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Our take on the 'Independent Craft Beer' debate

By Andrew Burns, Head Brewer

If you're reading this blog, chances are you're a fan of craft beer. Chances are, you have some idea of what's going on in the beer industry. But I'd bet that even some of the more "tuned in" beer fans may have missed the back-and-forth controversy that has pitted "Big Beer" against The Brewer's Association recently. 

The Brewer's Association announced a new trade logo last week that they think will fix a problem in the marketplace. The problem the BA wants to solve is that it is becoming increasingly hard to know what is "craft beer." One by one, big name craft breweries have been bought by Big Beer. According the BA's definition, these breweries no longer qualify as "craft beer," due to their ownership. 

Unless you read beer industry news on a daily basis, it can be hard to know which breweries have been bought out, and which ones have remained independent. Ultimately, craft beer fans are going to drink whichever beer tastes best, but many like it when those beers come from small, independent craft breweries. Many craft beer fans choose to support independent craft breweries, and vote with their pocketbooks. 

As a response to the BA's press release, a video appeared online with representatives from some recently-purchased breweries talking about "the logo."

So what do I, a fledgling craft brewer, think? I'm torn.

I don't blame individual breweries for "selling out." Let's be honest, if someone wanted to buy your business for $1 billion, would you say no?

I want to support the Brewer's Association, but why does the BAn get to decide what is and isn't "craft." Don't get me wrong, I like the Brewer's Association. But why are they the gatekeepers? What if members vote to change the definition of 'craft?' (something which has happened a few times already).

I think I've got a solution: Drink Local.

You can't be confused about where your beer comes from if you buy it from the source. You don't have to read industry newsletters every day if instead you go walk up to your local brewer, who you know by name, and ask "what's on tap?" Beer drinkers are smart enough to find breweries worth supporting.

Independent local breweries invest in their own communities. They hire local workers, donate to local charities, and serve as a gathering space for all. A good small brewery is part of its town's identity.

Will Chapel Brewing ever use this logo? I don't know. Maybe. I don't think it's a bad thing. What I do know is that the logo won't be what makes Chapel Brewing great. Only two things can make a brewery succeed: good beer, and an even better community. 

So I encourage you to think about which breweries you support. Vote with your pocketbook. Support craft beer. Drink Local.

Andrew Burns
Head Brewer,
Chapel Brewing