Craft Beer Becomes What It Once Loathed

Five different beers lined next to each other
Craft Beer

As the craft beer industry grows and learns, it gets less uncomfortable with certain aspects of the beer business that it once loathed.

Brewers who’ve spent a few years building the skill and capacity to do so are now producing pilsner, which was once solely the domain of larger or pre-Prohibition brewers. Every so often, they might pay for a tap handle at a local bar or restaurant. More recently, however, they’ve been establishing sub-brands for beers that may not fit the character of their brewery’s core business.

After Keith Villa and Coors Brewing Co. started the Blue Moon brand back in 1995, craft beer critics spent much of the next two decades labeling Blue Moon Brewing Co. as a duplicitous attempt at fooling drinkers. When Anheuser-Busch produced Elk Mountain, Zeigenbock and Red Wolf beers in the mid-’90s — and Anheuser-Busch InBev NV BUD, +2.14% continued to push Shock Top, Redbridge and Wild Blue under other brewing titles — craft beer fans raised similar complaints.

Yet, just last year, Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, Calif., turned its Arrogant Bastard strong ale brand into Arrogant Bastard Brewing. It’s still under Stone’s umbrella, but it distances a strong ale and Who You Callin’ Wussie pilsner from the rest of Stone’s beer portfolio. Similarly, Firestone Walker Brewing Co. of Paso Robles, Calif., moved its 805 blonde ale to its own website and gave it a look distinct from other Firestone Walker beers. Is this sneaky or deceitful, or does it just acknowledge that a blonde ale sold in just four states might not fit so neatly within a more hop-heavy, experimental lineup?

 

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Article Credits: Jason Notte, MarketWatch