Video: A Crafty Collision

Brewers respond to BA comments

Most everyone in the beer industry was talking about the difference between craft and crafty yesterday, but not everyone was happy to be having the conversation.

Several brewers, large and small, took issue yesterday with statements by the Brewers Association (BA), releasing public comments defending their position in the brewing world — comments that they say put them squarely outside the world of craft.

“The question we have for the Brewers Association is ‘why are we being punished for brewing with a locally grown ingredient, which started out of necessity, and has continued out of tradition?,’” asked Jace Marti, the Brewmaster at Schell Brewing, in a statement he released yesterday. “And why is it only bad to use adjuncts if you are brewing an American Lager, yet perfectly acceptable to use them in basically any Belgian style of beer, IPA’s or double IPA’s?”

Tenth and Blake president and CEO Tom Cardella also responded yesterday with a statement, challenging the BA’s “crafty” designation of the company’s Blue Moon brand.

“Whether people call them craft or some other title is fine with us. We’ll just keep brewing great beer,” noted the statement.

The rebuttals came as a way of countering of a media offensive launched by the BA earlier this week to try to promote “transparency” with regard to products like Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned Shock Top, which might be made by big international breweries but are sold in many of the same ways as craft beer, and carry similar flavor profiles.

It’s a membership imperative, BA director Paul Gatza told Brewbound yesterday, to “point a bright light on this part of the beer industry by showing who’s behind some of the beers.”

Among the brewing practices the BA called outside the purview of craft are those that may use “adjuncts” like corn or rice to “lighten rather than enhance flavor.”

But Marti – whose “adjunct” offerings make up more than 60 percent of Schell’s total annual output, which leaves him outside of BA membership – believes his company has the same goal, nevertheless.

“We are fighting the big guys just like they are,” he said. “Why fight us if we are doing the same fight they are?”

Marti told Brewbound that Schell’s Brewery is not a member of the BA.

Brewbound also recently asked New Belgium CEO Kim Jordan, Dale Katechis of Oskar Blues Brewery and Tony Magee of Lagunitas for their thoughts on “faux-craft” offerings like Blue Moon at the Nov. 29 Brewbound Session. Their answers are featured in the video above.

The full statements from Cardella and Marti are below.

Brewery: August Schell Brewing Co Website:
Address: P.O. Box 128
New Ulm, MN 56073-0128
United States
  • Nanobrewer

    I was uncomfortable with BA position and found it introducing drama where none was needed.

  • LowBrau

    I think the point was for the big brewers to put their names on the bottles. For example, Wild Blue, a bluebeery lager, makes no reference to AB as the brewer. For retailers who may be trying to support the smaller or local breweries in their offerings, they may not realize that this neither. Some people may select what they think is a craft beer, as they to want to support similarly, or because they feel they are getting a craft brewed product, not realizing that in reality, they are supporting the big boys. Hence BA’s stance on transparency.

  • Montanaandy

    The Bigs dominate distribution and retail shelf space and so more often than not someone just beginning to sample craft beer will encounter a wall of Blue Moon, Shock Top, etc. and will often not realize that this is put out by a subsidiary of the Bigs. It is not that the beer is not good or that they should not purchase it – rather it is a truth in labeling argument. Let the consumer know that the beer is brewed by a subsidiary of the Bigs and allow them to then make an informed decision as to whether they want their dollars going to the Bigs or whether they want to support a smaller independent craft brewer. I will agree that the issue of adjunct use and categorization of such users as non-craft was a bit of a stretch…

  • Decraft

    I think the BA and by extension many craft brewers are being extremely obnoxious about this. They are relying on a title rather than being comfortable with the liquid in the bottle. The truth is every one of them wants to be as big as they can be and sell as much as they can.

  • sam k

    I was insulted as soon as I saw our honestly “traditional” American regional breweries cast in the same light as the evasive bigs, and I remain so.

    There was a time not too awfully long ago when the only alternatives to mainstream adjunct lagers were brews like Yuengling’s Lord Chesterfield ale, Stegmaier porter and Ballantine IPA. Where we might have gotten without their long-term persistence is questionable, and they came from breweries that are now “officially” on the outside looking in.

    I love craft beer, but will henceforth turn my back on the Brewers Association, much as they have done to their eminently more traditional and much-longer established regional brethren, for whom I have immense respect.

    This position is shameful.