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Craft vs "Crafty"

The Case for “Crafty” Beer

Recently I’ve seen a lot about how major brewer’s (like AB-InBev and MillerCoors) are “fooling” the beer drinking public with “fake” craft beers that you see in your grocery store or C-Store cooler.  Of course, there is also the talk about how they are working full time to “squeeze out” these upstarts.  The “craft beer” people accuse the major brewers of being “crafty” with how they market these beers.  This whole thing should come as no surprise since with the total beer market essentially flat, craft brewers generally gain market share at the expensive of someone else.  Since much of that share is from the majors, did anyone honestly expect them to just roll over and play dead?

Rather than fight the big boys, I have another idea; embrace these so-called “crafty beers” and use them against the “enemy” (the big boys).  I know what you’re thinking by now; I must be crazy to even have these thoughts much less publish them for the entire world to see.  I’d be better off posting naked pictures.  Well stay with me here.

First of all, those who wish to “force” retailers to carry “real” craft beers are completely out to lunch.  Talk about nuts; are you really proposing the government can dictate what a retailer must sell?  If anything, you should be working to relax or simplify laws regarding alcoholic beverage sales.  Leave adding laws (or at least attempting to do so) to the books to the neo-prohibitionists.  Any suggestion like this is a non-starter and not even worth discussing.  Besides, in any decent size town there are retailers that do carry a wide variety of genuine craft beers.  Why?  It’s called basic economics – supply and demand.  If enough people went to the manager of your local grocery store demanding they carry more craft beer they would find room for them.  Of course, getting something on the shelves and keeping it there are two different things.  Grocery stores and other retailers don’t like their limited shelf space to be long term storage.  If it doesn’t move expect to see it marked down and gone.

My next and a key point is that these “crafty” beers aren’t really that bad.  The big boys put a lot of effort into producing and marketing brands like Shock Top (AB-InBev) and Blue Moon (MillerCoors).  While some reading may not agree with me (and that’s your right), these “crafty” beers are certainly more interesting than a Bud Light or a Miller Lite.  Most craft brewers don’t have a lot of advertising budget while the big boys do.  Let them do the heavy lifting; anything that gets someone to try something other than Bud Light should be embraced, not ridiculed and attacked as “bad”.  Think of these as “entry level” specialty beers.  The point here is not to debate the flavor profiles or hop note.  It’s a long way from Bud Light to Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA or a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (a couple of my long time favorites) or even a Falls City Pale Ale or Sterling (a couple of my newer favorites).  Like anything else, developing a taste for craft beer can take time (and in my mind it’s time well spent!).  Once someone sees that there is something with a bit more character than a Bud Light (and Bud Light does have its place in the beer universe), they might start to engage you in a discussion about their new found “expertise” in craft beer.  That’s the opportunity to pounce on with some (gentle) education and suggest that perhaps there are even better choices available than a mass produced “crafty” beer like Shock Top (which by the way I find some of their styles quite good – sorry).

Finally, beer drinkers aren’t fools.  Anyone who cares knows that Shock Top is made by AB-InBev and Blue Moor by MillerCoors.  Generally people don’t like being treated like idiots and will turn off anyone who does.  Yes, there is a huge difference between being a beer geek (ok) and a beer snob (not ok).  Don’t be the know-it-all snob that everyone ridicules and ignores; be the “geek” who people seek out for your wisdom.  My point is that you can teach an old dog new tricks; you just have to be a good teacher.

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