What Should be the Standard for Craft Breweries?

Posted by Eric Maza at weblogs.baltimoresun.com

A couple of weeks ago, when I reported that Flying Dog had sold its Wild Goose brand to something that referred itself as a “nano-brewery,” an incredulous reader snapped back on twitter, “WTF is a nano-brewery?” (Hi @ryan97ou!)

Who can blame him for the confusion. In the beer world, terms like nano-breweries and microbreweries and craft breweries are often interchangeable, so that’s it’s difficult to know exactly how macro some of these places really are.

According to the Brewers Association, the trade group that represents mostly small breweries, the standard for a craft brewery was the maximum production of 2 million barrels.

But as of December, the new standard is 6 million barrels, which means that Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams, can continue to be considered a craft brewer. This is, in part, a case of boosterism by the craft beer industry, says trade writer Andy Crouch.

By expanding the standard, the Boston Beer Company’s sales can still be included in the annual count of craft brewers’ total sales.

But Crouch says, though the new definition is a welcome step, it’s not as important as technique or taste. He writes the new definition continues to exclude breweries like Goose Island Brewing that have corporate ties (to Anheuser-Busch InBev, in this case), even though it is indisputably as innovative as any artisinal, or entirely independent microbrewery.

“I can honestly say that I have visited few breweries with such a dedicated passion for producing great, flavorful beers and to pushing the edge of brewing. The brewery simply puts many other regional breweries, with all of their independent, craft brewer puffery, to shame,” he writes of Goose Island.

It seems that despite the new definition, the jury is still out on what constitutes craft. What do you think should be important, innovation, quantity, or independence?

In related news, the Washington Post reports six microbreweries are coming to Washington D.C. in 2011, including Port City Brewing Co. in Alexandria, which has a 30-barrel brew house and 60- and 90-barrel fermenters.

No mention there of Logan Shaw Brewing Companys status. (via)

If I remember correctly, Washington City Paper made a similar prediction back in October.