The craft vs. crafty argument. The debate continues to rage to the fatigue of more than a few. Craft vs. crafty was originally a statement made by the Brewers Association in 2012. The BA is a trade organization that represents craft brewers, and craft vs. crafty aims to define what a craft brewer is vs. “the increase in production and promotion of craft-like beers by large, non-craft breweries.” It’s supposed to be a differentiator between small, entrepreneurial businesses competing against large transnational corporations.
Of course, the line continues to blur on what makes an independent brewery — if the line existed at all.
Pete Coors has had enough of these disparities. Pete Coors is the great-grandson of Adolph Coors and the chairman of Molson Coors’ board of directors. He’s also a member of the Brewers Association. He apparently even reads New Brewer (the BA’s pub). And while he did not attend the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewEXPO America in Nashville last week, he did hear about the BA’s continued push to ostracize “Big Beer” — especially comments made in the opening session. In an open letter drafted for the BA, Coors openly calls out the trade organization’s leadership — Chairman Eric Wallace and President Bob Pease. From the letter, which was posted on Beer Business Daily:
The brewing industry is not exclusively made up of “large, multinational brewers” or “big brewers” or “faux craft brewers.” It is not exclusively made up of “mass produced” beer, craft brewers or home brewers. Rather, the beer industry is a combination of large and small brewers, retailers, distributors and suppliers who are passionate about their craft and committed to their businesses. And, they are passionate about competing for the millions of American consumers who love beer.
The leadership of the Brewers Association does a great disservice to the entire beer value chain by attempting to pit one part of the industry against another.
MillerCoors has been in the cross-hairs of the craft movement of late. Stone Brewing Co. recently cast the first stone in a trademark dispute with the conglomerate which also owns the Keystone brand. In its complaint for trademark infringement, Stone Brewing alleges that MillerCoors, a subsidiary of Molson Coors Brewing Co., altered its marketing strategy to emphasize the “Stone” portion of the beer’s name, thereby potentially confusing consumers who might conclude that the two beers (Stone and Keystone) are somehow related.
What exactly is the Brewers Association definition of a craft brewery? Well, it includes (among other things) an annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less and no more than 25 percent of the craft brewery being owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Via this definition Boston Beer Co. (owner of Sam Adams) is considered a craft brewery. Even though the first quarter of 2018 earned it $190.5 million in net revenue, Boston Beer is considered small and independent, so you can see how some might have a problem with the definition.
Drawing particular ire of late, the BA is pushing its certified seal that BA-defined craft brewers can tout on their packaging labels — to further distance craft beer from brands owned by large beverage corporations such as Molson Coors. The BA is now pushing its seal beyond packaging, encouraging indie-minded breweries to display them on entrances, menus, growlers, as tattoos (probably), etc. Back to Coors:
That is a slippery slope that does not end well for our industry. We have enough competition inside the beer business and outside it with wine, spirits and, increasingly, marijuana.
You undermine your credibility by pitting us against one another to the ultimate detriment of the entire beer industry.
Keep your independent seal, your pride and your zeal for brewing, but let’s be united as an industry. There are other enemies we all must fight together.
Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association, issued this statement Monday: “The Brewers Association has the utmost respect for Pete and the Coors family and we would look forward to sitting down with Pete over a beer and discussing his concerns. We look forward to doing so in a thoughtful and respectful fashion.”
We’re sure more opinions will continue to fly in both open and closed letters. Feel free to give us your opinions down below.