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Extra beer business news, thoughts and insights from the publishers of Beer Marketer’s Insights, Insights Express, Craft Brew News, Beverage Business Insights and Alcohol Issues Insights.

Article: BrewDog Blogs About "Craft" Definition in UK, Europe

In yesterday's issue of Craft Brew News (vol. 4, no. 58), we included the below article about the suggestion for an official "craft brewer(y)" definition in the UK and Europe, from the founders of Scotland's BrewDog.  We include it here for your consideration.

BrewDog Dudes Get Down to Defining “Craft Beer,” Er “Craft Brewer”; BFM Ain’t Their BFF

Taking cues and quotes from Stone’s Greg Koch and Brewers Assn, BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie posted a manifesto of sorts on their blog on why they “categorically believe we need to define craft beer” in UK and Europe.  Why?  The longer version is to: 1) “protect craft brewers and what we are building”; 2) “guide consumers” in this new category; 3) “ensure craft brewers can charge a fair and sustainable price for their masterpieces” and; 4) enable craft beer to grow in UK as it has in US.  Their 3-word, and perhaps more revealing, version: Blue F*%#!@G Moon.  Dickie and Watt, for years among the most vicious and funniest critics of global, mainstream beer, are lighter than usual on the rhetoric, but do point out they don’t want retailers to create craft beer sections that get “carpet bombed by beers that are not craft” and also charge the large global brewers with “bastardizing beer on a colossal scale.” Net-net: without a recognized definition they fear “the large monolithic brewers will simply exploit all that we have worked so hard to build.”

Although the post starts out to define “craft beer,” Watt and Dickie ultimately follow BA in defining “craft brewer” instead, while going circular in explanation that “the definition of a craft beer is a beer brewed by a craft brewer at a craft brewery.”  Note that the definition moves between defining both a company and the facilities it operates.  Not surprisingly, their proposal, like BA’s definition, doesn’t actually have much to do with those liquid “masterpieces.”  A European craft brewery, in this draft proposal (they’re open to suggestion), is limited to less than 500K hl annually.  That’s about 425,000 bbls, so no single craft brewer could have much more than 0.1 share of 300-mil-bbl Euro beer mkt.  That’s significantly smaller than BA’s definition, which allows a 6 mil-bbl to have nearly 3% of 208-mil-bbl mkt.  The guys also amend BA’s “traditional” with their own “authentic” (brewing all beer at original gravity and not using corn, rice other adjuncts to “lessen flavor and reduce costs”), add “honest” (labeling all ingredients and production location and brewing all of its beer at “craft breweries”) and use tighter definition of “independent,” less than 20% owned by brewing co that operates any brewery that doesn’t qualify as craft.

Dickie and Watt acknowledge the size limit may be the most “contentious” aspect and suggest it could be dropped entirely, since most brewers over 500K hl would likely fail the “authentic” tests.  Independence level defended since “intent is a massive part of craft brewing” and once craft brewer sells to big brewer, it’s no longer craft, even if beer “might still be ok (for a while).”  Blogpost singles out Goose Island and predicts that in 10 yrs the brewery will no longer exist and “all their beer [will be] made under contract with rice and corn at an InBev plant.” BrewDog founders hope definition will be recognized by Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) in UK, as well as by The Brewers of Europe Assn.   Read the entire post here.

Editors’ Note: For brewers so ostensibly committed to quality products, Watt and Dickie are notably far more focused on their business interests, defending the niche they’ve built and even their pricing, than on the product itself.  While BrewDog and (at least their UK) counterparts are growing fast, gaining share of mind, stomach and attention – just like their US counterparts – there is the same whiff of fear, arrogance and even contempt for their consumers and retailers, who they don’t seem to think can be trusted to make the ‘right’ decisions.  Gotta also note that many US craft brewers wouldn’t pass muster for Watt and Dickie.  Contract brewers working in plants that make non-craft brands or that label where the company is based rather than where the liquid is produced?  No go.  Brewing purely at original gravity could get tricky for some US brewers too.  A final irony: Dickie and Watt, like the BA, would clearly toss craft segment founders Rob and Kurt Widmer, and the rest of CBA, out of the club due to AB’s ownership stake.  That lends a slightly sour taste to the congratulatory video message they recently sent to the Widmers (a very funny bit with Jim Koch, shown at CBA Vegas mtg) on their 30th anniversary.

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