Is That Really Craft Beer? 22 Surprising Corporate Brewers

Breweries That Aren't Really Craft Brewers

It matter who owns your beer, says Carol Stoudt, founder of Stoudt’s Brewing, “The passion is lost when the people running a brewery don’t have ownership, and then quality suffers.” A bigger concern, one echoed by brewers like Stoudt and Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione is that the larger companies also have the power to manipulate markets. The chief example, one cited by Calagione, is that corporate brewers will sell their craft-like ale well below the cost of true craft beer to push them off a bar tap line.

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The Brewers Association trade group defines a craft brewer as small (less than six million barrels), traditional, and independent — with less than 25 percent ownership by a non-craft brewer. The quarter ownership figure was set to ensure a larger brewer doesn’t have significant influence, says Paul Gatza, president of the Brewers Association. While most craft brewers are wholly acquired, several do cross the line of partial ownership. Widmer, Kona, and Redhook all share a 32-percent stake by Anheuser-Busch InBev. The three brands are actually one brewing company, the ironically named Craft Brew Alliance. And Lagunitas made headlines when it sold Heineken 50 percent control in the company. This phenomenon also isn’t limited to the U.S., with SABMiller purchasing Meantime Brewing to enter the U.K. craft beer scene. Not to be outdone, AB InBev recently picked up Cervejaria Colorado, a pioneer in Brazil’s craft beer culture.

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