Ah...It's timely that at an event I attended this week someone asked the defintion of craft beer. There are many definitions including one from the Boston Beer Co., better known as Sam Adams brewery, which states, " An American craft beer is produced by a small, independent brewer who follows traditional brewing processes."
This past week the Brewer's Association, the association representing craft brewers, chose to draw a line in the sand against the big brewing companies. Not only did the BA state (again) that a craft brewer is limited to 6 million barrels of production per year BUT ALSO is not owned by a firm that does not meet that restriction (e.g. Goose Island as part of ABInbev).
To be more specific the statement from the BA uses the term craft-imitating beers for products of some of the big firms. They even name names: Blue Moon and Shock Top. That seems appropriate as a friend new to home brewing pointed out recently that his neighbors say they drink craft beer when drinking Blue Moon.
Given that one of the beers I've enjoyed most in the past 2 months has been Bourbon County from Goose Island, I've pointed out to others that it is from a brewery owned by the big guns - but I still love and appreciated that fine beer.
I also spoke to the Head Brewer of Leinenkugel this year and asked straight out, "how much does parent SABMiller influence what you do with your Big Eddy brand and beers. With full disclosure this was just after he'd provided me with some free Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale and Russian Imperial Stout (I love both). His answer, "none!" He said those brands are so small to SABMiller that they almost consider them his hobby.
Let's be clear, we have plenty of local, regional and even national beer to drink without drinking beer made by the brewers of Miller Light. And it is absolutely appropriate that as 'craft beer' grows the new beer drinkers deserve to know what is local, and who started brewing on their stove top.
At the same time, one of the things I like most about Jim Koch, founder of Sam Adams, is that he started brewing beer on his kitchen stove just like I did. (My first batch wasn't that great -- he says his was pretty good.)
Okay... be warned some beer is 'crafty' as the Brewer's Association says and some fits their definition of craft. And it is nice for the public to know whether their beer is being brewed by a brewing artist or a kind of corporate chemist.
And if you want to read the Brewer's Association statement click here