Ever enjoy a delicious brew and wonder, “What goes into the making of such a good beer? “ Is your favorite beer brewed in St. Louis? Is it an import? (Are you sure about that?) Maybe it’s made right in your kitchen! All the same it seems as though the questions of quality and classification are always on someone’s mind.
As mentioned before in many of my other posts, organizations like the Brewer’s Association do offer a classification for Craft based on production (less than 6 million barrels), product (no non-traditional methods), and people (no more than 25% ownership by a non-craft brewer).
But maybe when it comes down to it, it’s really all about authenticity. Recently, there were legal proceedings concerning AB-InBev’s pilsner brand, Beck’s. A court ruled that the macro-brewer misled consumers into believing Beck’s was brewed in Germany. People call attention to issues like because they want authenticity. Tom Shellhammer of Oregon State University calls it an issue of “provenance,” essentially meaning a product’s origin. Some may claim that any beer can be made anywhere. Try replicating an open-fermented lambic accustomed to the microflora of a Belgian cherry forest in the streets of St. Louis. Not happening.
“It’s really a question of what a consumer desires. Is it the image of an import or the flavor?” Shellhammer said. Some companies have even been known to relocate to Canada for the benefit of labeling product targeted at American consumers an “import.”
And though it may not seem as if Craft Brewers would have to convince anyone that they are “authentic,” there are quite a few that might beg to differ. It could definitely be said that no other company is investing in the craft brewing industry in a way that Anheuser-Busch is. With many brands being snapped up by bigger brewers, it might be hard to convince their drinkers of the merits of the latter’s deep pockets, which can help small breweries continue to grow, access different ingredients, and distribute on a wider basis. As Joe Bisacca, CEO of recently purchased Elysian Brewing says about AB-InBev “They don’t need a 100,000-barrel brewery. They’re looking for the brain trust. They’re looking for the people that create these recipes and these brands.” When asked about the “Pumpkin Peach” stab (Elysian brews a Pumpkin Peach beer) in the commercial earlier this year, he says, “It’s fine. It’s sibling rivalry at this point.”
For some, it won’t ever be about all about the business of brewing. Kim Jordan, the CEO of New Belgium Brewing, separates the artists from the opportunists of the business boom. She says it’s not the first time people jumped in feet first just to “make a big sale.” She goes on, hopeful, that there’s a “strong and steady core of people who are in this industry because they love beer and…the idea of the creative endeavor.”
When it comes down to it, folks, I think that’s it. The “people that create these recipes “, the “creative endeavor,” the “provenance.” From many factors comes a more than just a delicious product. It’s a philosophy. Thanks for reading, and remember our philosophy, “Life’s Better Up North!”