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Some of Today's "Craft" Beers are Pretty Questionable (Split off of PBR Thread)

PBR is a throwback _brand_, but certainly a different beer than it was even 35-40 years ago. As yellow water beers go, it still isn't half bad.

As much as I appreciate what the beer 'revolution' has brought in terms of bringing a bit more character to beer, I think the 'backlash' idea has validity too. With so many new brewers entering the marketplace, a lot of what's coming out of the so called "craft" scene these days is pretty questionable. It wouldn't surprise me at all if more of the old 'legacy' brands make a bit of a comeback...especially if the old brands are reintroduced to better reflect what they tasted like 50 or more years ago.
Some of them (PBR among them) were not nearly as bad as the "craft" industry hype machine would have folks believe...

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  1. Curious what you mean by " lot of what's coming out of the so called 'craft' scene these days is pretty questionable" as I probably would disagree with you on that point.

    18 Replies
      1. re: kedbro

        For example? I dont find "a lot" of "craft" beer to be "really bad" myself. Just so much of it is just more of the same and doesnt really excite me anymore. But bad? Maybe in the 90's there was a glut of poorly made beer being marketed as craft beer. But todays craft beer I find to be pretty good overall. Theres always a few clunkers in there but with competition for shelf space the way it is these days its hard for a truly bad "craft" beer to survive or even get a shot in retail stores now.

        1. re: Insidious Rex

          I think the point being made is that "craft beer" is no longer a tiny little niche, and just because something is "craft" doesn't mean that it is necessarily good.

          Look at it this way (I'm making up all of these numbers for effect):

          Suppose 15 years ago there were 10 craft breweries, but because it was such an artisanal/niche thing, 9 of them were good. Now suppose today there are 500 craft breweries, but because more less-dedicated/less-skilled people got into the game, only 300 of them are good. With something like that, it's easy to for lesser quality craft beer to exist.

          As for your notion that it's difficult to survive, I disagree. Even in the craft world, marketing rules. It seems as if many craft breweries are either realizing that the real money is in marketing & catering more to the masses or they're simply starting out that way. I view Magic Hat in this category (I personally say they're the former, others the latter) - mind you I actually drink a lot of MH (then again, I drink a lot of BMC too), but they're certainly not what I have in mind when I talk about good craft beers ... yet they're wildly popular around here.

          1. re: jgg13

            Well you may remember that in the early 90’s there was a first craft beer wave that did well for a while then receded because LOTS of people with little knowledge and little passion for brewing got into the business thinking its easy to make beer and they could make a quick buck. And many of these beers were poorly made and tasted that way. And when I say they were bad I mean they were actually in the hard to finish/turns your stomach category. And popular sentiment for “micro” beer rescinded because of that and most of the bad places went out of business as people turned their back on the micro industry in general and went back to their macro beer or maybe Sam Adams and such. The second craft boom that we are still seeing today was a better one and it has sustained itself and actually grown during rough economic times because of that. Most of the product has been quality and made by people who love to brew and have some basic concept of what they are doing. In my opinion there are just too many GOOD choices out there to complain about the general quality of “craft beer”. If you don’t like Beer X well let me recommend several dozen others…

            And I agree with you that marketing can be important. But I dont agree that it rules. Not in the microbrewery industry. Theres so much product out there now and only so much shelf space. In order to compete in this industry now you need to have quality product. And marketing will never make up for bad product (on the micro level). The best breweries in the country do little if any marketing yet they cant sell their beer fast enough. Ask Russian River or Three Floyds how important marketing is. I don’t even think they have marketing departments. But people know their beer is excellent and because of that people buy it as fast as they can brew it. Magic Hat makes some decent beers and I certainly agree with you that they are worth drinking (I recall enjoying their Hex or whatever their Oktoberfest was this year). You may be seeing more marketing from them because they were recently purchased by North American Breweries who also owns Pyramid and a bunch of macro beers and swill breweries (Genessee and Dundee I think). We will see if this impacts the quality of their beer. Hopefully not. But I don’t think you can make a rule about craft beer because a few get bought by profit driven corporations. Theres still way too much good stuff out there than we can possibly hope to all try. You may see Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams commercials out there but they are running those in the hopes of increasing their penetration in the macro drinking crowd. Not to win over a little more of the 6% of the beer drinking public that considers themselves “craft beer” drinkers. The market is still too small to put real marketing money into otherwise.

            I guess Im just dubious when someone says theres “lots” of “really bad” beers in the craft beer niche. Im curious to know which ones they mean. Because when Ive heard that before it usually boils down to I don’t like anything unless its really hoppy. Or I don’t like anything too hoppy. Or something specifically related to taste rather then quality. These days I rarely try a "new" craft beer and find it badly made. Some are slightly out of balance, some don't meet my flavor and style preferences, but rarely are they badly made.

            1. re: Insidious Rex

              I can't speak for the other posters, but I'll put it this way. There are all sorts of craft beers out on the market which find themselves in a price/performance category such that I'm unwilling to partake. By that I mean for the relative improvement over the cheaper beers, I'm unwilling to spend the price difference. I say this as someone who just spent $40 on a bottle, so it isn't as if I'm one of those people who are always whining about the cost of craft beer - most of the stuff I'm talking about are on the lower price end of craft anyways.

              1. re: Insidious Rex

                An excellent post by Insidious Rex.

                I would add that in North Carolina, where I live, there are now about 50 craft breweries/brewpubs. Several of them have achieved national recognition in the beer community (Foothills, Duck Rabbit and Olde Hickory, to name a few), several of them are not very good, but most of them serve decent beer to a regional market. Many of them are becoming increasingly innovative (Mother Earth) and some are doing some very interesting things with regionally focused ingredients (Fullsteam).

                I could make similar arguments for just about every state in the country. It is a fabulous time to have an interest in craft beer,.

                1. re: Insidious Rex

                  "You may be seeing more marketing from them because they were recently purchased by North American Breweries who also owns Pyramid and a bunch of macro beers and swill breweries (Genessee and Dundee I think)."

                  A bit distorted take on recent brewery history.

                  North American Breweries is a relatively new company, which bought 1 brewery - Genesee [which went by the High Falls name for awhile]. One of Genesee's brands is Dundee. NAB also bought the rights to import Labatt. Genesee does a lot of contract brewing (supermarket brands, private labels and, previously, for Boston Beer Co. for many years) but they don't own the labels.

                  Magic Hat bought Pyramid and formed a company called Independent Breweries United [IBU] and apparently ran into financial difficulties soon after.

                  NAB bought IBU.

                  If anything, Magic Hat/IBU has been a lot more aggressive a marketer than NAB has proven to be so far during it's relatively short existence. In my area, where Genesee was once a big seller, their brands are all but nonexistant- in either on- or off-premise locations. Magic Hat's #9, OTOH, is probably the most commonly found "craft" beer on tap after the various Samuel Adams' brands.

                  1. re: JessKidden

                    IIRC the problem with IBU had to do with the financial health of the fund that had a big piece of it.

                    From what I've seen, NAB intends to let Magic Hat be Magic Hat, and doesn't intend to mess with stuff that ain't broke. Looks to me like Pyramid is the one that needs some attention.

                    NAB seems to be focusing on building a nice portfolio of beer properties in various segments, and doesn't seem to be in this just for the bucks.

                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                      Yeah, the entry of NAB into the business (after 30-40 years of watching companies exit the industry) was an interesting recent twist in an era of a lot of rapid changes in the US (Molson/Coors, SAB/Miller, A-B/InBev, and finally Miller/Coors in the US). Their picking up Labatt for the US market at the same time as the Genesee purchase and then, later, going with Molson to brew it only added to the "strange bedfellows" of it all.

                      The very fact that KPS named the company "North American Breweries" sure suggested that they had big plans. Jim Koch for one didn't think Genesee/High Falls was only a "swill" brewery, since he made Samuel Adams Boston Lager under contract there for many years, up until recently when he got the eastern PA BBC brewery up and running. ( I think there's some legal action between the two companies over the contract- mentioned in the BBC Annual Report- perhaps KPS-NAB wasn't happy with the deal.)

                      IBU's lack of funds may be why they didn't expand the distribution of their two main brands to the opposite coasts- I thought we'd be seeing Pyramid in the East but when I asked a Magic Hat rep about it, he acted like I knew some big secret.

                      1. re: JessKidden

                        re: Sam Adams being brewed at Genny - in college we used to joke that Genny was whatever they mopped up off the floor after brewing the sam :)

                        1. re: JessKidden

                          Clearly, any large "swill" (a term I've never liked) brewery is capable of brewing technically sound beer, and furthermore, BBCo personnel are quite involved in the brewing of their beers, wherever that may be.

                          We've had Pyramid in NoVA for many years, but it was never supported by sales people, just shipped out here and left for the wholesaler to sell.

                          My take on the title of this thread: There are many new breweries open or in planning, and they seem to be run by people who understand the game, unlike the fast-buck types in the '90s. Quality is quite good for the most part, and curiously, much of the fastest growth in craft beer is in high-priced specialty releases.

                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                              I still miss Pyramid Pale. When served fresh and at the right temp, it was one of the best pale ale on the market. Too bad Pyramid lost their way....

                      2. re: Insidious Rex

                        I can assure you that I don't say there's lots of bad beer out there because I only like hoppy beers - I love all beer, and I drink a lot of it. And I certainly didn't mean to imply the craft scene is at all bad, much to the contrary. And again, I agree there is more out there to try than I can ever hope to.

                        However, I think jgg13 put it well above: just because it's craft doesn't mean its good. There is a lot of craft brewing out there, and a lot of it is coming from new establishments. Just as an example, take the two major beer festivals I attended last year: the Oregon Brewer's Festival and the NA Organic Brewer's Festival. Both festivals represented a large number of breweries of various sizes. Looking back at my notes from the two festivals,

                        OBF:
                        Boulder Beer Kinda Blue (blueberry beer)
                        Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA
                        Eel River Acai Wheat
                        Natian Destination (honey)
                        Ninkasi Maiden the Shade IPA

                        NAOBF:
                        Captured by Porches Invasive Species IPA
                        Fort George Quick Wit
                        Laht Neppur Strawberry Cream Ale
                        Uncommon Brewers Bacon Brown and Siamese Twin dubbel

                        All beers I was displeased with over the course of the two days of tasting - many from quite good breweries, a few from breweries I've never had good luck with. Of course, I drank lots of solid beer and a couple of amazing beers over the course of two festivals. But there are a lot of beers out there that are definitely not worth buying, and there are plenty of breweries (usually more local ones) that aren't worth buying.

                        1. re: kedbro

                          kedbro I agree with you. I've noticed recently that a few retailers where I live have started to carry a number of craft beers which previously haven't been available in this area. Some are from newer breweries, some are from established breweries which up to this point just didn't ship here. Now, I'm all for having choices. That's what life is all about but...

                          What I've been finding out is that very few of these beers lately have turned out to be ones I'd ever consider purchasing again. Most have been truly disappointing. Some have been just awful to the point where I couldn't imagine how anyone would consider them to be good enough to actually bottle and expect people to pay for them. Even to the point where I honestly believe that someone with zero prior experience could go buy a cheap home brew kit and on their first try concoct better beers than these.

                          Certainly their have been some beers which I'd consider purchasing again, but these have been few and far between. There are a good number of excellent beers available, but it seems like lately the market has been flooded with a lot of mediocre to poor beers from upstart breweries. It makes me wonder if a lot of beer buyers might decide to try a "craft" beer for the first time and, without knowing any better, stumble upon some of these lousy beers and get turned off to the whole world of craft beers altogether. Certainly every brewer isn't going to be a Russian River or a Närke, but still I've always been more of a quality over quantity sort of guy and lately (at least in my experiences) the poorer beers have been outnumbering the better ones by a wide margin.

                          By the way, I do indeed try as many new beers (of all styles) as possible, both here in the US and abroad. Got back from Germany and Belgium a few months ago and one of my stops was the fantastic Borefts beer festival in Bodegraven, Netherlands. So many stunning quality beers available and not really a clunker in the bunch.

                          1. re: Whisper

                            I think we're seeing a return of the '90s, where a lot of hobbyists with friends who don't know good beer are taking a risk at opening small brewing operations. I recently visited one in So Cal that had truly horrible beer, across the board - and they had customers coming in for growler fills!

                            1. re: Josh

                              That could very well be a reason for the number of subpar beers out there. Certainly it's nice to see people try their hand at brewing, and as most of us know it's not an easy thing to do to come up with a consistent (and consistently good) line of beers.

                              I've always tried to support the smaller brewers, that's one of the reasons I try as many new brews as possible. Unfortunately something however they miss the mark. There's a local brewer who opened up about a year and a half or so ago here in Vegas, and I've tried about a half dozen different beers of theirs since then, both in bottle and on tap. The beers have been uniformly bad. A friend of mine used to run the beer department at one of the local Whole Foods here and said he actually felt guilty about carrying these beers.

                              In the past year I've tried at least 100 beers (and that's a very conservative estimate) which were new to me, or new altogether. About half of these were at beer festivals and the others purchased at stores or on tap at bars. Nearly all of these were from smaller breweries. I beer shop about once a week on average, and usually pick up an old favorite along with something new to try. Every so often I get lucky and find a winner, something that makes me want to go back at some point and purchase it again. The majority of times though, that's not the case. Hopefully more and more people will keep trying their hand at brewing, and get better and better at it. Regardless of the final outcome, I applaud everyone's efforts at sharing the fruits of their labor with us.

                              1. re: Whisper

                                I view beer two ways: as something to drink by itself and appreciate for the flavors in the beer, and something to have in the house to drink with food. To me, these are vastly different uses that demand different beers.

                                When I go out, I'm more inclined to have IPA, Pale Ales, belgian ales, etc. The beer I keep at home for having w/ everyday meals are typically lagers (pils, schwarzbier) or simple brown ales. But when I'm going out to the pub to drink beer, lagers and brown ales aren't usually what I'll order.

              2. Like some of the other commenters, I'd love to know how you've decided that "a lot" of craft beer is questionable. I also find it hard to believe that the audience that's been nurtured to seek out locally-produced food and drink is going to somehow contract collective amnesia and switch from flavorful beers to industrial light lager.

                I drink *a lot* of craft beer, and I'd guesstimate that maybe 5-10% of it has been sub-par. Of that, it's hard to determine if it's the beer or unclean draft lines.

                I will say that I avoid certain styles almost religiously (specifically anything billed as "extreme", beers more than 10% ABV, punishing IBU levels), so maybe that's given me a somewhat skewed perception, as I'd reverse my percentage and say that probably 80% of extreme beers I've had have been nearly undrinkable.

                Also, I very recently had PBR in a blind taste testing of light lagers and I thought it was very bad indeed. One of the worst in the lineup we sampled, only bested (worsted?) by Keystone Light.

                1. How about a lot of food products are questionable? There are more great beers available in the USA than ever before. As usual in a "glamour" field, there are lot of products that are good only for their labels/graphic art. That's life. If you love beer you can be very happy these days. But..even some good-great breweries put out a stinker or two. Remember even Ted Williams never batted .500. My only issue these days w/the micro scene is that too many brews are now all about the Imperial/mega this or that, and high alcohol. I'd like to see some real flavorful session type beers and the return of 1-2 missing great brews, Pyramid Pale, Sierra Pale Bock.....
                  PS, There are alot of Micro distillers who should wait to put out product. I think many more folks could agree with that....

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: MOREKASHA

                    I think there are very few folks here arguing that these aren't heady times to be a beer lover, rather just because something is "craft" doesn't mean it's good.

                    I think we're starting to see the start of the session beer trend. Here's hopin'

                    1. re: jgg13

                      That's pretty much what I've been saying...just because a beer is made by a small so called "craft brewer" , that _far_ from a guarantee that the product is going to be good...and there's plenty of proof of that out there. Many are quite good. But buying "craft" has very definitely become a crapshoot in the last few years.

                      I really feel bad for some of the brewers that pioneered the small brewery movement back in the late 70's early 80's that didn't make it in the marketplace...they were making great beers but were, I guess, a little ahead of their time.

                      Anyway, with all the product being churned out these days, there's certainly something out there for every taste. I guess that finding the really good ones is part of the fun.

                      1. re: The Professor

                        I disagree. Its not a "crapshoot" at all. Its a lot like wine. Theres a lot of crap out there, but if you have a discriminating palate and do a little homework, you can pretty quickly separate the good from the bad. Patronize quality establishments that serve quality products and you can generally enjoy some mighty fine beers. Also, pay attention to the producers. Good brewers make good beer. Certainly there are some misses along with the hits, but if you drink intelligently, the latter will outnumber the former. we live in exciting beer times and american brewers are revolutionizing and redefining perhaps the oldest beverage in history. Experimentation can sometimes result in failure, but it just as easily can result in a Pliny the Elder.

                  2. I say, the more the merrier!

                    1. " . . . a lot of what's coming out of the so called "craft" scene these days is pretty questionable."

                      I won't say "a lot" but I will agree that some craft beer isn't great. But is that unreasonable? Is it your expectation that virtually all beer labeled "craft" will be agreeable to you or to some personal standard that you have?

                      1. Maybe I'm missing it in this getting-longer-everyday thread. And I've searched for but can find no craft breweries by the name "Alotta Brewing Co." or even the "So-called Craft Brewing Co."

                        No one wants to "name names"? Exactly what breweries/beers are we talking (or not talking) about? I mean, besides, of course, the "swill" breweries. Only "kedbro" mentioned specific beers, most of which in his case were very local WA state brands.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: JessKidden

                          That has been my problem with this thread as well, JessKidden. I cannot figure out, for example, whether people are complaining about what I consider a mediocre IPA (let me toss out one name - Mendocino White Hawk IPA) or what I consider a great, though very bitter, IPA (such as Ballast Point's Sculpin).

                          Are people complaining because they don't like bold flavors, experimental brews, high gravity beers or flavorful session beers (in which case I would disagree) or because there a number of craft breweries that are brewing a "me too" product that is not very distinguished (in which case I would agree).

                          1. re: brentk

                            The way I read the OP it just seems like he/she has some issue with the whole phenomenon of craft beer and harkens back to another time before it. And it's almost like he/she needs to discredit craft beer whether it's warranted or not.

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              I'm not out to discredit craft beer. Not by a longshot.
                              I've been a supporter of the whole so called "craft" beer movement since it began, and remain so. I just prefer to categorize beer as 'good' or 'bad', rather than craft or mega. As someone else so accurately (and more eloquently than I) pointed out, 'craft' more applies to the skill involved in creating the product.

                              I have said all along that there are both good beers and bad beers coming out of both small and large breweries.

                              "Craft" beer is, thankfully, slowly inching toward becoming more mainstream and there will be new generations of beer drinkers for whom the massive choice will be the norm...and the term "craft" will once again refer to skill rather than the marketing term it presently is. The best of the small brewers will grow into large brewers and while the distinction between large and small may never really go away, it will mean a bit less.

                              So I have no ax to grind against the small brewer industry at all. Hell...I have always been a huge supporter. But "small" just isn't always a guarantee of "better"...so, no one gets a free pass.

                              I certainly didn't mean to ruffle so many feathers.
                              After all, it's only beer... :-)

                              1. re: The Professor

                                Ok so it appears to me that you see the term "craft" as honorific. I don't see it that way at all. To me it roughly means beer that is a departure from American Adjunct Light Lager. My expectation is only that and if I enjoy it great.

                                1. re: Chinon00

                                  "My expectation is only that and if I enjoy it great."
                                  ------
                                  Couldn't have said it better!
                                  That said, I do still think that term "craft" is misapplied, but only as a result of industry hype, especially since
                                  1) there is more and more big brewery beer coming out worthy of the "craft" monicker (which I welcome as much as a small brewery making great beer) and
                                  2) the better small breweries are already starting to become large breweries... and more will surely follow. They may lose some snob appeal, but will be no less "craft".
                                  Boston Brewing is as much a "craft" brewery as any.

                          2. re: JessKidden

                            Yep, I was thinking the same thing. I think I completely disagree with the OP, but I'm not exactly sure what to write to defend craft beer because I'm not sure which segment of the craft market is "questionable". I have had well over 1000 different beers, most of it would be called "craft beer". Vast majority of it has been good, much better than PBR in my opinion.

                            1. re: JessKidden

                              The Lansdowne cider from Crispin, recently written up on Chow, was so gross I poured out half the bottle. I would actually go so far as to say that Crispin's existence is detrimental to the cider industry as a whole given their combination of lousy cider and a "you are stupid, let us show you the way" marketing style. Does that count?

                              1. re: lavaca

                                I'm not sure what "counts" means. If you're trying to say that a producer can overhype a bad product, there's nothing much new about that. How about the millions that foreign owned "American" beer companies spend on ads that demean anyone who doesn't man up to their product as inferior? I would submit that they are detrimental to the beer industry because they misrepresent what beer is. They tout taste qualities in their product that distinguish them from other similar beers when in fact the beers that comprise some 80 percent of the market are virtually indistinguishable from one another. Thats old fashioned snake oil salesmanship. I'd much rather support a brewer that will take chances than one that makes a product that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Take Dogfish Head as an example. They've come up with some brews that i personally would not drink. They also happen to make some of the best American ales in the country. I will gladly tolerate their noble failures in return for the pleasures of Palo Santo, Festina Peche, Dogfish Head 60 minute and 90 minute and Burton Baton. They can make a chicha beer if they want to play beer archeologist once in a while. I might not like it or drink much of it, but maybe they will find something in that experiment that will ultimately contribute to making a great beer. I'd much sooner support a brewer who's willing to experiment than one who makes a beer thats consistently bland and boring. If you like industrial qualty beers, you are in luck and in fact you are by far in the vast majority of beer drinkers. I don't think you're inferior because you drink Miller Lite. Lots of peope do, even people who drink craft beer. Lawnmower beers have their place just as exteme beers do. Different horses for different courses.
                                Prost!

                            2. I agree with the OP. "Craft" is a term made up by a trade association representing brewers. It is a marketing term (you can read about it here: http://bit.ly/cM1hbF). Among other things this trade association says in defining "craft brewer" is: "Craft Brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events."

                              Calling any small brewer a "craft" brewer is wrong. Craft is a question of skill and ability. Size is a separate issue. That is why the correct name is small (or mini or micro, etc.) brewery. Independent brewery would also work. That is why I believe craft was specifically chosen because it automatically attaches something to a brewery that a brewery needs to earn by producing good products consistently.

                              Experimentation is not a substitute for quality or craft. Each of us probably has a type of food or snack that we really like. We probably like it because of the taste. If it came in different flavours would that make it better? Probably not.

                              I like beers that are well-balanced and, hopefully, have some complexity. Pliny the Elder meets neither of those requirements. Most "extreme beers" do not meet those requirements.

                              One final word on the trade association: a key requirement of their definition of a craft brewer is: "Annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels." In 2009, Boston Beer surpassed 2 million barrels. Yet the trade association continues to count Boston in its "craft beer" totals.

                              There are certainly plenty of brewers making good, tasty beer today, but not all of them do.

                              146 Replies
                              1. re: ThomasvD

                                If you think Pliny the Elder isn't well-balanced with complexity, then we just disagree. This beer is the most enjoyable beverage I've ever consumed. I wish I had regular access to it. It's fine to have different opinions on flavour, but if something like PTE fits into the OP's "questionable" category, then I don't know how to respond really.

                                To me, using the word "questionable" seems to be imply that the beer has infections or some type of issue, not that they taste pretty much exactly how the brewmaster intends them to, but that you have a different preference. I'm from Toronto and there certainly is one local "craft brewery" or "microbrewery" that is questionable. This is nowhere near the norm though.

                                1. re: kwjd

                                  When I was a youth, my father was fond of telling me "De gustibus non est disputandum." (No, my father was not Italian.) Although not an actual translation, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" might be a good English equivalent (although the original Latin refers specifically to taste).

                                  IAC, I read the OP as saying that not all "craft beer" actually is. As I already wrote, a well-made beer should be well-balanced at minimum. Complexity is definitely a plus, though few beers actually achieve that.

                                  There is a reason that "craft beer" can only reach 3 percent of the market (that is if the trade association did not include Boston Beer, as they shouldn't according to their own rules). Obviously, the vast majority of people (ie, 97 percent) don't care for it. Well, we can disagree about Pliny or craft or whatever you like, but that 97 percent of the population doesn't drink it must have a more profound reason.

                                  1. re: ThomasvD

                                    It's interesting to see that your only posts on here are in this thread. It leads me to suspect you're someone who works in the macro-swill industry, since your comments read something like science fiction.

                                    Craft brewing is the fastest-growing segment of the beer market, while the rest of the beer market has basically flatlined in terms of growth. If, as you claim, people aren't drinking it, then why are the macro-swill producers coming up with bogus products to foist on the unsuspecting consumer? I've seen more than a few beers with vaguely craft-sounding names that are owned by the large international conglomerates.

                                    I've seen an explosion of interest in craft beer where I live in the past three years. It used to be there were one or two spots you could reliably find it - now there are numerous options.

                                    The thing that the macro-swill producers forget, and I'd lump industrial food producers in with this group, is that people actually do like things that taste good, and they can discern the difference between something interesting and well-made vs. something bland and generic.

                                    Slick ad campaigns touting cold as a flavor (lol) will only go so far.

                                    1. re: ThomasvD

                                      "Complexity is definitely a plus, though few beers actually achieve that."

                                      Huh?

                                  2. re: ThomasvD

                                    " 'Annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels.' In 2009, Boston Beer surpassed 2 million barrels. Yet the trade association continues to count Boston in its "craft beer" totals."

                                    The Brewers Association's definition you linked to also contains this fine print:
                                    "Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition."

                                    Which pretty much was specifically designed to subtract BBC's Twisted Tea and HardCore Cider production from their total barrelage -at least it worked for 2009- most assume they'll pass the 2m bbl. limit for 2010. Note that the B.A.-backed Federal Excise Tax reduction contains a provision to also redefine "small" brewery as under 6 million barrels. http://www.brewersassociation.org/att...

                                    If they drop BBC from their "craft beer" totals, their percentage of the market (now at 4.3% by volume) will go down, since Samuel Adam's sales amount to close to 20% of ALL craft beer sales.

                                    Also note, Jim Koch's on their Board, at least for another month or so. http://www.brewersassociation.org/pag...

                                    1. re: JessKidden

                                      The Brewers Association today announced they've revised their definition of "small", and thus Boston Beer Co. will stay "craft".

                                      As expected:

                                      "In the BA's craft brewer definition, the term "small" now refers to any independent brewery that produces up to 6 million barrels of traditional beer....The industry's largest craft brewer, The Boston Beer Company, is poised to become the first craft brewer to surpass 2 million barrels of traditional beer within the next few years. Loss of The Boston Beer Company's production in craft brewing industry statistics would inaccurately reflect on the craft brewing industry's market share."

                                      Full press release at http://www.brewersassociation.org/pag...

                                      1. re: JessKidden

                                        While it is interesting that a trade association can come up with their own definition of a standard word, it shows how corrupt it is by re-defining the word in order to accommodate the changed circumstances of one of its members.

                                        1. re: ThomasvD

                                          How do you know that's the reason, and how do you justify calling the BA, whose members include many (probably most) of the country's most upstanding brewers, corrupt?

                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                            Do you know what the word "craft" means? Has the association not redefined it to promote their membership? And, now that they have lost the single largest contributor to their own version of the word, have they not moved the goal posts to be able to include that member again?

                                            Certainly a trade group can promote its membership in a more honest and honorable way than this group has.

                                            1. re: ThomasvD

                                              "Craft" isn't the word they're defining. They're defining the term "craft brewer", which is a term someone invented, and not a word in the dictionary.

                                              Circumstances change, people reconsider. I see no problem in extending the definition to include brewers who have outgrown the old definition by their size, but are still exemplary craft brewers.

                                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                Oh, sorry. I thought when you wrote "honest person" the word honest had the same meaning as when it stood alone. Or when someone writes "industrial brewery" the word industrial had the same meaning as when it stood alone.

                                                Changing definitions to suit circumstances? You mean something like the emperor and his new clothes?

                                                1. re: ThomasvD

                                                  I was initially hostile to your position on this, but you're making a persuasive case. I suppose for me, as a consumer, the usefulness of the term "craft beer" is simply to indicate that I'm not interested in drinking American industrial lager. I'm perfectly happy to enjoy a well cared-for Heineken (e.g. not lightstruck, not oxidized), which wouldn't meet the definition of craft beer, but which certainly offers more flavor than industrial light lager.

                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                    Exactly. It's not the concept I have a problem with, it's the word they chose. Just as there are bad beers made by small breweries, there are some good beers made by large ones. There is also nothing in the definition of "craft" that has anything to do with size.

                                                    Personally, I don't find a lot of use for labels, especially in matters of personal taste. They are too confining.

                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                      I broadly categorize beers for myself as craft, mainstream import, US light lager and interesting (to me) imports, such as from B United or Shelton Bros. I have no idea how the broader beer-drinking public categorizes beer, and whether they lump Blue Moon, Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada in the same category, which I suspect many do.

                                                      Marketers tend to include stuff like Blue Moon and Leinie's in craft numbers, and of course, the BA is interested in distinguishing its members' products from those brands.

                                                      The BA cites craft growth as the growth of beers according to its definition, which means growth can decrease when a member grows out of the category. By expanding the definition of a craft brewer to include those making up to 6m bbls/yr, the BA can continue to show positive growth. Of course, this is a problem of their own making.

                                            2. re: ThomasvD

                                              Im not sure how this shows corruption at all. Isnt that the trade associations job? To fight for its members? I mean they call themselves "A passionate voice for CRAFT Brewers" after all... Are you saying they should be impartial across the board to the expense of their members? Most associations see their job as being relentless advocates and cheerleaders for the industry they represent. Not judge and jury. And for better or worse the dominant industry figures get to have a significant say in how their association operates.

                                              I do agree that the term "craft beer" is ultimately flawed (if thats what you are saying). And to me its a fairly silly endeavor to try to define the term "craft beer" (and pointless frankly). Its more a you know it when you see it kind of thing for me. And Sam Adams certainly falls into that category for me and I would assume for most unless they suddenly start changing their business practices dramatically. Ultimately its self defeating to define a term by a production amount because sooner or later someone very much a poster child of that category will surpass that amount (whether its 2 million or 6 million or 100 million or a billion) and then what do you do? You cant keep tweaking the by-laws forever to fit them in. It also begs the question can you reach macro brewery production numbers (as far as volume) and still create a regular product that would satisfy most craft beer enthusiasts as being a decent beer? Or does something invariably happen when you reach a certain threshold that causes the beer to suffer somehow and become a light tasteless lager? Is it an unavoidable natural law? That the bigger a brewery gets the less likely it is to create a decent product? Or are we just in virgin territory in this industry and not sure how to define things because the playing field is so new? Personally, my money is on Sam Adams keeping the faith on making decent brew whether you want to call them craft or not.

                                              1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                Large production doesn't necessarily impact quality, IMO. Sierra Nevada is a good example.

                                                1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                  It seems to me you've partially answered the question (corruption) yourself. As I wrote above, there are plenty of trade associations (one or two I am familiar with) that are able to promote and advocate for their industry with honesty and integrity. This association does not.

                                                  1. re: ThomasvD

                                                    But its like saying Sam Adams is corrupt because they promote themselves. Associations are just tools for their members and especially the most successful and powerful ones. They arent some independent board looking to impose limitations on the industry. They are PART OF the industry. And of course the Brewers Association is going to work hard to keep the Boston Beer Company within the definition of Craft Breweries. Because they ARE a very successful craft brewer. This is a no brainer to me. You can fault the Brewers Association for some things (like saying Goose Island ISNT a craft brewery which is simply laughable) but its hard to argue that Sam Adams should be excluded from that group because they are so successful at brewing craft beer. Frankly its the petty exclusions I have a problem with. Not the inclusions. Like I said before, you know it when you see it and Sam is definitely a craft beer (as is Goose Island and Pyramid and Mendocino, etc.)

                                                    1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                      Sam Adams is a tough one for me, really. Their lager is pretty good, but I find almost anything else from them to be pretty terrible.

                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                        Do you find the beers technically bad, or do you just not care for them? Or objectionable for some other reason?

                                                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                          Interesting question. I can't say I've detected off flavors, so I suppose one could argue that they are made correctly. Any of their fruit beers to me taste like they are artificially flavored: Blackberry Wit, Summer Ale (lemon pledge, ugh), Cherry Wheat.

                                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                            And what difference does that make? The bottom line is, he (or I, for that matter) won't be buying them.

                                                            Jim, as you have very sharply demonstrated here, different people have different tastes. I think some of the beers you like are vile swill. You may feel the same way about some of the beers I like.

                                                            The more important point is that at least two people with a discriminating palate (Josh and me) don't find their beers very good. Does that still make them a "craft" brewery?

                                                          2. re: Josh

                                                            I am not a huge fan of Sam Adams' beers, but I respect what they have accomplished to pave the way for the craft beer scene. One beer of theirs that I do seek out whenever it is available is their spring seasonal, Noble Pils. Although I also generally don't drink a lot if pilsners, I love the hop profile and the crisp carbonation of that brew.

                                                            Even though winter has just gotten underway, I understand that this year's version has just been released.

                                                            1. re: Josh

                                                              I don't see how any of this affects the beer drinking public for the most part. I pretty much classify"craft" beers according to three categories.

                                                              1. Better Than Bud: this applies if I'm in a bar or restaurant and they don't have anything that I'm going to love, but I'm still in the mood for a beer. Sam Adams Lager is a good example of this category (although I agree with Josh about most of the others that I've tried from them).

                                                              2. Good But Not Exciting: Beers that I actually like quite a bit but I don't get really worked up over. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the best example of this category. I like the fact that it's widely available in bars and restaurants now -- it's a lot easier to get a good workhorse of a beer than it used to be.

                                                              3. Oh Hell Yeah: Beers that I'm just really happy to find when dining or drinking out. Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, Brewer's Art Resurrection, Sierra Nevada Torpedo or Bell's Two Fisted all fall into this category.

                                                              I really only have two questions. Is it good? Can i find it?

                                                              1. re: JonParker

                                                                I like your rankings. They reminded me of this past Holiday season:

                                                                Being a guest confronted with Category 1, I'd respond "Any scotch?"

                                                                Category 2 - "Sure, a Sierra would be quite nice."

                                                                Category 3 - "Merry Christmas. Thannnks!" As I hand my wife the keys.

                                                            2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                              Scene: a conference table at the Brewers Assoc.
                                                              Person A: Well, it looks like we'll have to remove Sam Adams from our stats because our definition of "craft" doesn't fit them any more.
                                                              Person B: If we do that, our reputation will fall through the floor. SA contributes more to the "craft" beer stats than any other brewer. Our members' share will fall from 4.5 percent to just about 3. How will that make us look?
                                                              Person A: Well, shit, we can't let that happen. What are we going to do?
                                                              Person C: Hey, I've got an idea! Let's just revise the definition so they fit in again!
                                                              Person A: Not a bad idea. But what are we going to say if someone asks why we did this now?
                                                              Person C: Just say that we've been planning this for a while and it just shows what a great job we're doing because brewers are selling more beer now than anyone expected.
                                                              Person A: And you think anyone will believe that?
                                                              Person C: Hey, they bought our definition of "craft" - they'll buy anything!

                                                              Clear now?

                                                              1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                As I stated earlier you and others think that the word craft should be like a seal of approval or as some type of honorific term. Speaking for myself my understanding of craft beer is that it's a reaction to American Adjunct Light Lager (AALL). That's it. So whether you or I like Sam Adams or DFH or any other "craft" brewer it doesn't matter as long as they brew in reaction to AALL. We do agree that our tastes may be different and that not all craft is great but there is no denying that the goal of all craft brewers is to not brew AALL. I'm satisfied with that expectation.

                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                  As I've said before, I understand the concept and have no problem with that. The problem is with the name they chose. It's very much like calling the swill "ugly" and saying that everything that's not swill is "beautiful." Certainly there are other words or terms they could have used - independent or non-industrial come to mind.

                                                                  Personally, I like making my own decisions and calling things by their proper names. If you prefer that others do that for you, that's where we differ.

                                                                  1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                    "It's very much like calling the swill "ugly" and saying that everything that's not swill is "beautiful.""

                                                                    So is the term "poor craftsmanship" an oxymoron?

                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                      Calling an unpleasant beer "craft beer" is neither helping the brewery nor helping the industry.

                                                                    2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                      While I agree with your main point, going with "independent" has its own issues. Look at the term "indie rock" - WTF does that mean anymore. You have "indie" bands on major labels. My younger friends look at me like I have two heads when I make fun of this, insisting that "indie" is a proper genre now, and shouldn't have anything to do with a bands, you know, independent status. Something similar could happen here. If Boston Brewing is bought by InBev, are they still "independent beer"?

                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                        As I've said before, I am not a big fan of labels. They work sometimes and sometimes not. I don't even see the need for the BA to come up with a label for it's members beers. But, having said that, I'm sure there are plenty of other words or terms that would make a distinction from industrial swill without inaccurately describing many of its members products, as they do now.

                                                                        1. re: jgg13

                                                                          "If Boston Brewing is bought by InBev, are they still "independent beer"?"

                                                                          Not according to the definition of the Brewers Association, since they DO define what they consider "Independent" - "Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer."

                                                                          This clause is the one that keeps the Craft Brewers Alliance brands (Redhook, Widmer, Kona and Goose Island [the latter of which is owned 40% by the CBA]) and Mendocino/Saratoga off their "craft" listing. A-B-InBev owns about a third of CBA, and the owner on the India-based beverage company, UB, owns Mendocino. Since NAB bought the IBU breweries (Magic Hat & Pyramid), one expects that those breweries will also drop off the list for 2010. This will have the effect of every brewery below the top 10 or so to move 2 or 3 places up, since Kona, Magic Hat and Pyramid were all among the top US craft breweries in '09.

                                                                          I don't know, arguing for this long the definition that the private trade organization the Brewers Association uses to promote it's members seems eventually kinda pointless. It's akin to complaining that Budweiser isn't really "The King of Beers", that Miller High Life isn't "the Champagne of Bottled Beers" and while it might be case of some six packs of Coors Light (depending on refrigeration and/or the ambient temperature of some parts of Colorado) might be as "Cold as the Rockies", they all aren't.

                                                                      2. re: Chinon00

                                                                        That's why I think the best move would be to eliminate the volume of output as part of the designation. Will DFH all of a sudden no longer be craft if they exceed 6 mil?

                                                                        1. re: Josh

                                                                          That's a good idea, and is essentially what seems to be happening incrementally.

                                                                          1. re: Josh

                                                                            DFH is around 100,000 barrels these days, so it might take a while to break 6m bbl. (and a lot of chewing and spitting) but I think, at this point, they should just define "craft beer" and define breweries by size, broken down into more logical groups.

                                                                            Now, "microbreweries" are under 15,000 bbl., which seems fine and pretty much what it has always been.

                                                                            But the next group is called "regional"- and includes breweries from 15,001 to (now) 6 million barrels. So, some outfit using a wooden canoe paddle and carrying bags of malt up a rickety aluminum ladder in some industrial park is the "same" as BBC, with it's two large "macro" era breweries . The Schaefer-built plant in PA was one of the largest non-BMC US breweries ever built with a capacity of and had the fastest canning line [so far, either scraped or inoperative] in the world in the 1970's. It had a capacity by the late 1970's of 5m bbl., larger than many of the breweries run by the large national Top 10 chains at the time like A-B, Schlitz, Pabst, Heileman, Falstaff, Carling-National, etc.

                                                                            Plus "regional'? 30 years ago, breweries with yearly production of 50-100k bbl were truly "regional" (sometimes only part of it's home state- like Straub which seldom got to Eastern PA) or "local" but now tiny brewers send their beer all over the country. Beers from NM, Utah, MO are on the shelf in NJ and it's not uncommon to walk into a "good beer bar", glance at the selection and see only, say, California craft beers on tap.

                                                                            In the 1980's, industry publications were breaking the industry down into numbered "Tiers"- basically above 1m bbl, 550k-100k, under 100k, under 10k (for micro'). Today, it'd probably look more like:

                                                                            First (macro) - Over 10m bbl.
                                                                            Second (large/national) - 10m-1m (BBC, Pabst, Yuengling, soon NB, S-N)
                                                                            Third - 1m -100k
                                                                            Fourth (small) - Under 100k
                                                                            Fifth - ( "micro") - under 15k (within that "nano")

                                                                            A "craft brewery" is simply one that is not wholly-owned by an international brewing conglomerate (elimaniting BMC and it's subsidiaries) and the majority of their production is "craft beer".

                                                                            The sticky part then becomes defining "Craft beer". I don't know, how are "beers" like the near "malternatives" full of pumpkin puree, spices, chocolate, coffee and unfermented sugars considered "traditional" but adjunct style lagers (a style that took off in the late 1800's in the US) from 19th century breweries like Schell or even Yuengling aren't? I say drop the prejudice against one type of adjunct (corn and rice) but allows others adjuncts and flavoring ingredients. Then what would "craft beer's" definition be? Geez, good question...

                                                                            1. re: JessKidden

                                                                              There is simply no way to truly define "craft beer." One could argue that much industrial swill is made with skill (one definition of craft). This is essentially why I have such problems with the BA choice. The distinction between the mega and mini breweries is one more of taste or flavour. If you can taste something in the beer, the chances are it was not made by an industrial brewery.

                                                                              Of course, the main problem with all this is that what is gold to one person is silver foil to someone else. This is why I don't think labels belong in areas that are subject to individual tastes.

                                                                              1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                I started off in this thread disagreeing with you, but you make an extremely persuasive argument. The more I reflected on what you were saying, the more I can find no fault with it at all.

                                                                                It may be that the label is more useful in the US, since our market has been so dominated for so long by cheap, industrial swill. But as you say, that swill is manufactured very precisely to taste as it does. One cannot argue with a straight face that those beers aren't well-made.

                                                                                I think the parallel is Slow Food - which tries to draw a distinction based on local, seasonal, etc. but is still nebulous enough in definition that many people can lay claim to the title while not being substantially different from restaurants that don't use the title.

                                                                                1. re: Josh

                                                                                  It's good to see that logic can sometimes win over emotion. I would add one point to what you wrote: Slow Food is not, in any sense, the same as "Good Food." It is actually neutral on that point. "Craft beer" is analogous to "Good Food", not to Slow Food.

                                                                        2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                          Clear as mud.

                                                                          Its really quite hard to argue with what Nick Matt himself said about the change: “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.” But instead we should be rejecting breweries that show great success in the niche they helped create and the public is clamoring to? Makes no sense at all. Cutting your nose off despite your face based on an arbitrary technicality in a industry where the definitions are changing every day? Downright stupid.

                                                                          Josh, I agree they make a few clunkers (the Cherry Wheat is simply awful) but I think saying pretty much everything they make is "terrible" is a real stretch. Ill never knock anyone over to get most standard Sam Adams offers (Utopias aside). But their noble pilsner is very good. Their cream stout isnt bad (not sure if they make it anymore). They had a seasonal called Old Fezziwig which I really liked. I find their summer ale and winter lagers to be drinkable (I note you dont like the summer ale). And a lot of people liked their Oktoberfest this year although I thought it was average at best. And of course as you note their lager and (I think) their regular ale will always do in a pinch. And frankly their beer is better on average than a number of "craft breweries" I can think of as I bet you can as well. Havent really experimented with their "extreme" series theyve come out with in recent years though.

                                                                          1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                            Here is the composition of the BA board of directors:

                                                                            http://www.brewersassociation.org/pag...

                                                                            I know about half of them personally and have great respect for them. I believe in their integrity, and am sure they made what they thought was the best decision for the industry.

                                                                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                              I'm not saying everything they make - but I would say 90% of the beers from them I've tried I have found unpleasant. Their misses are far more numerous than their hits. Boston Lager is a really good beer that any brewery would be proud of - but anything else I would never buy without sampling first, having been burned one too many times. I'd also dispute that their beer is better on average than fill-in-the-blank craft brewery. Confronted with Blackberry Wit or a poorly made butter bomb, I'd probably just order water. :-)

                                                                              1. re: Josh

                                                                                I've always thought Boston Lager to be a really solid beer. I don't drink the others enough to have an opinion. I think BBco hurt itself in the eyes of enthusiasts in the early days with some of its activities, but that sort of thing seems to be long past now.

                                                                                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                  I keep meaning to put together a webpage, called something like "The truth about Boston Beer Co." because that part (the early GABF's, the lawsuits, the labeling and "contract brewing" controversies, etc) of it's history is often "forgotten" or has been glossed over or warped by Koch's aggressive self-promotion.

                                                                                  I mean, this "I started BBC in my kitchen" myth is a relatively recent one- in the mid-'80's Koch was distancing his company FROM "microbreweries" and, I don't know, does anyone really believe the ATF allowed him to brew commercial beer in his kitchen?

                                                                                  The first years' production of SABL came out of Pittsburgh Brewing Co., and his "great grandfather's recipe" was reworked by Joe Owades (of "Lite Beer" fame). I go nuts when he's called a "pioneer" when he came a decade after and was inspired by the true "pioneers" (Maytag, Grossman, McAuliffe, Newman, etc). But when I bring it up, I'm called a "Hater" in the modern parlance. Really? I don't know, "facts" to me are kinda neutral.

                                                                                  1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                    I would call Koch a pioneer, but not in the sense of the folks you mention. Today he has eclipsed that and is known as an innovator in various ways, including his current experiment in shipping to wholesalers based on depletions instead of projections, which is very interesting, and has the potential to wring a lot of savings out of the system.

                                                                                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                      That suggests to me the primary element of the proper definition. "Craft" should be defined by the product not the production or the profit.

                                                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                                                        That certainly makes sense from the consumer's standpoint. Of course, the BA represents a certain type of brewer, hence the convoluted, sometimes changing definition of a craft brewer. I suppose one major difference is that the BA is defining 'craft brewer' while you and I are interested in 'craft beer'.

                                                                                        1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                          I understand. Clearly, it's that focus distinction which makes the BA want to include Boston Beer in their definition and beer geeks want to exclude Sam Adams from their's.

                                                                                      2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                        He's basically the Bill Gates of craft beer. He didn't actually innovate anything in terms of the actual product, he innovated making that style of product popular.

                                                                                      3. re: JessKidden

                                                                                        Id also call him a pioneer independent of any early aggressive spin and misrepresentation. The bottom line is his brewery (and to a much lesser extent Grossman's brewery) has been the main engine pulling craft beer out of the deep underground it occupied in the 80's and into the light of mainstream beer culture where it enjoys a level of such prominence that we are now blessed with an abundance of riches. So much so that many of us can now say with a straight face that Sam Adams makes lousy beer not worthy of being called craft... Ironic I think but nevermind.

                                                                                        I like your updated tier definitions by the way. Although I still dont think this is how we should define "craft" beer.

                                                                                        1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                          I don't know, I agree Koch is important in the short history of "craft beer", I just don't think "pioneer" is the right term for him.

                                                                                          "Although I still dont think this is how we should define "craft" beer."

                                                                                          Neither do I, that's why I prefaced it with "at this point, they should just define "craft beer" and define breweries by size, broken down into more logical groups." Some breweries make craft beers exclusively, some both, some none.

                                                                                          For me, it's always been a situation in the US of BMC vs. EE (Everybody Else). Blue Moon, Budweiser American Ale and Leinenkugel Whatever are "craft beers" or, maybe just "craft-type beers" but I'm still not going to buy them. I don't regularly drink adjunct lagers, but if I did, it'd be Straub, Genesee, Utica Club, Lion products, or whatever was left in whatever markets, etc.

                                                                                          OTOH, I can understand why the Brewers Association choose to define (even if it's sort of a sliding scale) "craft beer" and "craft brewer", for the benefit and promotion of their members (or most of them, since A-B, M-C and a few other non-craft brewers do belong as well).

                                                                                          1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                            for me, the overwhelming difference is that I can drink SN, but not SA. I think most of SN's "extreme" beers, like Big Foot, Torpedo and Celebration, to name a few, have all been solid. They seem to rely on SNPA to fund the experimental brews. On the other hand, for the most part, I feel that SA has sunk to becoming almost an industrial brewery and their extreme beers aren't as strong. I thought Infinium was undrinkable.

                                                                                            1. re: chuckl

                                                                                              Funny. I generally find the Sam Adams beers to be somehow artificial and over-processed or, for lack of a better word, "phony." Whereas, the Infinuim struck me as authentic and earthy - yeasty and banana-scented with a sweet malty finish. It was the most "craft" beer I've tasted from them.

                                                                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                Is the banana-scent from Belgian sugar? I found it in a St. Bernardus Christmas Ale recently.

                                                                                                1. re: JAB

                                                                                                  I don't think so as I understood the expiriment was to make it under the Reinheitsgebot law which allowed only four ingredients -- malt, hops, yeast, and water. Others around here might be more knowledgable on the subject though.

                                                                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                    I think one would tend to get banana from both Weizen yeast and various Belgian yeasts. I don't know if they used such a yeast in Infinium.

                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                      Yeah - banana is definitely a yeast thing.

                                                                                                    2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                      I believe the original Reinheitsgebot only specified malt, hops and water since they didn't have a clear idea what yeast was and how it worked way back then.

                                                                                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                        Yeah, but since BBC and Weihenstephan brewed their beer in 2010, they were following today's version of the law. (For an English translation, page down about half way to "The Reinheitsgebot today" on beer historian Ron Pattinson's Reinheitsgebot page at http://www.xs4all.nl/~patto1ro/reinhe... ).

                                                                                                        Also, it's not an all BARLEY malt beer, it also contains wheat and oat malts, so that further confuses the issue of top/bottom fermentation and the Reinheitsegbot.

                                                                                                        I all the articles I've read on Infinium, I don't think I've seen Koch mention exactly which yeast he used for the beer. He did note in one article that the "methode champenoise" used also benefited the beer because "...yeast releases sulfurs and other off flavors, which is fine if you are making an imperial stout, but if you release those flavors into something lighter, they come across as bad flavors. You want that fermentation, but you don't want bad flavors, and that’s the magic of the champagne method."

                                                                                                2. re: chuckl

                                                                                                  So you are saying you think their (Sam Adams) beer has gotten worse over time? And that in combination with having no "extreme" beers to your liking makes them not worthy of being called craft? Whereas Sierra Nevada at least has their "extreme" beers?

                                                                                        2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                          You wrote: "Its really quite hard to argue with what Nick Matt himself said about the change: “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.”

                                                                                          I assume you know what spin is. Well, that quote is a great example of it. The "removing members" comes from the BA, which you call "downright stupid" - and with which I agree. And yet, you see nothing wrong with what they are doing?

                                                                                          Why does the BA include the word "small" in it's definition of "craft brewer"? I assume to distinguish them from the industrial brewers. So, how can "craft beer" sales increases, showing the success of the BA? Simple, just add more breweries!

                                                                                          Do you think six million barrels is a small brewery? Neither do I. I don't know exactly how many barrels of "sales" will be added to the craft category, but there is at least one brewery that used to be too big to be "craft" but now falls in the low end: Yuengling. Weren't "craft" before, but now they are. Same crappy beer, but now added to the total by the BA.

                                                                                          Let's just keep upping the limit, add more breweries and pretty soon, "craft" sales may hit six percent. Honesty? Integrity? Ha!

                                                                                          1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                            "...one brewery that used to be too big to be "craft" but now falls in the low end: Yuengling"

                                                                                            Yuengling only broke the Federal Excise Tax's 2 million barrel limit in 2009- the same year that Boston Beer Company did. But, they were not and now still are not considered "craft" by the Brewers Association, regardless of their yearly barrelage.

                                                                                            (See the 2009 press release of the B.A. here with a list of both the Top Craft and Top Breweries http://beernews.org/2010/04/brewers-a... for comparison, the 2008 lists, when Yuengling was still under 2m also did not include them as "craft" http://www.realbeer.com/discussions/a... ).

                                                                                            They don't meet another of the 3 aspects of the B.A.'s definition - "Traditional" (I'll leave it up to others to note the irony of that terminology, considering that they're "America's Oldest Brewery")- since they don't have "an all malt flagship ... or (have) at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor." (That's from the same B.A. page you linked to initially above). All of Yuengling's current products use corn as an adjunct.

                                                                                            Nor is Yuengling a member of the Brewers Association and, so, apparently has not gotten the sort of "craft exception" treatment that Gambrinus-owned Spoetzl did for their adjunct-brewed flagship Shiner Bock.

                                                                                            1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                              I see nothing wrong with including Sam Adams (BBC) as a craft brewery. I DO have a problem with them rejecting Goose Island as a craft brewery when it so clearly and obviously is. But they get penalized because Chicago is a tough place to distribute and they have to ride the back of an AB distributer by way of Widmer (if I have that convoluted situation correct)? Ridiculous. Its a distribution deal! The notion that Goose Island is somehow compromised because of that and that their beer is suddenly not craft quality because of that is absurd. But at the same time, the notion that THE most important brewery to craft beer's success in the past 20 years should NOT be considered a craft brewery because we now feel its beers dont measure up to the gourmet standards of so many current breweries thanks in large part TO said brewery's success makes even less sense to me.

                                                                                              So you see Im for inclusion not exclusion. It seems counterintuitive to exclude breweries simply because of success. In the case of Goose Island you have a brewery that found it needed to link arms with a macro distributer to meet demands BECAUSE THEIR BEER WAS SO GOOD. In the case of Sam Adams you have a brewery that powered THE Craft Beer revolution more so than anyone else and because of that... they arent a craft beer brewery... Neither makes a whiff of sense.

                                                                                              Now your agenda here may be to trash the Brewery Association for whatever reason. And thats fine if thats your axe to grind. But Im kinda talking about the larger picture here. To heck with politics, agendas and double speak definitions. Good beer is good beer. Although its unclear if good beer is always craft beer anymore...

                                                                                              1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                Goose Island is all about craft. John and Greg Hall are incredible assets to this industry. As an aside, I remember when Ray Daniels had trouble finding a venue for the Real Ale Festival. Up stepped the Halls, who hosted it at Goose Island.

                                                                                                Boston Beer? A couple of years ago they had an open house during the Craft Brewers Conference. They showed some fascinating beers, including a wild one that had been inoculated in an orchard. Around us were maturing casks of Millennium. That's not craft?

                                                                                                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                  And yet the ones we see on the market are the revolting and artificial tasting lemon Pledge Summer Ale and the Robitussin-esque Cherry Wheat.

                                                                                                2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                  I find it hard to believe that Sam Adams was that much of a driver. I think SNPA is a more likely contender for that title.

                                                                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                                                                    They can both be drivers, but in different ways.

                                                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                                                      Sierra Nevada certainly played a significant role in fueling the growth of craft beer in this country. And Ken Grossman is a founding father as far as Im concerned. But Jim Koch is a brilliant businessman who took a phenomenon that was existent strictly on the west coast and brought it to the rest of the country on a larger scale and steeper arc then SN. Remember, Grossman was never really interested in advertising or doing consumer research. They were just interested in making good beer. SN started brewing 4 years before Koch was going door to door with his infamous beer suitcase trying to get someone to give him a shot. But 5 years after that Sam Adams had more than doubled SN's production despite the head start. Certainly winning "best beer in america" at the GABF in 85 didnt hurt that cause and yes Koch milked that to the utmost in growing his brand.

                                                                                                      I know Sam Adams (and maybe Guinness and one or two local brands) were the beers that brought me to the world of craft beers. And I know thats true for a lot of other folks as well. Maybe its a little different on the west coast. I could certainly concede that especially if you grew up in Northern California where you were exposed to these other options. But I guess we have to ask without Sam Adams where would the craft beer industry be today? About the same? Vastly different?

                                                                                                      1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                        The west coast was different. Sam adams was never high on my list. Anchor steam set a standard before there was craft beer, and it hasnt change a bit. Its a testimony to a relatively small brewery with industrial standard qualty control. I imagine its possible to have a bad anchor steam, but i never did. Sierra was probably the next to pick up the baton in a big way, and its pale ale set a very high standard for the style, introducing assertive west coast hops to an english ale style. Theyve always seemed to be beer first and foremost and business second. I'd say that their products, including celebration, torpedo, tumbler, big foot, porter, glissade and kellerweis have all been exemplary and a very good value to boot. Ive never been a big fan of SA, not because i dont like lagers, but because i just dont find their beer very interesting. And a lot of their special beers have been downright disappointing. To put it in perspective, you'll seldom if ever find a sam adams in a top flight beer bar in the bay area.

                                                                                                        1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                          "But Jim Koch is a brilliant businessman who took a phenomenon that was existent strictly on the west coast..."

                                                                                                          Not exactly true -and the technicality is important only to give credit to true "pioneers". Koch actually went to beer-making seminars that William Newman gave on the side at his Albany, NY brewery (the true "first east coast microbrewery"). Koch discusses it in Ogle's Ambitious Brew and makes some snarky comments about "freshness" without mentioning that Newman didn't bottle, but simply sold draught beer in plastic-lined cardboard boxes on a limited retail basis, or filled at the brewery à la today's "growlers". Newman was the 4th largest "microbrewery" in 1986, before BBC even had their own Boston area "pilot brewery".* https://sites.google.com/site/jesskid...

                                                                                                          Koch also worked off another East Coast predecessor's business plan - having his beers contract brewed at old-line breweries with excess capacity - of Old New York Brewing Company (New Amsterdam brand) owned by Matthew Reich. Reich, like Koch later, also used Joseph Owades as a brewing consultant. Reich went with F. X. Matt, Koch with Pittsburgh Brewing Co. When other early contract-brewers went with Pittsburgh, Koch complained that they were stealling his idea and recipe.

                                                                                                          Koch, in the beginning, tried to distance himself from the amateurish microbreweries of the time. One of my favorite quotes of his is, in defense of his contract-brewing was "you can't make a good lager in a microbrewery." The other interesting thing about that quote is that it comes from an AP story dated April 15, 1985- Patriot's Day - the very day Samuel Adams Boston Lager was first released. How many other craft brewers of that era had the PR power to get a national wire service story the day their beer hit the shelves?

                                                                                                          * IIRC, when Newman's collapsed (in part, due to the closing of C. Schmidt's and Son of Phila. which by then was doing contract brewing of some Newman brands that were bottled), some of the equipment wound up in BBC's pilot brewery.

                                                                                                          1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                            I was going to mention that I thought Newman's brewhouse ended up in Jamaica Plain, so I hazily confirm what you think you remember.

                                                                                                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                              Of course, since we've been posting here for a few years and the topic's come up before, we're probably just remembering each other saying it. I'm guessing you're probably my source on that one. (Sometimes when I go to check the 'net to see if something I'm about to post is correct, all I can find are forum threads in which I've already stated the same facts. Well, citing oneself is OK, right? Better than contradicting oneself, anyway...)

                                                                                                              I think the chronology of it works out right (late '80's)and would kind of make some sense since Koch was familiar with Newman, etc.

                                                                                                            2. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                              Koch's genius is that he realized that you didnt need to own the means of production, that you could buy/rent/cobtract brew and use what funds you have to creat ea brand and awareness of that brand. He also didnt go for the stupid cute brand or too regional a name, i.e. Rhino Chasers, this dog brew, Maine Coast, or Chesbay.. Marketing is so essential in any new product but unless you're in sales you may not give it a 2nd thought. He also made a mighty fine beer (Lager) especially for the era. His beer is not so different from New Amsterdam which was a fine brew but the business was weighed down by the bre pub/brewey in a horrible location. I havent liked any of th eother SA beers but if in a bar and I dont trust the drafts (this is a whole nother topic/rant) then my fall back beer is usually a sam, bottle dated, even an idiopt bar tender cant argue if the sell by date is on the bottle.
                                                                                                              As for Newman, I specifically went to Albany in Spring 82 from my college 50 miles away to try the brew. Loved it and was sad to see them fall. While I love SN pale (still a classic) and their quietly great stout, their bonzo Celebration I havent liked any of their newer products one bit. I still miss the pale bock, a tasty, fine example of a bock. As for who is craft, most consumers don't care about the trade labels, those in the trade do. Consumers care about taste, price, and for the mass market drinkers ,what the brew says about them....

                                                                                                              1. re: MOREKASHA

                                                                                                                >> "Koch's genius is that he realized that you didnt need to own the means of production..."

                                                                                                                But that's my point re: Reich- he beat Koch to the idea 4 years earlier (not that private label beers hadn't been done before. There was this merchant named Carl Conrad who had a friend with a brewery in St. Louis once...).

                                                                                                                Look, I agree, Koch was more successful, he made it work- beyond even his expectations.

                                                                                                                >> "He also didnt go for the stupid cute brand or too regional a name..."

                                                                                                                Samuel Adams *Boston* Lager (and *Boston* Ale) from the *Boston* Beer Co.? <g>

                                                                                                                I've wondered if, in retrospect, Koch wishes he hadn't picked the name of the defunct "oldest brewery in America" for his company name and flagship beer(s) now, especially with him owning large breweries in OH and PA but never building his full sized brewery in Massachusetts. The two breweries they do own go by the names of the "Samuel Adams Brewery" and the "Samuel Adams Pennsylvania Brewery" rather than BBC in official publications, I notice.

                                                                                                                I agree with you, tho' about the goofy named breweries and beers, but a lot have succeeded. I don't know, I do buy the beers but I feel I shouldn't have to feel embarrassed when I buy a product. I mean, look at Dogfish Head- a goofy and regional name (AND it's not even the region the brewery's located in!). Seem to be doing OK and I've even gotten used to it...

                                                                                                                I once mentioned as much when "River Horse" in NJ changed owners.(named after the hippopotamus- not particularly native to the Delaware River on which the brewery is located from what I understand) Since it didn't have a particular good rep at the time, why not change it from the '90's era sounding name? A brewer came online and gave me !@#$ about it- called me some name or another. Oh, well.

                                                                                                                I used to wonder if the fact that most modern US brewers choose NOT to use their own name (like Pabst, Busch, Miller and Schlitz had) was done "in case" they ever sold out.

                                                                                                                1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                  Yup, but Matt Reich didn't have fortune/or the gods smiling on him. He also screwed up big time w/the 10 ave pub, it's was always empty and a dollar sinkhole.

                                                                                                                  Funny, Dogfish head has never seemed to me to be to be a local or stupid name. Flying Fish from Jersey, yes, DFH, no. then again, DF had the restaurant biz to sustain them and went out of their way to make interesting beers that are actually good. Who remembers dark wit beers? Yup, it's the Boston Beer Co, corp names and Brand names are separate issues. Many business have separate corporations set up for different facilities, tax, liability reasons etc..

                                                                                                            3. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                              Probably is a west coast thing, then. By the time I remember seeing SA out here, we had a lot of west coast-produced beer available.

                                                                                                          2. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                            I also disagree with the B.A. not classifying Goose Island (or even the other Craft Brewers Alliance breweries) "craft"- but I don't pay dues to them.

                                                                                                            But, it is not simply a "distribution deal". A-B-InBev owns 35% of CBA, and CBA owns 40% of Goose Island. By all accounts their minority ownership has not meant any control or influence over the beers or brewing process of any the involved small breweries. BUT, even the CBA annual reports (pdf at http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.z... ) says:

                                                                                                            "A-B has significant control and influence over us" as well as "The impact of A-B’s ownership by a global consumer products conglomerate on our business remains unclear. " The AR also goes into both the positive and negative aspect of the deal that has the CBA brands distributed through the A-B wholesale network.

                                                                                                            1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                              I don't like dishonesty - whether done by an individual, a company or any other organisation. It rubs me the wrong way. That the BA calls every beer made by every one of it's members a "craft" beer is just not honest. The same holds true for breweries. I'm sure there are plenty that deserve the name "craft", but, by the same token, there are lots that don't.

                                                                                                              The BA also paints itself into a corner with their ridiculously detailed definition of the term. How can "small" be so specifically defined and then tripled with a straight face?

                                                                                                              There is nothing in the definition of promotion that I've ever seen that says it cannot be done honestly and with integrity. Plenty of others have done it, why can't the BA?

                                                                                                              1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                "That the BA calls every beer made by every one of it's members a "craft" beer"

                                                                                                                Do they? They do say (or said, they change that website so many times I can't find it now) "craft beer only comes from a craft brewery" but I don't know (or. at least, recall) them saying the opposite "All beer from a craft brewery is craft beer."

                                                                                                                Obviously, in cases like F. X. Matt's Utica Club they wouldn't claim that (I don't think...but ya never know). It pretty much comes down to "craft beer", to them, is anything that's not US-style adjunct light lager and "light" beer and it's associated styles, like adjunct ales, cream ales, malt liquors, etc. Seems simple and rather obvious to me.

                                                                                                                As for "small" - I'd guess they'd say that 6m barrels a year is still "small" when "large" in the US is defined by the two breweries that dominant the market, A-B-InBev and M-C, with +100m and +60m barrels of beer brewed a year, respectively.

                                                                                                                1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                  What product would you expect a "craft brewer" to make? Do they actually have to say that a "craft brewer" makes "craft beer"?

                                                                                                                  1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                    "What product would you expect a "craft brewer" to make?"

                                                                                                                    Again, it's not MY definition- it's the Brewers Association's. Their point with that statement was that they did not consider the craft-type specialty beers from the macro breweries and their subsidiaries "craft beer" -since they did not come from what they consider a "craft brewery". Thus the the use of the word "only".

                                                                                                                    1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                      I'm really not clear what point you are trying to make. Are you saying they don't consider every brewery that meets their definition a "craft" brewery? Are you saying that they concede somewhere that not all "craft" breweries make "craft" beer?

                                                                                                                      If you look at their Beer Sales page, what does the label "Domestic Craft Beer Sales" mean if not what I said - every ounce of beer made by their "craft" brewers is "craft" beer? And is it?

                                                                                                                      1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                        You are STILL seeing the term "craft" as honorific when it is not. Why do you insist on having the term be tied to higher quality when it simply describes beer that is a reaction to Adjunct light lager? It could be a good American Pale Ale, an outstanding American Pale Ale or a horrible American Pale Ale. What makes each "craft" is that each is an American Pale Ale; a departure from light lager.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                          If your point is that the BA has changed the meaning of the word, I understand your point, but I don't accept it. The word "craft" existed before the BA started using it and it still exists. It is an honorific and if the BA does not see it that way, I suggest they contact the companies that publish dictionaries and ask them to revise the definition.

                                                                                                                          1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                            As I asked you before then, if you consider "craft" to be honorific is the term "poor craftsmanship" an oxymoron?

                                                                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                              I don't "consider" it honorific - any English-language dictionary defines it that way. Do you have a dictionary that doesn't?

                                                                                                                              1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                Main Entry: 1craft
                                                                                                                                Pronunciation: \ˈkraft\
                                                                                                                                Function: noun
                                                                                                                                Etymology: Middle English, strength, skill, from Old English cræft; akin to Old High German kraft strength
                                                                                                                                Date: before 12th century
                                                                                                                                1 : skill in planning, making, or executing : dexterity
                                                                                                                                2 a : an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill <the carpenter's craft> <the craft of writing plays> <crafts such as pottery, carpentry, and sewing> b plural : articles made by craftspeople <a store selling crafts> <a crafts fair>
                                                                                                                                3 : skill in deceiving to gain an end <used craft and guile to close the deal>
                                                                                                                                4 : the members of a trade or trade association
                                                                                                                                5 plural usually craft a : a boat especially of small size b : aircraft c : spacecraft
                                                                                                                                synonyms see art

                                                                                                                                Where is this definition from Merriam Webster honorific?

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                  If a brewery does not make good beers (ie, beers that are generally/widely considered to be good), where is the demonstration of "skill in execution"?

                                                                                                                                  It is as if the BA has anointed its members, waved a magic wand, and turned all of them magically into skilled brewers. We both know that is not true and that is why the term "craft brewer" is nothing more than a marketing term.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                    Good is subjective, though, no? I may think Coors Light sucks as a beer, but I couldn't argue that it is poorly made.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                      Yes, good can be subjective. However, wouldn't you agree that, as you get toward the ends of the spectrum, subjectivity drops? For example, people asked to make a list of the 10 best films often have some or many of the same films on that list. Wouldn't you agree that "Citizen Kane" is "generally and widely" accepted as one of the best films? I think this works much the same way with beer.

                                                                                                                                      This is why I used the phrase "generally/widely considered to be good" above. Certainly not every one of the brewers described by the BA as "craft" meets that requirement.

                                                                                                                                      Isn't this exactly the point that was raised by the OP?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                        Subjectivity doesn't drop at the end of the spectrum, you are simply finding a certain amount of agreement. It doesn't mean it is correct. For example (and a cliche one at that), Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime. The collective, contemporaneous, subjective opinion of his work was that it was worthless.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                          "Consensus of opinion" - another way of saying most people agreed, isn't it? How is that any different from "generally/widely considered"?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                            The point is simply that general acceptance or consensus as to what is good does not necessarily indicate any inherent value or "goodness." Enploying that appeal to popularity/masses fallacy would lead to the conclusion that Coors Light (or Miller Lite, or whatever is the best selling beer) is the most "good", or, best beer.

                                                                                                                                            (This is a little out of place as the site won't seem to allow me to respond to ThomasvD's response to my post.)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                              I understand your point from a philosophical point of view, but what we are discussing here is rather relative. Secondly, as with the 10-best film lists, there is evidence that it is not all random.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                        Nothing stated promises a good result though. It just means that you can DO something. I am not a welder. I do not have that skill. However others who are welders have that skill. And I've seen plenty of poor welding.
                                                                                                                                        So again I ask you directly is "poor craftsmanship" an oxymoron (yes/no)? Please be kind enough to directly address my question this third time I've asked sir.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                          1. Your analogy to a welder is invalid. The BA does not describe just a brewer - they describe a "craft brewer." In welding terms, probably a master welder.

                                                                                                                                          2. I will not play word-games with you.

                                                                                                                                          Let me ask you again: of the 1,600 brewers claimed by the BA, how many of them practice "skill in execution" on a regular basis? And, for extra points, when the BA talks about "Domestic craft beer sales" (representing the full output of the "craft breweries"), is that not brushing with an extremely wide brush every ounce of beer produced by these brewers?

                                                                                                                                          Am I the only one puzzled why you can't find a list of these 1,600 "craft" breweries anywhere on their site?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                            Skill in execution means again that you can DO something and does not guarantee a result that will be pleasing to you.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                              Skill in execution means you can do something WELL. Period.

                                                                                                                                              All 1600 anonymous brewers can do something well? Not a single exception? Boggles the mind.

                                                                                                                                              (Please don't start adding your opinion to your definitions.)

                                                                                                                            2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                              "I'm really not clear what point you are trying to make."

                                                                                                                              Here's an old copy of a Press Release from the Brewers Association with the statement "Craft beer comes only from a craft brewer." (7th paragraph).
                                                                                                                              http://beeradvocate.com/news/942394

                                                                                                                              At the bottom it says "For further information on the craft beer industry and these estimates, contact Paul Gatza 303-447-0816 x122 or Julia Herz 303-447-0816 x113." Their emails are available here http://www.brewersassociation.org/pag... Perhaps they can help you.

                                                                                                                              I don't have time to answer because my wife is going to drive me to the emergency ward to see if they can remove this giant hook that's been stuck in the back of my neck for the last few days.

                                                                                                                              1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                                Good luck with the hook.

                                                                                                                                I stand by what I have written. This statement in no way contradicts it.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                  "Skill in execution means you can do something WELL. Period."

                                                                                                                                  WELL enough to accomplish the task only. You or I can judge how good or representative the result is no?

                                                                                                                                2. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                                  I feel I owe you an apology. I am also pretty frustrated by some of the replies in this discussion and my reply to you yesterday could have been better. I'm sorry.

                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the contact information for the BA. I have written to them and am awaiting a reply. As I am not in the media, I hope I will nevertheless receive one.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                                    Well, I received one reply from Julia Herz over six hours ago. Here it is in its entirety: "We define 'craft brewer' not craft beer. Are you a member of the BA, a journalist or some other entity?"

                                                                                                                                    I had not asked about a definition "craft beer", so I find that a bit odd. IAC, I told her I was a freelance-writer. She probably googled my name and found nothing. I don't expect any further response from her.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                      Earlier in this discussion you said you don't like dishonesty. Then you said you are not in the media. And then you said you told Julia Herz you are a freelance writer.

                                                                                                    2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                      Wow. Quite the rant, and so much to find fault with it's hard to know where to begin.

                                                                                                      Part of the reason for the name "craft" vs. the others you list (micro) is that the term "microbrewery" only refers to volume of output. It would be inappropriate to label Russian River a microbrewery, because the volume of their output is too great. I forget all the official designations, but as volume of production increases, terminology changes.

                                                                                                      The problem with this is that there is far more that distinguishes a craft brewery from other breweries than just volume of output.

                                                                                                      People who care about what they eat and drink want some way of determining if the product they're buying was made by people who similarly care about the quality of what they're producing. In Italy, for example, the gelato market had become so saturated with crappy, inferior mass-produced garbage that there's an official designation for gelaterias (gelateria artigianale) which tells the consumer that this particular vendor produces their own product by hand, on premises.

                                                                                                      Since we in the US don't have that kind of governmental support, we need some way to know if we're going to be buying a beer made by people who care about making an interesting, well-made product.

                                                                                                      While I agree that the label can be misused (for example, almost every Sam Adams speciality beer is a dreadful, undrinkable concoction), I think it's generally useful to the beer consumer.

                                                                                                      Lastly, picking on Pliny The Elder is absurd. While it may not be to your taste, calling it unbalanced is really missing the boat; a) The brewer makes no claim that it's balanced (the slogan for the beer on the t-shirt used to read: "My checkbook is balanced, not my double IPA!"), b) the audience for the beer grew out of Russian River's first beer, Blind Pig IPA, which was one of the first aggressively hopped San Diego pale ales, c) the hop and grain bill for the beer do produce complexity of flavor, provided that you're acclimated to drinking hoppy beers.

                                                                                                      The best parallel I can think of is wine - if you don't like tannins, then there are wine varieties that won't taste good to you. It reveals a limitation of perception rather than a problem with the product.

                                                                                                      1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                        I'm really confused by this whole string. First I appreciate the link but "craft" is a term that's used casually to distinguish a type of beer from BMC. And sure with Boston Beer surpassing the 2 million barrel plateau are they quote "craft" or whatever? Technically no but we recognize that they are providing a product that is a departure from Budweiser, Bud Light, Mich Ultra, etc. Second, are you equating "craft beer" with "extreme beer"? Most beer that's considered craft is not "extreme"; although these style beers do garner a lot of attention. Nonetheless it's a question of personal preference and not being "questionable" (whatever that means). You bring up Pliny the Elder. It's a beer that I recognize as really well made yet to me is unbalanced. And I'm not in love with a lot of the barrel aging that's going on either. So is that what you and others mean by "questionable"? If so then your beef is with a strain within the craft community and not with craft as a whole. There are plenty of well made Pale Ales, Porters, Brown Ales, Belgian style, etc by "craft" brewers. Lastly you state ". . . plenty of brewers making good, tasty beer today, but not all of them do". Was it your expectation that ALL or MOST of them are going to brew products that please you or some standard that you have? If your point is that not every single beer made by a "craft brewer" is good isn't that kinda obvious?

                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                          Well, first, thanks to JessKidden for the additional information.

                                                                                                          Josh: you said "Since we in the US don't have that kind of governmental support, we need some way to know if we're going to be buying a beer made by people who care about making an interesting, well-made product." Well, that is exactly the problem. As the OP stated and I agreed, calling every brewery that produces less than 2 million barrels a "craft brewery" doesn't really help, does it? About Pliny (and it's kind), if it's unbalanced and the brewery agrees that it is, how is my point "absurd"? I, like most other beer buyers, like a balanced beers - that doesn't mean only beers that are too hoppy - I don't like beers that are too sweet (malty) either.

                                                                                                          Chinon00: I don't think you can divide the beer industry into only the good and the bad. And no, I am definitely not equating extreme and craft, but saying that extreme beers seem to fall into the "craft" segment.

                                                                                                          The point is simply that putting the label "craft" on every brewery that produces less than 2 million barrels is ridiculous.

                                                                                                          1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                            "The point is simply that putting the label "craft" on every brewery that produces less than 2 million barrels is ridiculous."

                                                                                                            But that's only 1 part of the B.A.'s definition (again, in the link you posted). Besides "Small" and "Independent" there's:

                                                                                                            "Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor."

                                                                                                            Granted that "all-malt" or "adjuncts used (only) to enhance" doesn't necessarily make a quality or "crafted" beer, but it is, after all, an industry trade association.

                                                                                                            1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                              Do you actually think that few beers achieve complexity as you stated earlier? If you do I think that might explain a lot. It's like you think that beer should be a fairly simple beverage and that any attempt at doing more or escaping that definition is a violation or is questionable. The Belgians, English, Germans have been brewing beer that I think even you would consider complex long before the American craft revolution (e.g.: Flanders Red Ale, Gueuze, Barleywine, Baltic Porter, Doppelbock, Weizenbock). If you haven't tried these styles I suggest that you do. And if you have I'm not sure what to tell you.

                                                                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                As I said earlier, I find balance more important. Complexity can be a great addition, but, as you correctly point out, it is not always necessary or available.

                                                                                                                I have tried all the types of beer you mentioned and I enjoy them all.

                                                                                                                1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                  No you stated in regard to complexity that "few beers achieve that". If you are familar with the beers I've mentioned such as doppelbock, weizenbock, barleywine and others I'm really confused as how you can say that.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                    You are correct, but I see no conflict between the two points. As to the examples you gave, I see the point of discussion here what the OP posted. It seems to me we are getting pretty far off that point.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                      Ok?
                                                                                                                      Also you keep referring to balance as if by definition it doesn't exist within craft beer. Do you find balance to be an exception in craft beer?

                                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                        Following the shock of Dorsch-gate ;-), I lost track for a bit. In answer to your question: although I have not tried them all, I suspect most "extreme beers" are unbalanced and, almost by definition, any hop-bomb or overly sweet beers are unbalanced.

                                                                                                                        I don't like or use the term "craft beer" so I'll say that since industrial beers have virtually no taste, balance seems almost irrelevant. For non-industrial beers, my impression is that a large number are unbalanced, but, I haven't researched this, so it's only my impression.

                                                                                                              2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                It's absurd because of the context - in the midst of making a point about experimentation not being a substitute for quality, and your preference for well-balanced beers, you hold up Pliny seemingly as a representative of what, in your view, is a case of experimentation vs. quality, due to its lack of balance.

                                                                                                                This is absurd because the beer is not intended to be balanced, makes no claim of being balanced, but is incredibly well made and flavorful. To cite it as an example of experimental vs. quality is preposterous, because it has no off-flavors, and is quite clean and crisp despite it's relatively high ABV and IBU count.

                                                                                                                I would also dispute your description of consumer consumption as being driven by a desire for balance. If 97% of the people are buying BMC, that's not an audience looking for balance - that's an audience looking for water.

                                                                                                                Industrial light lager is hardly a paragon of balance - where's the malt character? The hop character?

                                                                                                                If 97% of the people were buying Guinness, Bass, Spaten, or Fuller's, then maybe you'd have a point - but when they're buying flavorless watery adjunct lager that tells me they're obeying the directives of advertisers, not their taste buds.

                                                                                                                1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                  The only reason I mentioned Pliny was this sentence written further up-thread: "Experimentation can sometimes result in failure, but it just as easily can result in a Pliny the Elder."

                                                                                                                  I also do not agree with you that experimental means "off-flavours". Something can be experimental, yet not successful without being flawed.

                                                                                                                  Of the 97 percent who don't drink "craft" beer, I really don't have an answer for you. Sure, a lot of them probably don't like much taste in their beer. I'm sure you're right that advertising plays a role in that, but I would guess that experience plays a bigger role.

                                                                                                                  If someone who's been loyal to Bud Lite were to taste a Pliny the Elder (to pick a random example), how would he react? I would guess he wouldn't enjoy it. What do you think?

                                                                                                                  1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                    transitioning from Bud Lite to Pliny the Elder is a false analogy. One is an extremely hoppy ale (and I stand by my previous post that it's insanely successful at what it tries to accomplish), the other a flavorless, industrially produced, foreign owned adjunct lager. A more fair transition would be from the bland mass produced adjunct lager to a legitimate American pils, such as Trumer (brewed in Berkeley CA in conjunction with the parent brewery in Salzburg) or North Coast's Scrimshaw, or any of a number of good American made craft pilsners. Most Americans haven't a clue what a real pils tastes like, having been fed highly marketed fizzy pablum that millions of marketing dollars have convinced them is the real deal. That's changing. People are being exposed to real beer and more and more of them are liking it. To the extent that BMC is scared shitless losing 10% market share year to year. It's small now, but the craft beer revolution is shaking the foundation of the adjunct lager establishment to the point that they are producing clandestine imitations (think Blue Moon). I imagine at some time in the not so distant future, some bright bulb will light up in BMC marketing land and we'll see one of them pull a Dominos and say, "Oops, sorry for that crappy product we told you was great all those years, now we're going to make the real thing. Trust us."

                                                                                                                    1. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                      A false analogy? You've never met a Bud Lite drinker and said "here, try this"?

                                                                                                                      The point you seem to be missing (or glossing over) is that if the market is white, don't introduce black and expect to succeed. There is a reason that small breweries have existed for at least 20 years and still not managed to capture more than 3-4 percent of the market. Hint: it ain't the market, it's their product.

                                                                                                                      1. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                        "To the extent that BMC is scared shitless losing 10% market share year to year. "

                                                                                                                        Is this a prediction, or are you implying that it's happening now? Tho' craft's share of the market does go up 10% or so a year, that does not mean A-B or M-C loses 10% (or that it's even necessarily coming out of BMC's share). If craft, at 4% share goes up 10%, it only means they now have 4.4%, the following year 4.84%, etc.

                                                                                                                        In the time "craft beer" has existed (since mid-1970's), it's had little effect on "BMC" dominance of the US market. More than half a decade into the era, in 1982, A-B had 32% US market share, Miller 21% and Coors (only the #5 brewery and not yet national) was under 7%.

                                                                                                                        By 2000, A-B was at 48% and the not yet combined Miller and Coors companies had 31% of the market. Since then, as craft's tiny share grows, the worst that can be said about BMC is that they're stagnant- A-B at 49% and M-C at 30% in '09.

                                                                                                                        While the long term growth of craft beer is probably troublesome to BMC (in that they might be losing a generation of drinkers), in the short term, what makes the segment interesting enough to them that they create "psuedo-crafts" like Blue Moon (around since the mid-90's) and Leinenkugel's expanded line-up (Miller bought Leinenkugel in the late '80's) and the Michelob line is the profit margin.

                                                                                                                        Since macro prices just haven't kept up with inflation, if they can spend pennies more on ingredients (all other costs being the same as beer like Bud Light) and get dollars more at the retail level, they'll gladly see the share of Bud Light go down a tenth of a percent if it means increased Michelob Porter sales that are more profitable anyway. One of the most interesting parts of craft beers' market share is that while it's only 4.3% by volume, it's 6.9% by dollars.

                                                                                                                        1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                          http://www.usatoday.com/money/adverti...

                                                                                                                          At issue: a brand that's lost mojo. Bud unit sales were down 9% last year and are down the same this year, says Beverage Marketing Corp. Beer drinkers have lost loyalty to Bud for the past seven years, research firm Brand Keys reports. Bud's ranking among national product brands slipped from 16th in 2003 to 220th in 2010.

                                                                                                                          1. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                            Budweiser is but one of dozens of brands brewed and sold by A-B-InBev. It hasn't been A-B's best selling beer in about a decade, much to the chagrin of A-B (which often talks of the "Budweiser family of beers" to include "Bud Light" if they're talking of their flagship and/or the worlds best selling beer label).

                                                                                                                            Still, after two decades of it's downward trend, Budweiser is STILL the #2 beer in America- more than twice as much sales as ALL the craft beer sold in the US- around 20m bbl. for 2009.

                                                                                                                            And, there's absolutely no evidence that much of the 4.3% of the US market craft beer has carved out for itself in those same two decades came out of Bud's share. During the era of Bud's slid (starting around 1989), A-B's total share of the US market has gone from 40 to 49%- clearly, for most of that era, Bud Light was picking up most of the "lost" Budweiser sales and the latter is now just under 20% of ALL beer sales in the US.

                                                                                                                            Similar changes have occurred at Miller and Coors- where their "Light" beers have become their best-sellers, and their former flagships are, if anything, faring worse that Bud. Miller High Life has been reduced to the economy beer segment and replaced with Genuine Draft as it's "regular" beer. Coors Banquet sales are dwarfed by Coors Light, and it's fallen out of the US Top 20 all together.

                                                                                                                            In the last few years of the bad economy in the US, many of the flagship and flagship light beers of the A-B and M-C has seen a stagnant or downward trend, but most industry analysts see that share picked up by economy brands, like Busch, Miller High Life, Keystone, Pabst, etc., most of which, of course, are BMC-owned brands. In A-B's case, Busch, Busch Light, Natural Light, Michelob Ultra, Bud Light Lime and Bud Ice were all up last year.

                                                                                                                            There's just no evidence that any appreciable percentage of craft's market share is directly from the lost market share of the former flagships of BMC.

                                                                                                                            1. re: JessKidden

                                                                                                                              The sorts of articles as that USA Today piece and the semi-annual press releases from the Brewers Association that always stress the percentage increase of craft sales (rather than total market share), I think, often give people a warped view of craft beer. The USA Today’s using Budweiser’s “ranking among national product brands” is sort of laughable in a discussion of US beer market. Really, we’re comparing it Draino, Wrigley’s Chewing gum and Dog food? The B.A.’s constant stressing of the increase of 10% over last year that craft beer has seen, has people believing that craft captures 10% of the market every year… “ up 10% in ’06, 10% in ’07, 10% in ’08, 10% in ’09- Dang, Craft is now 40% of the US beer market!”

                                                                                                                              The less “sexy” aspects of the US beer market during the “craft era” that are ignored by the general press and the craft-oriented beer internet sites are (1) the rise of “light beer” – all but non-existant when New Albion brewed the first “craft beer” from a new brewery in the US (Bud Light and Coors Light didn’t even exist) is now over 50% of all beer sold. (2) Imports have captured a significant percentage of the US market- it hovered at around 3% in the ‘70’s, and is now close to 13%- 1 in every 8 beers sold in the US. Corona alone (again, non-existant in the ‘70’s) is the #6 brand in the US, and had been outselling ALL craft beer combined until it took a hit in bad economy.

                                                                                                                              Among the Top 10 beer marketing companies in the US (once the same as the Top 10 US breweries, of course), the importers Crown (Corona), Guinness, Labatt USA and Heineken USA now appear.

                                                                                                                        2. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                          The large brewers owe no one an apology for their products. A huge portion of the beer-drinking public prefers those beers, and there's nothing wrong with that. The brewers I know at AB are proud of their products, and they should be.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                            If you are speaking from a business perspective, you have a point. However, what have the large brewers done for consumers? More specifically, what have they done for the people who appreciate and buy good beer?

                                                                                                                            1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                              No, many brewers at large breweries are intensely proud of the beers they make, and this has nothing to do with business.

                                                                                                                              What have the large brewers done for consumers? They have satisfied the demand of the vast majority of beer drinkers.

                                                                                                                              Your last question seems to me to presuppose that the big brewers are obliged to cater to all consumers. They are not.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                That they are proud of their product is not what I asked, not is it noteworthy.

                                                                                                                                The industrial brewers have not satisfied a demand, rather, they have lowered consumers expectations to the point that most of their customers would probably be equally satisfied drinking a glass of water with some alcohol added to it.

                                                                                                                                My last question presupposes nothing, it was simply a question.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                  Like many things in "American culture" (which is an oxymoron in and of itself. LOL), somewhere along the line beer became sort of 'generic'. On that point, I agree with ThomasvD.
                                                                                                                                  But in the end, Mr. Dorsch is spot on.
                                                                                                                                  The industrial brewers have most certainly satisfied a demand, and it is a continuing demand. The small brewers have satisfied a demand as well (albeit a much smaller demand). But the vast majority of beer drinkers _do_ indeed like and prefer lighter style beer (I have always called it "beer for people who don't really like beer").
                                                                                                                                  And I don't see a problem with that at all.
                                                                                                                                  There is a wide range of choice out there, for every palate.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                                                                                                    Not sure how many industrial brewers you've talked to, but I have met a couple. Miller sent out their brewmaster here to promote the mercifully short-lived light "craft" beers that they attempted to push. When I talked to the brewmaster I was astonished to learn that Miller has a 15 barrel system they use for brewing experimental beers - including Russian Imperial Stouts and Double IPAs. They give these beers away locally, and don't produce them.

                                                                                                                                    Clearly these guys know that their main product is garbage - well-made garbage, but garbage nonetheless.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                    I think that's a really bizarre way of putting it, as though you can divorce the manufacturing arm of a business from the marketing arm. They have satisfied a demand that they themselves created. That's like saying McDonald's should be proud that they satisfy the demand for cheap junk food.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                      How did they create this demand? Did they force consumers to like their beer?

                                                                                                                                      I think McDonald's should be proud, and I enjoy dining there from time to time. And I also like craft beer. Go figure.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                        People enjoy light beer precisely because it doesn't taste like beer (or much of anything). Cheap, flavorless, cold, fizzy, well-marketed beverages (that get you enebriated) will have an audience. That doesn't make light beer a good beer product.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                          I find it interesting that you know why people enjoy these products. Have you talked to all of them?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                            I've asked you and others in the past who drink it to point out light beer's merits AS A BEER and no one has an answer other than "it's refreshing". If that's ALL that you can say about a beer (essentially the same as what you can say about cold water) I can only conclude that light beer is the perfect beer for those who don't like beer. You can like it just don't tell me you like beer.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                              Obvs. I'm not Chinon00, but I have talked to countless light beer drinkers about their beverage choices and to a man/woman the response is that they don't like beer, only light beer.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                            Horses for courses, as they say. I don't think McDonald's has anything to be proud of, and I think if you really sat down and looked at the net harm caused by their existence you would agree with me.

                                                                                                                                            How they create the demand is simple: they target their advertising at young people, who have no knowledge or understanding of what good beer is in the first place. Light beer is presented as something that's "never bitter", "tastes great", "less filling", "won't slow you down", directly implying that other beer is bitter, tastes bad, fills you up, and knocks you out.

                                                                                                                                            Its packaging and design is changed frequently, and more resembles soda pop than beer. It looks like more thought goes into the packaging and advertising than into the taste of the product.

                                                                                                                                            So, no, they don't force consumers to like their product - no more than Kraft forces consumers to "like" pasteurized processed cheese food. What they do is ensure that people from a young age see their messaging, that their messaging is targeted to appeal to people of that age group, that their product has prominent and ubiquitous market placement (often achieved through what some might describe as underhanded business tactics), and by counting on the average consumer's apathy and ignorance.

                                                                                                                                            Educated and enlightened consumers are the last thing any of America's modern food/beverage conglomerates want. They're counting on a herd of easily manipulated ignoramuses who think the illusion of choice between BMC is one of the great freedoms offered by life in the US.

                                                                                                                                            If you read anything about the way the PR and marketing industries work, you'll see that a great deal of money is spent on research to figure out how to manipulate people to "make choices" you want them to make. I suggest checking out PBS' Frontline episode called "The Persuaders" if you are interested in the subject. It's a great introduction.

                                                                                                                                            Light beer was well-known to me and my friends in high school as a cheap way to get a buzz without having to suffer through too much unpleasant flavor.

                                                                                                                                            By extension of Chinon00's comment, it would be interesting to see how much light beer producers see their position eroded by malternative beverages in the coming years due to this same youthful demographic. I think products like Bud Light Lime can be viewed as an attempt at capturing people who can't even tolerate the flavor of water.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                          "What have the large brewers done for consumers? They have satisfied the demand of the vast majority of beer drinkers"

                                                                                                                                          Jim, I think it could easily be argued that the demand was itself created by the big brewer's marketing department and their utter shelf dominance (in most places at most times). Preference is malleable, and hews to exposure. Or, even more obviously, it hews to the only choice one's ever been offered and the choice all one's friends line up for, as a result of this same mechanism.

                                                                                                                                          I realize this opens up a huge argument, and we're already in the middle of a mushrooming contentious thread. But I just thought it deserved to be said.

                                                                                                                                          I agree that the big brewers are technically AMAZING. It's really really hard to achieve consistency in brewing, and they do nail that hard thing. Bullseyes every time! But IHOP is pretty consistent in their pancakes, and, as with Bud, it's hard to imagine too many people preferring it to the "good stuff" if they were exposed to it. Which is not to say tons of people aren't hypnotized into thinking those are some tasty pancakes and beer....

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                            Hi Jim, long time since we've talked!

                                                                                                                                            I think that most people just aren't as demanding as we are, and if you combine that with the fact that BMC is simply a lot cheaper than craft beer, they're satisfied. But I bet a great pancake costs no more than the IHOP pancake.

                                                                                                                                            I have mixed feelings about the demand situation. I like to believe that people can think for themselves, but if they're not critical, then they can certainly be sold on something, sort of like how most people accept the music that's sold to them instead of thinking about it and making their own decisions.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                              Good point on the price differential. But, of course, the notion of what's "good enough" is established early on, by the stuff you're exposed to at an early age. And these guys control that exposure. Is all I'm sayin'.... :)

                                                                                                                                              Anyway, strange to be having this "argument" (not really) with someone who's so admirably extreme in his beer and (especially) music taste!

                                                                                                                                              Also, in the overall arc of our online relationship, a couple years is absolutely nothing! (me and Jim have been running online discussions since long before there was a Web!).

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                Have to play devil's advocate sometimes. And yes, the big brewers and their wholesalers certainly exert a lot of influence.

                                                                                                                                                It's frightening that chain stores delegate a wholesaler (usually Bud or MillerCoors) to be 'category captain' and set the cooler for them, as if they're unbiased ...

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                                  I'm essentially Taoist-capitalist on such issues. The more people do awful moves like that, the more opportunity is created for smaller operators with more hand-chosen selections. Extremes lead to openings.

                                                                                                                                                  Of course, the latter have a foothold about the size of a dime, whereas the mainstream thunkheads have from horizon-to-horizon. It's abusrdly disproportional. But as long as people like us chowhounds support the good guys, there'll be at least some call for (and incentive in) being a good guy.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                        I enjoy Bud American Ale. But could you ask the brewers you know at AB what about Bud Light gives them the most pride?

                                                                                                                                    2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                      We're veering off into complex territory here, IMO, because once you start talking about commodity products that are heavily advertised to the American public you start bringing in a lot of variables, and you also get into what your opinion is of the general public and how autonomous they really are.

                                                                                                                                      The macro beer industry spends a lot of money misinforming the public, but they also pander to primal instinct. BMC are held up as accessories to your cool, swinging, getting-laid-round-the-clock, single bachelor lifestyle. Or perhaps they are presented as a patriotic way to show how much you love America by drinking "real beer", manufactured by a Brazilian-owned conglomerate.

                                                                                                                                      When you're looking at the choices people make with a highly commercialized product, I think it's pretty silly to believe that you can look at a stat like 97% divorced from other influences like: how accessible is craft beer in their area, how much TV/radio do they consume, have they ever tried a non-commodity beer, how adventurous are they, etc?

                                                                                                                                      That said - if a Budweiser drinker was curious about craft beer, I sure as heck wouldn't give them a Pliny as their introduction. Like chuckl said, you start with something not too far removed from their comfort zone (Trumer Pils is a great choice), then maybe move to something a little hoppier (Victory Prima Pils, maybe), and then you can keep going as they get more acclimated.

                                                                                                                                      I love really good fresh habanero salsa, but it's very spicy, and if that was the first spicy thing I tried I probably wouldn't have liked it. People have to get accustomed to new flavors.

                                                                                                                                      Once people learn to try something new and really experience great flavors in beer, I think that speaks for itself - and I think that's why the craft beer movement is worrisome to the big brewers. Because nobody who develops a taste for interesting, complex flavors in beer is going to revert back to chugging Silver Bullets.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                        I don't know that craft is worrisome to the big brewers. At first they didn't understand it, and were probably dismissive. But basically they want to get their fair share of a segment, and hence you have beers like Blue Moon and Leinenkugel's. (And in industry parlance, those are part of the 'craft' segment.)

                                                                                                                                        I don't think anyone knows the extent of overlap between craft, import, American light lager, etc, but there appears to be a sizable segment of consumers who hop between segments, depending, for example, on occasion. Perhaps a 12pk of Bud for home, Heineken or Sierra at a bar, etc.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Josh

                                                                                                                                          Now that you've calmed down ;-), you make a lot more sense. After 40 or 50 years of bullshit advertising, wouldn't you think that most people take these ads with a grain of salt by now? People drink Bud Lite or similar, I believe, because they really don't like the taste of beer. I don't believe that giving them a "good" pils will necessarily work. But, I could be wrong about that.

                                                                                                                                          What seems very obvious is that extreme beers (like Pliny?) will accomplish nothing in bringing these people over to good beer. There is certainly a group of brewers who read the beer war sites (Ratebeer, etc.) and seem to make beers to appeal to those people - a market that must reach all the way into the hundreds or perhaps low thousands.

                                                                                                                                          (Just a note to the people who designed the software here: I clicked on the reply link to Josh's post and end up under the next post. Why?)

                                                                                                                                        2. re: ThomasvD

                                                                                                                                          Also - I definitely don't think experimental means off-flavors either. But in discussing if a beer is successful or not, off-flavors is really the only standard we have. You may not care for a beer, but can still recognize if it's a well-made example by looking for things like off flavors or aromas. I've had a lot of experimental beers that suffer from these problems. Heavy acetaldehyde, fusel alcohols, inappropriate-to-style diacetyl levels, etc.

                                                                                                                                2. The way the definition is written is full of contradictions. For example: craft beer is made with traditional ingredients unless it's not ("Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.") or "craft" brewers are both traditional and innovative ("An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.... The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation.")

                                                                                                                                  The definition does not help anyone except the brewers (who, as you point out, are the ones intended to be helped). For beer consumers, this definition provides nothing but an essentially meaningless phrase.

                                                                                                                                  1. While I accept the notion that not all beers made by all breweries are going to be great, I (although fascinated with the discussion herein) don’t care. I’m no longer a “drink beer to get drunk” guy. I’m content to taste new tastes, or savor those I’ve found, in the pursuit of something that excites my palate. It’s analogous to ordering different plates off the menu at a favorite restaurant – maybe even splurging on the “market price” specials.

                                                                                                                                    I’ve waxed on the joy of spearing an icy, yellow can from the bottom of a cooler and the glee of rinsing the surf from my tongue with its contents. It’s akin to a hungover stop at a McDonald’s drive-thru. I know there are clearly better beers and undoubtedly better burgers, but an annual detour from the road of good taste is forgivable.

                                                                                                                                    Ninety-seven percent of the beer sold may be piss, but that is it’s ultimate destiny isn’t it? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that three-quarters of all the burgers sold come from chain restaurants. Analogously, they’re basically all shit. For the majority, it seems, piss and shit, being so familiar, are acceptable.

                                                                                                                                    As for me, I’d rather go to my favorite local pub and watch the bartender grill my half pound of ground beef to a juicy rare indulgence. If I can’t, then I’ll go see what they can do with the basics at the next bar I see. I’ll wash it down with deep amber, hop scented, nectar that was made with more that marketing for motive. I’ll help fund the three percent, even if sometimes my burger is medium-well or my beer has an aftertaste of daisies and wet hay.

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                      I agree, I am lucky enough to live near a pub with about 100 beers on tap from all over the world, big breweries and small. While I have yet to try them all, I have found that there are many beers that are simply not to my taste. There are also many different beer flavours that I like depending on my mood, and the food I'm eating with the beer.
                                                                                                                                      There is good and bad for every taste and in every industry.
                                                                                                                                      to each his own, and it's a matter of taste are two things that come to mind.
                                                                                                                                      keep tasting, and enjoy the trip.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jiminy

                                                                                                                                        The irony is that the palate of beer is vast, yet the vast majority of beer drinkers only sample a very narrow beer flavor. Its probably true that many of them have no interest in venturing beyond their limited beer exposure. But as sites like chowhound have demonstrated, a lot of folks want to stretch their palate and taste food and beverages that are a little beyond the ordinary. Otherwise we probably wouldnt be here.

                                                                                                                                    2. okay... a whole lot has been written so I'll keep it brief.
                                                                                                                                      too many microbreweries are making bad choices.... bad flavour choices in an effort to be visible in a saturated market.
                                                                                                                                      i.e. El Lapino a jalapeno beer that has a pepper inside the bottle... taste like jalapeno brine and nearly explodes in your face when you open it

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: chickenbruiser

                                                                                                                                        I've read reviews of that beer and it does sound awful. Certainly there are "craft" beers that are bad, but even that brewery does make good beer aside from that. The El Diablo barleywine is very nice.

                                                                                                                                        As an aside, I especially put the word "craft" in quotes above because based on the discussion above, Microbrasserie du Lièvre cannot be considered "craft" because it isn't in the American association since it is in Quebec. Though it could be in a Quebec association (each province has their own), which would surely have some sort of different definition of a craft brewery. I typically use the word as Chinon00 seems to define it. I don't care if Goose Island is in a trade association or not, their beer is great and I include them when I speak of "craft" beer.

                                                                                                                                      2. Professor,

                                                                                                                                        You knew you opened the flood gates right? Our purest, craft folks who like to bash mainstream breweries should take into account that Pabst took Silver at GABF in the American-Style Lager or Light Lager category; Silver and Bronze at GABF in the American-Style Specialty Lager or Cream Ale or Lager category. Further review of the GABF results in these area shows Miller Brewing Co. as a winner. I think that the "craft" brewers that complain about these mainstream beers should just compete. If they win, great...if not, then they should adjust and try again.

                                                                                                                                        I'm sure to be blasted for this but to put it into perspective, Ruby Tuesday boasts handcrafted 8-ounce beef burgers, which I doubt there is some Chuck behind the doors pounding patties to handcraft your meal. Same with some craft brewers...they aren't mainstream mega-breweries so they "must" be craft. Whatever. I think Pabst, Miller, AB, and the like could make some killer brews if they went back to their roots. They would probably win over a bigger costumer base as well. But the are as complacent as every other big corporation (although I expect royalties if this idea is moved into practice!).
                                                                                                                                        There are today's "craft" beers that are questionable, and downright lacking. Some only use "Craft" because of their small size of distribution. So the "craft" label does need scrutinizing as well as "main stream" needs a second look. And that's according to judges decisions in competitions. As for me, I prefer my own...

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: HeBrew

                                                                                                                                          If given a choice (your "own" not included) would you rather have access to all of what is considered "craft" or to all that is considered mainstream?
                                                                                                                                          Thanks

                                                                                                                                          1. re: HeBrew

                                                                                                                                            I don't know how familiar you are with BJCP guidelines, but if you read the descriptions of the styles that Pabst or Miller won for, I don't think you'd be making as much hay. American Light Lager is a decidedly insipid style of beer, so winning in that category doesn't really say that much. I also think that craft brewers ARE competing, only they are competing by continuing to eat away at the big 3's market share.

                                                                                                                                            Winning medals is nice, but it's certainly not a brewer's raison d'etre.

                                                                                                                                            And yes, you are sure to get blasted for comparing the commodity industrial burgers from Ruby Tuesday with craft beer. You obviously don't know any brewers who make this kind of beer, because if you did you'd realize how ridiculous you sound. There's very little money in brewing as a career - the people who do it do so out of love for what they do.

                                                                                                                                            Your comments sound like garden variety "man in the street" assumptions based on nothing more than the rigorous application of the middle ground fallacy.

                                                                                                                                          2. There may not be much in the way of really bad beer as there was in the 90's, but its still out there. Only a small % of craft beers made in the US, I would consider great or world class (and even a smaller % are world class every time they re made - consistency hasn't been craft beers strong point). I consider most craft beer as mediocre where breweries are just mailing it in so to speak with their flagships. And mediocre when it comes to one-off or yearly seasonals that garner top dollar due to non development of recipes. The DFH show Brewmasters is a example where a concept is thought of, some review of ingredients, then a test batch is made, then they tweak a little bit for their production batch. I consider that an under-developed recipe, and many of the high priced one-offs show it. They may have big flavor, but no finesse where you want to drink more than a sample, not to mention go out and buy more. Part of the problem imo is the jack-of-all trade brewers (that beer geeks seems to demand), where they try to brew too many different styles, have to maintain multiple yeast strains, and attempt to engage all lovers of craft beer instead of finding a niche and doing it better than anyone else. I loved the Sierra Nevada model where they did certain styles well, and pretty much stuck to those styles for the longest time with the same yeast - now I'm a bit nervous that quality will be harder to maintain with their renewed focus on a diverse range of styles, packaging, price points, and yeasts.

                                                                                                                                            There was point in the 00's where brewers were sought out for their quality, now they seem to be more sought out for their uniqueness, rarity, and extremeness. I want to see brewers get back to the quality race and engage repeat customers by offering unique, quality, drinkable beer again that makes you want to drink and buy more. When trends in craft beer start to slow and one-off specialty beers popularity wanes a bit, and markets become saturated in craft beer, they are going to have to do something to engage repeat sales which don't seem to be a big concern these days due to the rapidly increasing customer base.

                                                                                                                                            IMO, US craft brew is still in its adolescence, and the flavor stupid mantra that can be witnessed on craft beer-centric websites is telling of that.

                                                                                                                                            18 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                Isn't the model you are advocating the one that led to Budweiser in the first place? Greater consistency, more mass appeal, driving return business? Is there much difference? At a minimum, don't you wind up with SA?

                                                                                                                                                I'm not sure I understand what's wrong with just wanting to have one of a beer. Is it necessary that I keep coming back to it or can I just seek out the experience qua experience? As a consumer, I revel in the variety and experimentation.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                                  I think craft brewers have a lot to learn from big brewers like consistency and freshness - and yes, how to hold on to repeat business in order to grow and survive when craft beer growth rates start to slow. Will that make them brew beer like Bud ? No. Dumbing down flavor to appeal to a wider audience is not what I am after here.

                                                                                                                                                  Nothing wrong with just wanting to have one beer, then move on to the next. But if its not all that drinkable, are you going to purchase it again? Probably not.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                  You simply do not understand craft beer or the mentality of the craft beer drinker. Sierra nevada quality control could stand up to that of any mega brewer anywhere. I've never heard of anyone experiencing a bad beer from SN, and in norcal we drink a lot of SN. SN pale ale is their biggest seller but because they love experimenting with the variety of flavors possible making beer, they make a legendary barleywine, Bigfoot, very hoppy ipas like celebration and torpedo, and still very sessionable, less extreme delicious beers like kellerweiss and tumbler. American craft brewers like SN also revived the porter style which had all but disappeared. What you and other posters on this thread seem not to understand is that craft beer is made by and for people who want to explore the full palate of what beer can be. When i drink beer, i might start with a real lager, like trumer pils, move on to an ipa like celebration, have a stout like deschuttes abyss and maybe have a sour beer like a gueuze. The flavors are distinctively different, but they are all beer, none of them generic, all brewed with the highest standards from conscietious brewers. Dont worry about SN's yeasts, their quality is under control. Dont worry about their prices either, when you can buy a case of celebration for the price of a good bottle of wine. Instead of fretting, go out to a good beer bar with someone who knows beer and enjoy some brews.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                                                    I'm with you. I don't want to drink one well made beer, over and over and over. That just seems boring. Like finding a favourite restaurant and going there several times a week and ordering the same thing each time. Sure, it may taste great, but I love to try and experience new things. I like when breweries experiment and have different styles and one-offs. If I'm at home or a bar with a good selection, I never have the same beer (or style) twice in a row.

                                                                                                                                                    There is nothing wrong with buying a bomber of a beer once with no intention of having a 2nd one ever. Especially since I have to do much of my beer shopping accross the border in Buffalo, I'm not going to bring back a case of something I've had before when there are hundreds of beers I still haven't tried. I just pick up single bottles of a bunch of different beers from different breweries and styles.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kwjd

                                                                                                                                                      When the typical beer drinker goes to the store or bar for beer, they almost always head for their "brand" whether it coors lite miller lite bud lite mgd, whatever, even though theres very little difference. That customer does not want to be surprised, delighted or amazed, they want the same thing every time. Craft beer drinkers are just the opposite. Take them to a well stocked beer store or bar and they are like a kid in a candy store looking at new toys. Even when some of my favorites are available, i'm just as likely to try something different, especially if its recommended by a friend or a good publican or proprieter. Good beer bars will happily pour you a free taste. They want you to enjoy it because they know you'll be back. When's the last time you heard a Bud drinker say to a bartender, can I have a taste of coors lite? I'm not saying one beer drinker is better, they're just looking for different things.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chuckl

                                                                                                                                                        >Take them to a well stocked beer store or bar and they are like a kid in a candy store looking at new toys.

                                                                                                                                                        Eventually kids grow up and move on from being ethralled by candy and toys and other things become important as they mature. Thank you for making my point about craft beer still in its adolescence.

                                                                                                                                                        To me a great beer is worth drinking and buying again and again - anything less and I'm wasting my time and money.

                                                                                                                                                        This craft beer wave will not last forever, there will eventually be a slow down (or even a downturn), and that's when we will see if the one-off ticker model and jack of all trades type brewing is sustainable. Beer sales are easy right now as more and more consumers are coming to the party - making a quality beer (as long as it is mostly fault free - even then, not a requirement *cough* *cough*White Birch*cough*cough*) isn't as important as putting it front of a new audience. I don't think this is sustainable over the long haul and craft brewers are going to have to learn a thing or two from the big guys on how to keep loyal repeat customers to keep growing. Since craft beer has been based on the idea of quality/flavorful product over advertising, I don't see that as the answer. I see paying attention to detail and efficiencies, solid business plans that rely on organic growth from your home market on outward, consistent quality, sticking to what you do best, and doing it better than anyone else will be the way to recognition and survival.

                                                                                                                                                        I love the conclusions people are drawing from my viewpoint - as if I have I don't have much craft experience and just need to go out and have a wider range of beer to "fix" my perspective. I have been drinking beer since the mid-80's - the first microbrew I tasted was Newman's from a plastic "growler" in a box, I have been drinking craft beer almost exclusively since the mid-90's, and I have tried almost every style that is available. I
                                                                                                                                                        have traveled to Munich, Dusseldorf, Belgium, many cities in the US, and just about every brewpub in New England just to drink beer. I have had my fascinations with IPA, belgian stlyes, altbier, hefeweizen, german lagers, sour beers, smoked beers, bbl aged, imperial stouts and other high end US crafts. But eventually I learned what I prefer and what I wanted to get out of beer and the chase for more and more new beer and only drinking beer to analyze its complex flavor became hollow to me. When I was in my "discovery" phase of beer and wanted to try every beer ever made, I felt the same way as some of you that want more and more different beers and different flavors and wanted brewers to brew high abv, one-off's with bold flavor, because beer was just about flavor to me at that point - and the more flavor the better.

                                                                                                                                                        I have come full circle and know what I like and can understand the difference between a well crafted beer and mediocre beer - subjectively of course, but even using somewhat objective criteria. I understand and can recognize common brewing faults and half assed recipe ideas/development. To me beer worth buying again and again is about balance, interesting flavor (not just complexity or boldness, but something that can hold my interest beyond just one), drinkability, consistency of quality, and affordability. I don't see too much of these requirements being met by a whole lot of brewers whose beers are available in my area.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                          Very well written. You are far from the only one who feels this way. Hopefully, enough of us make our preferences known, and we'll end up getting the beers we want, instead of the chemistry experiments that too often end up in a beer bottle.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                            Well said, and yes, I've been around the block a few times myself. It's clear that to produce an endless stream of new, bigger beers is not sustainable, although it could be a small part of a mature craft-beer market, similar to fringe Scotch whiskies that attract a small, devoted share of whisky drinkers.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: kwjd

                                                                                                                                                          I'm curious what other products you always experiment with. Do you buy a different brand/type of mustard, ketchup, mayo, etc. when you shop jsut because you have never tried it before, or do you buy the brand that you know is going to meet your expectations and budget?Do you buy a different brand of sneakers at whim just because you want something different or do buy the brand that you already know fits your feet and meets your qaulity expectations? Do you always eat at a different restaurant and always try something that you haven't had before? Do you not crave to have something you had before because it was just that good?

                                                                                                                                                          To me, if I don't want to drink more than one of a certain beer, that means it probably wasn't all that great to begin with and I'm just searching for something else that satisfies. Are there any beers that you crave because you remember how great that beer was the last time you had it?

                                                                                                                                                          My point in all this is that this type of behavoir backs up my theory that most craft beers are mediocre, and if there were more truly great beer available, there would be no reason to wade through medocrity every time you drink. And none of this means that one should be limited to the same beer over and over again. The same dozen over a range of styles maybe. Just like I know which restuarant to go to and what to order when I get the craving for that particular food and that some random choice isn't going to be "that" meal that I am craving.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                            It's pretty likely that, depending on the criteria, craft beers are going to fall into a typical distribution, with a huge glut in the middle and a small number of really great and really bad ones. The distribution could be skewed, but I would still expect the vast majority to reside in the middle portion of the quality distribution.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for quoting me out of context without addressing the substance of my posts. No serious beerdrinker would consider anyof the beers i mentioned mediocre. Perhaps they are not to your taste, but they all have merit. The beer palate is very broad, ranging from pilsners to complex ales. Sometimes i want a simple pils with food or to drink on a hot day, at other times i would go for a belgian style wit, like allagash white. During the winter months, i find anchors our special ale to be very tasty on cold nights or midnight sun arctic rhino porter. I happen to think that ommegangs versions of classic belgian styles like hennepin and rare vos are excellent complements with food and that a youngs chocolate stout is perfect for dessert. The point is that we have more great beer available than at any time in history. In an era of experimentation, some brewers will go over the top. I'm not, as you incorrectly seem to deduce, advocating for every strange concoction that finds its way into a keg or bottle. I am, on the other hand, celebrating the diversity of lagers and ales newly available. You set up a straw man argument attributing to me random choices. I like a lot of beers, but many not so much. To find one's beer palate requires a certain amount of experimentation. Sometimes i want to try something familiar but at other times i'd take a flyer on something unusual. Maybe i will like it maybe not, but i'll try it anyway. Whats so wrong with that?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I buy different brands of food products all the time. I buy different cuts of meat from different butchers to experiment too. I also go to new restaurants frequently and if I go to places I've already been, I typically order something different. Obviously if I only go to a restaurant once or twice a year, I may get one dish again, but I typically like to try new things.

                                                                                                                                                                I don't care about buying different brands shoes because I spend so little time thinking about shoes and I don't care or have a passion for clothes. This is why I am on CH and BA, but not some type of fashion website. I care about food/drinks and it interests me. If I only wanted to buy a few types of beer over and over, I would never read about beer.

                                                                                                                                                                Because I buy a beer once to have, it doesn't mean it is mediocre. That is pretty bad logic. It could mean there are 1000 medicore beers, sure, but it could also mean there are 1000 really good beers too. I don't want to limit myself to a dozen beers. Once I pick my dozen, how do I know that some beer I hadn't tried wouldn't be better? I don't view it as wading through medocrity because I enjoy vast majority of what I drink. I'm wading through good beers, which is fun. I do drink beers more than once, typically locals on tap or if if I buy 6 packs, plus I have several bottles of some of the better beers that I was actually able to purchase in Ontario. I

                                                                                                                                                                If a brewery releases a one time expensive bomber and I enjoy it, why do I need to have it again to affirm that it is quality? I had a good experience with that beer, why is that not enough? Some local restaurants change their menu all the time too, I know I may have a dish that is amazing, yet I'll never have it again. It is the same thing to me.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kwjd

                                                                                                                                                                    The term "mediocre" is interesting. Definitions are along the lines of 'moderate to inferior' or 'neither good nor bad', and these depend on the criteria you use to measure, of course.

                                                                                                                                                                    Statistically, you'd expect most beers in a category to bunch in the middle of the quality range (again, depending on how you define quality).

                                                                                                                                                                    If I pick a random craft beer, I'm probably not going to be too excited on average, relative to other craft beers. Compared to all beers (including BMC, mainstream imports, etc), I'm going to think it's a bit better, on average.

                                                                                                                                                                    Based on statistics, I'm going to tend to agree with LStaff, but it depends heavily on the criteria used to judge a beer, and also on the universe of beers one refers to.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                                                                                                                                                      That's just begging the question then. If you define medicore to be a relative measure (so by definition, X% has to be mediocre), then yes, I suppose you will have X% be mediocre. I agree there is probably a huge group of craft beers that are not too different in quality, but I consider this group to be very tasty typically.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: kwjd

                                                                                                                                                                      Yep, that's pretty much what I've been saying too.

                                                                                                                                                                      By way of anecdote . . . On the day after Christmas I had an Allagash Interlude and loved it. I may have enjoyed it more than any other Belgian-style, craft beer I've ever tried. I did not, however, go back out and buy more. I have since then purchased and thoroughly enjoyed the Allagash Tripel and the Black. I look forward to trying as many of the Allagash beers as I can, even more than I look forward to having another Interlude. Experience qua experience.

                                                                                                                                                            2. I kinda agree with both sides of the argument here. Is that possible? I love variety and love trying new beers when I run across them but at the same time I have grown fatigued with extremeness for the sake of extremeness and find Im a lot less impressed by the appearance of new beers in the marketplace anymore and more and more I have sought out nice quality "basic" beers (some would call session perhaps) that I can fall back on. So in that way youll find in my beer fridge 6 or 8 bombers (and maybe a few single bottles) of interesting product and a bunch of cases of stuff like Prima Pils or a german dunkel or maybe a quality pale ale. And Ill occasionally break out one of the rare bottles and enjoy it but for the most part I drink the session stuff when I just want a beer. So Im not seeking one (variation) or the other (consistent quality), Im seeking both. Something somewhere between Extreme DIPA barrel-aged wacky-ingredient push the envelope crazy american brewing and rigid strict traditionalist lager-heavy german brewing. Do you know what I mean?

                                                                                                                                                              And I think we do have some breweries in this country that give us both. Victory. Bells. Maybe Sierra Nevada. Maybe Brooklyn? Some have offered New Belgium in this category. Maybe one or two others. These breweries dont necessarily focus on one extreme or the other but actually make top notch quality brew from basic lagers and session stuff to belgian styles to heavy duty IPAs and barelywines. This isnt to say theres anything at ALL wrong with (good) specialists (many of whom are on the short list of some of the best breweries in the world frankly) but I find myself more impressed with a brewery who can do it all and actually pull it off without any weaknesses. And I do think thats a relatively short list. Most craft breweries are either specialists or make a token effort at certain styles while emphasizing the ones that are making the most noise right now. But as much as I love variety the noise turns me off.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                                                                                There are breweries of all sizes putting out good, bad, and even ugly beer. Just like resteraunts some good ones can have bad days. Larger breweries are going to have more technology available (in general) and it can greatly aid in qc /qa. Sierra is making awesome beer, just on a different scale than your neighborhood pub!

                                                                                                                                                                Cheers

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                                                                                                                  One man's extreme is another man's La Folie.

                                                                                                                                                                  I could easily see someone poorly versed in beer history thinking sour beers are some kind of goofy experimental fad.

                                                                                                                                                                  I think it's a mistake to be inherently suspicious of any beer, unless you have reason for it (e.g. a brewery that can't make a decent pale probably won't do much better with something unusual).

                                                                                                                                                                  To borrow from Frank Zappa, without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. Sure, not every experiment works, but when they do you can wind up with something truly remarkable.

                                                                                                                                                                  Most of the craft beer angst I see these days just strikes me as reactionary. Unless you've eaten at El Bulli, don't dismiss molecular gastronomy, etc.