Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Big Brewers "Get Crafty"

According to The Wall Street Journal, big brewers are fighting back against the growing craft beer market by "getting crafty" themselves, producing more "craft-like" styles and failing to mention of who is doing the brewing:
The major brewers generally avoid using the parent company's name on the labels for their craft beers. Anheuser-Busch Cos., for example, lists Green Valley Brewing Co. as the maker of its Wild Hop Lager, an organic beer. Sunset Wheat from Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., is owned by SABMiller PLC. Blue Moon Brewing Co. is a 100%-owned subsidiary of Molson Coors Brewing Co., but the parent company isn't mentioned on its beer labels.
Thanks to the advertising and distribution muscle behind them, "retail sales of craft beers made by those companies or their affiliates grew at nearly three times the rate of independent craft brews" in the first eight months of 2007.

Opinion is divided within the craft brewing community as to whether these "faux" craft beers produced by the big boys will cannibalize market share, or grow the market:
"Any brand put into the marketplace with an intentional lack of affiliation with the brewery brewing it, I consider that a faux craft," says Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Small Brewers Association. "It's intentional deception."
On the other hand,

Some craft brewers say the giants' move into the category is a good thing because they're bringing new legions of craft drinkers into the fold. Even if the independent brewers' market share falls, they may enjoy higher sales and profits as the category grows. "Go Blue Moon," says Greg Owsley, chief brand officer at Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co., the maker of Fat Tire Amber Ale, a leading craft beer.

I tend to side with Mr Owsley - let the consumer decide. While some truth in labelling would be nice, more competition to impress beer drinker's palates can never be a bad thing.

Thanks to Howard for the tip.

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