing Company.

    To answer the other question, they also brewed a Drummond Bros Light. Evansville won a gold at the GABF in 1993 with Drummond Bros.

    They closed in late 90s and that is when Pittsburgh Brewing bought them.

    And the local owner bought the name off of Pittsburgh when they were crashing and burning.

    So only 4 macro owners, Falls City, Heileman, Evansville and Pittsburgh. Although 3 other macro brewers brewed Billy Beer under a license from Falls City, so that would take it up to 7. :wink:
  39. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,279) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah, I think I may be thinking more of Sterling's post-Heileman geneology... all them mid-West Heileman 'local-ish' brands kinda blended together in my memory, since I never lived in an area where many of them were distributed.

    Altho' I was shocked recently when a friend sent me some photos he took in 1985 at the farm I lived on in the Finger Lakes, NY and there was JessKidden, sitting on the old Willys Jeep with Bob*, drinking a bottle of Sterling (!). I think I would have sworn "No", and been able to pass a lie detector test, if I'd been asked if I ever drank a Sterling Beer.

    * And it still drives me crazy I can't figure out what Bob is drinking!

    Yeah, I remember it being on my list of "Revived brands" - didn't the new owner just go with the name and logo and not attempt to do an "authentic" recipe from "the past" (be it 1900 or 1967).
  40. kelvarnsen

    kelvarnsen Disciple (377) Nov 30, 2011 Canada (ON)

    Maybe not, but it seems make a point that the public needs to be made aware of who is producing what, when my response is who cares. If Kona or Goose island can make beer that tastes good, does it matter who owns the company? Would having the owner of the brewery on the bottle make it taste different?

    Personally I think this is the best possible outcome, small brewers making good beer forcing larger brewers into making good beer. This is exactly how business and competition should work. Plus I would rather have the big guys spending their money trying to make good beer rather than spending it on ad campaigns, or stupid gimmicks (cold certified cans) or giving away free crap in a case of beer.
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