Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The Craft Beer Numbers Game

By William Brand
Sunday, July 22nd, 2007 at 6:53 pm in Uncategorized.


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What exactly IS a craft beer? I don’t really know – even though I’ve been drinking what I call craft beer and writing about for a decade, a definition’s pretty fuzzy. There are things I know. Lagunitas Censored is a craft beer, so is Russian River Damnation.

But what about Blue Moon – the Belgian-style wit? It stands up well in taste tests against other wits, both American and Belgian. Perhaps it’s a bit light for my preference, but very decent.

How about Redhook Longhammer IPA or Widmer Snowplow or Goose Island Bourbon Barrel Stout? Are those crafft beers? Well, the Brewers Association, the Boulder, CO.-based craft beer trade group has decided that they are not craft beers. Reason: Big national brewers have invested in those companies.

Blue Moon’s easy. It’s owned by giant Coors. But the others? Anheuser-Busch owns a percentage of each company. So, in the strange world of craft brewing, they’re NOT craft brewers. Even though from a taste standpoint they’re definitely craft beers.

The most amazing thing is that the association’s decision has been so thorough that they don’t even count sales from Redhood, Widmer or Goose Island in their tally of total craft beer sales in America. In fact, Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza says that if the excluded breweries were included, total craft beer sales would have been 1.1 million barrels higher.

That’s a huge leap. The Brewers Association – with craft breweries partly owned by large brewers omitted – reported total sales of almost 6.7 million barrels in 2006. Add in the 1.1 million and you have nearly a 16 percent increase, a whopping jump from 6 million barrels sold in 2005.

That’s not exactly small potatoes. Interesting fact, add in Blue Moon’s approximately 800,000 barrels and one begins to get the real picture about Americans switch to non-mainstream, full-flavored beer. Add in other full-flavored beer from big breweries and the number grows some more.

Sobering factoid: Anheuser-Busch alone shipped 102 million barrels in 2006, nearly half of all the beer sold in America.

My conclusion: We’ve come a long, long way, but most of the journey still lies ahead. Salud.

Ben Franklin beers.jpg

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