I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I can tell you there is a serious threat to our craft beer. This threat is created when a brewer decides to drive profits at the expense of quality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a capitalist. I just don’t think brewers need to deceive their loyal customers to increase their margins.
Years ago I used to really enjoy Oberon from Bell’s Brewery. It had a beautiful orange color and a relatively high abv. It was seasonal and its annual release signaled that spring was finally here. I really liked it. In fact it was the only wheat beer that I really enjoyed (sorry wheat fans). I bought it by the case at Costco. My empty cardboard cases were stacked 4’ high by the end of summer.
A couple of years passed and I found myself suffering another miserable Michigan winter. Oberon was released and I raced to Costco to buy my cherished Oberon. I ceremoniously removed the cap from a bottle that had been carefully retrieved from that proud blue and yellow cardboard container. I brought the sweet nectar to my lips. Something was wrong. The beer tasted weak. The color was light and I could almost detect the smell of corn! Corn in my Oberon! I suffered through that case and didn’t buy any more until the next year when I tried that year’s batch. It was worse than the year before! The brewery had enjoyed a significant expansion and when they increased sales volume, they cheapened the recipe. Bells Brewing had become just another Big (M)ass brewer.
Bell’s is not alone in the pursuit to deceive. I remember when Sam Adams beer was rich and powerful stuff. They grew and ruined their beer too. Now it’s only a degree better than a Bud (ouch). Don’t blame contract brewing for this one, blame InBev.
As I see craft beer take off (at the expense of the big guys) I hope dearly that my favs stick to their principles and keep making real beer. New Belgium, Founders – hey I’m rooting for you but I’ll drop you like a bad Oberon if cheapen it up.
Seems Business Week agrees with my world view on this one
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