'Craft' Beers That Aren't Really Craft (Slideshow)
September 12, 2013
These beers might pretend to be 'craft,' but won't fall under the Brewers' Association definition
Technically, Blue Moon is one of the brands owned by MillerCoors, which doesn’t fall in line with the Brewers’ Association definition of craft beer ownership. Blue Moon has recently defended itself against the craft beer naysayers, arguing that it’s still one of the most popular craft beers in America despite MillerCoors’ size and ownership. To compare, MillerCoors sells about 67 billion barrels of beer per year, a very high jump from the top-selling craft breweries.
Chicagoans grew up with Goose Island as an independent brewer, which opened in 1998; but in 2011, Anheuser-Busch paid mega bucks to buy out the brewery — $38.8 million. Although Goose Island still operates its Chicago-based brewery, many of the beers are outsourced, which also wrinkles some craft beer drinkers. Goose Island still makes a pretty unique range of beers that many would consider to be craft, but its ownership has ruffled the wings of many a craft beer lover in the Midwest.
Redhook Brewery, Kona Brewing Company, Widmer Brothers Brewing
Don’t get us wrong, we really love all of these brewing companies. But where things get fuzzy is the ownership. In 2008, the breweries merged to form the Craft Brew Alliance — a possibly misleading name, considering that later, Anheuser-Busch bought 35 percent of the group. That’s 10 percent more than what the Brewers’ Association considers to be the maximum ownership from an outside "big brewer" (our words, not theirs). Still, Redhook, Kona, and Widmer have long storied histories with the cities they were born in.
Shock Top, a Blue Moon copycat, is made by Shock Top Brewing Company… which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. MillerCoors had Blue Moon, so Anheuser needed witte beer, too.
Magic Hat Brewing
Magic Hat #9 may in fact be magical, but the brewing company, based in Burlington, Vt., was bought out by North American Breweries in 2010. And in 2012, North American Breweries was sold to Cerveceria Costa Rica ("a subsidiary of Florida Ice and Farm Company… a publicly traded holding company based in Costa Rica with interests in beer and other beverages as well as food , retail and other businesses," according to a release), by KPS Capital Partners, a private equity group. Needless to say, our heads are spinning. Now, the brewing company owns such other fine beers as Labatt Blue, Genesee… you get the picture. Again, it’s another strike on the craft beer definition list of no-no’s: ownership by a big brewer. Other breweries in sticky spots with the North American Breweries? Portland Brewing Co. in Portland, Ore., and Pyramid Breweries, in Seattle.
Wisconsin’s favorite brewery, which was founded in 1867, was bought by SABMiller in 1998. Again, a brewery born with hometown tastes, but owned by a big brewing company that falls outside the craft brewery definition. But Leinenkugel’s has more than 145 years of brewing in the family, so it’s a contested fact whether it is in fact a craft brewery or not.