Posts Tagged ‘georgia craft brewers guild’

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After reading about Ballast Point being acquired for $1 BILLION, I wondered, “Does Craft beer as we know it still exist?” My second thought was, “Should anyone even care?”

My answer to whether craft beer still exists? Hell yes, craft beer still exists. But not in the way everyone thinks. Craft Beer is not defined properly. Which is why several well known brewery owners around the country have recently said the term “craft beer” is becoming meaningless. Look at the comments Saint Arnold’s Brock Wagner made last month. Similar statements are happening daily and they are spot on.

Why the confusion? Because the American beer geek considers craft to be anything that is not AB or MillerCoors. Having good beer does not seem to matter. Being truly small and local doesn’t really matter. Just don’t be associated with the largest American brewers and you are craft. Easy-peasy. But recently, as more and more craft breweries are enjoying huge successes, some are choosing to join with the larger, non-craft brewers. So breweries like Goose Island, Blue Point, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Golden Road, and St Archer were craft one day and then POOF, the next day they are not. Even though these breweries are still the same people making the same beer with the same equipment in the same location.

But wait. It gets even more complicated. There are also many international brewers that are not AB or MillerCoors. So when companies like Boulevard and Firestone-Walker sell to Duvel Moortgat, when Founders sells a portion of equity to Mahou San Miguel, when Lagunitas sells a stake to Heineken, and when Ballast Point sells to Constellation Brands, are all these brewers still craft? Even though they are not associated with Bud/Miller/Coors? Again, it is still the same people making the same beer with the same equipment in the same location.

No wonder the term “craft beer” is losing its meaning. It’s a very loose definition to begin with. So how would the gospel according to John (Cochran) define craft beer? To me it’s about volume.

The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as being small if they produce under six million barrels per year. For perspective, six million barrels is 1.9 billion bottles of beer!  A brewery can make 7.6 million bottles of beer per day and still be called craft? Seriously?

Here is my request of the Brewers Association. Let’s quit talking about craft beer and go back to encouraging everyone to support their local microbrewery. And let’s redefine microbrewery to mean up to 50,000 barrels per year. I say if craft is defined by being small then it should refer to those who are really small. The guys and gals who are still struggling to get from 500 barrels to 5,000 barrels. Or 10,000 barrels to 25,000 barrels. The ones who are not yet getting a paycheck and have their life savings and their homes at risk if anything goes wrong. The brewers who don’t know whether they can meet payroll, pay the power bill, or even if they will be open next month. These are the true craft brewers of today. The microbrewers.

And once you grow past 50,000 barrels like Terrapin is doing this year, then what? What about DogFish Head, Bells, Sweetwater, Harpoon, Sierra Nevada etc, etc. I could list 100+ more that are no longer microbrewers. And good for us. We have the battle scars and the memories of what it’s like to be on the front line of growing a new business. We used to be those guys. And we found a way to survive. Am I saying it is easy now? No, we are still busting our asses every day. More so than we used to in lots of ways. But guess what. We are no longer in the same business as the much smaller brewers. Sure we all make beer. But we don’t have to fight to get distributor’s attention any more. Now the distributors are calling us wanting to carry our beers. The retailers are finding space to fit our beers on the shelves. We know we will be in business next year. We are succeeding.  So does it really matter whether one or the other of us is still a craft brewer?

Should we care if the term “craft beer” still exists? Maybe/maybe not. Maybe it will all become beer. But no matter what it is called, here is what matters. Everyone should like the beer they are drinking and drink the beer they like. AND everyone should support the local brewery that is contributing to worthwhile causes in their community.

Personally I don’t really care whether Constellation Brands owns Ballast Point. There is a Sculpin in my fridge now and I will still drink it because I like Sculpin. But at the same time you can be damn sure I am going to buy beer from the local guys that are producing it here in town and are helping to raise funds for the local shelter. We do good by supporting good.

Is craft beer as a term still relevant to you? Let me know what you think.

Cheers, John

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So you want to open a brewery? That’s awesome! Craft beer is growing every day. There are now over 2,700 breweries in the US and another 1,700 in planning. And yes, there is room for you too.

What is your first step? Ask questions of and learn from the professionals. Whenever you see an opportunity to get a gang of pro brewers in one room talking freely about our craft, it’s a DO NOT MISS opporutnity. So if you are a homebrewer looking to up your game, or if you have dreams of going pro, the Southeastern Craft Brewer’s Symposium is for you.

This one day conference is being held at the Mariott in downtown Decatur on Saturday April 19th, from 9am to 5pm. There will be seminars on brewing and the business of beer from leaders in the craft brewing industry in Georgia. Below is a current list of seminars. The massive amount of information being passed on at this conference will be huge in your efforts to join the ranks of professional brewers. Don’t miss this awesome opportunity to learn from some of the best!


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