An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.
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.
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.
There has been quite a fervor lately about Big Beer (Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller) getting into the craft beer game. These two giants have taken notice of the craft beer movement, part of a larger movement to buy local and support independent businesses over corporations. To put it simply, these two giants are (allegedly) afraid and greedy. At the end of this blog post there are links to a scant few of the myriad articles and blogs discussing this very topic.
The most recent example is Anheuser-Busch InBev purchasing the remaining stake in Goose Island Brewery of Chicago. By the above definition, Goose Island is no longer a craft brewery.
Do you enjoy Shock Top?
Nope not a craft beer. It's brewed, distributed, and marketed by ABInBev.
Does a Blue Moon fill your glass from time to time?
Nope, not a craft beer. It's brewed, distributed, and marketed byBlue Moon Bre...ha! It's ultimately a SABMiller product.
Big Beer is doing everything it can to make sure you, John Q. Public, have a difficult time distinguishing between genuine craft beer and psuedo-craft beer. In acts of (alleged) manipulation, trickery 'craftiness', and obfuscation Big Beer is copying genuine craft beer packaging, mantras, and explanations.
See if you can find a beer called Third Shift in your grocer next visit. Looks 'crafty', doesn't it? It's a SABMiller concoction.
There is an argument that "a good beer is a good beer." Some have even gone so far as to claim a high rating on RateBeer.com or Beer Advocate means these brews exempt from scrutiny. These appeals to authority do not refute claims such as these:
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is not a craft beer.
If you're concerned about supporting local economies, being independent, and demonstrating your purchasing power (at least in the beer world), there are a few things you can do to make sure your next pint is indeed a craft beer.
1. Be informed - Do some research before you purchase that pint, sixer, or keg. Sites and apps like Untappd and RateBeer.com will tell you immediately who the brewed the beer.
2. Support the venues that carry craft beer - Seek out the places that carry craft beer. Support them. It's the main way to let them know craft beer is wanted, and needed, in your area.