Deception at the Taps

The craft beer revolution should not be a place of lies and deceit, and yet here it is. I have just discovered that it is perfectly legal for corporate giants such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors to sell their kegs to independent bars and Gastropubs granting them the authorization to sell their beer under another name. For instance, if you own Sonny’s Bar, you can buy Bud light or Coors and advertise it as Sonny’s Lager. A deceptive and despicable attempt by large scale brewing giants to cash in on the booming business of local and micro craft beer.

Upon visiting an establishment in Brooklyn I was surprised by the excessively light and skunky beer flowing on tap at a local joint. Did they not clean their lines properly? Was the glass dirty? Two real world possibilities in New York dive bars. When I inquired as to where the beer was brewed I was given the vague response: “at an offsite location”. Little did I know that this “offsite” location was not a regional independent brewery, as the name suggested, but rather an automated hundred thousand barrel a year industrial giant.

And yes these are rather harsh words coming from a fellow brewer and beer aficionado. We are all beer drinkers at heart and should support and respect the decisions of other beer drinkers. If you want to drink bud light I have no problem with that. Perhaps you even like light American lagers. In which case more power to you, you will probably be able to find your favorite beer everywhere and for a rather cheap price. But the fact of the matter is, we are being intentionally deceived by corporate giants who would rather eliminate the craft beer industry altogether rather than promote a common and cooperative beer culture. These companies are not innocently trying to promote their beers. They are aggressively eliminating the choice itself. I am appalled that this practice is even legal.

These strategies however are not new to the industry. Corporate giants have been marketing merger brews as “local” for years. Shocktop and Blue Moon are perfect examples of mass produced Ale marketing their “craft” style.

We can of course get into a long discussion about what it means to be a craft brewery. Is it the size of the brewery, or the number of barrels produced a year, as the Brewers’ Association defines? Does it even have a meaning? There is no legal basis to the term and can thus be stuck onto just about any beer produced by any brewery. Does the owner of the label determine the worth of the beer? Does the word “craft” add worth?

These questions can and will be debated till the taps run dry. I feel that the term craft is extremely personal and circumstantial. An individual can find art anywhere they choose to see it. The term is indefinable and fluid. Furthermore, what sits in my glass is fundamentally different from what sits in yours. Whatever your definition of craft, it is paramount that informed decisions be made taking into account all the information available. Don’t intentionally withhold truths about a beers origin if you truly think your product is good. Let the people decide for themselves