Press-Republican

FYI...

October 31, 2013

Craft beer, or crafty pretenders?

(Continued)

As growth of the U.S. craft segment continues at a double-digit clip, MillerCoors wants a piece of the action. Besides the Vintage beers, Blue Moon premiered two other lines this fall. The Expressionist Collection consists of Belgian styles with a twist. Short Straw Farmhouse Red Ale, for instance, combines the spiciness of a saison with the sour fruit of a Belgian-style red ale in the Rodenbach mold.

The Graffiti Collection is a catch-all category that encompasses such free-style brands as Pine in the Neck, an IPA flavored with juniper berries, and Tongue Thai-ed, an ale spiced with lemon grass and basil.

Of course, MillerCoors continues to churn out oceanic quantities of Blue Moon Belgian White, which Villa touts as the best-selling craft brand in the nation. If you consider it "craft." And therein hangs a controversy.

The Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, which represents most of the 2,500-plus breweries operating in the United States, defines a craft brewery as "small, traditional, and independent." The association has employed the word "crafty" to describe corporate aliases such as Blue Moon Brewing and Anheuser-Busch's Shock Top Brewing, which (the group contends) can make consumers think those beers come from small, locally owned bricks-and-mortar breweries.

The BA's board of directors last month released a statement calling for transparency in labeling, encouraging all brewers "to disclose to consumers their ownership of beer brands, including the name of the parent brewery that owns the brand, on the brand's labeling to enable consumers to make informed buying choices."

Representatives of the large brewers contend there's no intent to deceive. So why call it Blue Moon Belgian White and not Coors Belgian White? Villa uses the analogy of auto companies setting up separate divisions for their luxury vehicles: "Nowhere in the advertising for Lexus do they mention the parent company, Toyota. But you don't hear people say, don't buy a Lexus, it's really a product of Toyota."

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