There's been a storm brewing (get it?) among the craft brewing industry and the buzz it's been getting lately. (After all, there are a lot of great craft breweries out there.) Namely, the craft brewing community wants to put it out there that a craft beer isn't always a craft beer.
Consumer Reports' piece on the best-tasting craft beers, which had everyone in a tizzy. Among the craft brewing community's complaints? That some of the brands tested aren't really craft. Take Shocktop, a "CR best buy," that's owned by Anheuser-Busch — does that count as a craft beer? (Blue Moon, owned by MillerCoors, is feeling left out, too.) TIME's business and craft beer blogger, Brad Turtle, explains the "hierarchy" of craft beers that's throwing everyone off. There's the "basic craft craft beers," craft beers actually owned by corporations (re: Blue Moon and Shocktop), and craft "macrobrews" (re: Boston Beer Company). So who's to say what's a good or bad craft beer?
In response, Stone Brewing Co. (the number two pick of America's best craft breweries) and its CEO, Greg Koch, responded to the controversy in an open letter — and in short, Koch wants everyone to get along and drink a beer. In his letter, Koch defends Consumer Reports for "brushing up" on the definition of craft beer, and making it so widely known to its audience. "That’s what makes Consumer Reports devoting significant ink and page space to the largest growing segment of the American alcohol beverage industry so important," he says.
You can read Koch's full response below; you tell us: does where your beer comes from determine whether you like it or not?
Dear Craft Beer Supporter:
The August issue of Consumer Reports covered a number of popular items ranging the gamut from the usual technologic items to modes of transport and household appliances. But, those thumbing their way through this long-trusted advocacy periodical also had the opportunity to read about something that has never been included in the history of that publication, or many mainstream publications for that matter—craft beer.
It’s likely that many Consumer Reports’ readers aren’t fully familiar with the term “craft beer.” They may have heard the term, but they may not actually know what it means. Heck, even the publication itself has had to brush up on the definition of the term as a result of their article. This isn’t a knock on them. To be perfectly honest, the term hasn’t existed all that long, and it takes time for items like that to make it into the national lexicon. That’s what makes Consumer Reports devoting significant ink and page space to the largest growing segment of the American alcohol beverage industry so important.
In short, it exposes its readership, people concerned about getting the very best whether its vehicles and computers or ales and lagers, to something that is the very best. As an advocate and strong believer that consumers should not settle for products generated strictly to appeal to the lowest common denominator mindset—plain, cheaply manufactured, characterless and otherwise inferior goods produced to maximize profit at the expense of providing quality to the end user—I applaud the arrival of craft beer to the lives of millions of engaged Americans via their mailbox, newsstands and the web.
For far too long, the large advertising budgets of mammoth brewing conglomerates have pulled the wool over the eyes of the American consumer. Television, radio and print would have the average citizen falsely believe that the industrialized notion of beer (and the wealth of macros-in-micro clothing faux craft beers they churn out with the speed and associated passion of a robotic assembly line) is the only choice available in the market. But the truth is, the U.S. is home to well over 2,500 small, independent brewing companies offering a wealth of beer styles going far beyond the watered down, corn- and rice-based ‘beers’ this country’s population has almost solely subsisted on for the better part of the past century.
It’s time the American public demanded more, and the first step to the realization that we all deserve better than the cheapest, least offensive thing some smoke-billowing, goliath manufacturing plant can get away with producing is for the public to be aware that there is something different out there, something backed as much by all natural ingredients as it is heart and authenticity. I commend Consumer Reports for becoming the latest publication to shed an informative light on the craft beer movement as well as the plethora of brilliant flavors that comprise it, and look forward to congratulating the next wave of high-profile outlets to do so.
CEO & Co-founder
Stone Brewing Co.