Until now, craft beer has enjoyed modest publicity, being reviewed in mostly beer oriented publications and local media. Yes, we’ve had the occasional national article. Being rated by Consumer Reports kicks it up to a whole new level. It means we matter.
Interestingly, CR defines craft beer as beer that is produced by “small, independent, and traditional” brewers and “produces at most 6 million barrels of beer a year.” Six million barrels? I think it’s time we come up with a new definition of craft beer. I like the “small and independent” but “traditional”? I would hardly call Sam Calagione “traditional.” Let’s go with innovative. Six million barrels? Maybe in the case of Dogfish Head, but I doubt Neshaminy Creek Brewing, a Great American Beer Festival 2013 Gold Medal winner for their Churchville Lager, produces six million barrels. BeerTrotter, a website that reviews GABF winners, has Neshaminy Creek at “…around 1,100 barrels brewed in 2012, the building may be churning out as many as 7,000 barrels within a few years.”
I have some issues with the article. Shock Top being listed as a CR Best Buy? It’s inclusion as a craft beer is appalling, but that’s what you get when you define a craft as under six million barrels production. Most craft beer snobs sneer at their inclusion. To their credit, CR includes a statement that they “…included craft beers that market themselves as such.” That explains a lot, but made me wrinkle my brow a bit. I think they should have refined their definition a bit before undertaking this type of review.
So what makes a craft beer? I think I’m going to go with a paraphrase of Justice Potter Stewart’s quote on pornography, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“Craft beer”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”
What is your definition of a craft beer?