There has been a lot of movement in the beer industry lately. Smaller breweries are getting bought up by the big international conglomerates. What you thought was a craft beer may now be a division of AB InBev or Heineken. It’s tough to keep up with the changes in the business, so how can you tell if the beer you’re drinking is actually owned by a small craft brewery? Have no fear, a seal is here!
The Brewer’s Association, a trade group that advocates for small and independent craft brewers, has come up with an official certification for independent breweries’ packaging. The seal features a beer bottle tipped upside down because, you know, you’re drinking it. The Brewer’s Association says the seal, “Captures the spirit with which craft brewers have upended beer, while informing beer lovers they are choosing a beer from a brewery that is independently owned.”
Craft breweries evolved from the need for better beer. People wanted something other than the watery Buds, Millers, and Coors available for drinking. Brewing beer is an art form, and craft brewers wanted to paint with a more malted and hopped brush than standard breweries were willing to use. Now that many of the Big Beer companies are feeling threatened by people who want good beer, they’re buying up these breweries in droves. They could offer their own good beer, make changes to adapt to the market, but it’s much easier for them to just buy a good brewery, and unfortunately, some brewers are willing to take the money and run.
Last weekend I went to the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, which I’ll write about in detail next week, where they had nearly 100 different breweries pouring beers. The beer fest provided attendees the chance to drink beer from craft breweries across the country. There were a few recent sell-outs including Lagunitas, but the vast majority of breweries represented were of the small, craft variety, breweries that produce beer for the love of beer, not for a big fat buyout check.
Drinkers today want that choice: they want the ability to know the good from the bad, the independent from the conglomerate, and have the opportunity to make their decision based on that data. With the certification from The Brewer’s Association, they’ll be able to do that.
Here’s a quick list of craft-brewed beers I enjoyed at last weekend’s festival that you should track down in your local grocer or liquor store. Avery Brewing’s The Maharaja IPA is super hoppy with a touch of grapefruit, perfect for hot days. There’s a tasty summer ale from the gang at Brooklyn Brewery, and the fantastic Ginormous Imperial IPA from Gigantic Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon, a great beer town.
But the good news is that no matter where you live, you can enjoy great local craft breweries. I have local favorites here in Austin that you probably can’t get in your neck of the woods: fiercely independent folks like Austin Beerworks, Zilker Brewing Company, Hops & Grain Brewing, and the aptly named Independence Brewing Company. The whole independence streak is a big thing here in Texas, always has been, and it’s great for beer lovers.
Look for the new Brewer’s Association seal on your favorite brands in the coming months, and be sure to educate yourself on who is making really good beer in your local community. America is a country built on small business, and beer is the ultimate small business. You can’t drink nails from your local hardware store, but you can drink that tasty pale ale from the brewery down the street.