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January 5, 2011

What should be the standard for craft breweries?

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 Company's status. (via)

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

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Posted by Erik Maza at 12:52 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Brewing News


i just find this uber-naming pretty funny. it's not unlike all these new music genre names they come up with to try and set themselves apart from the masses.

my question is how long until nu-post-punk breweries start popping up? oh wait, that was soooo 2004

Personally, i prefer the witch house brews.

seems to me that something like goose island should be considered a craft brewery, but not a microbrewery. ie: they make innovative, flavorful, smaller batch beers, but are part of a macro conglomerate.

When did this become leftovers?

Craft breweries should be anyone relatively smaller. There definitely has to be a separation between the small breweries compared to Annuhauser and such.

maybe they should focus more on finding a way to let people know that certain beers that are marketed to be "microbrews" actually aren't, like Blue Moon (coors/miller), leinenkugel (miller), there are plenty.

leinenkugel is another one of those weird examples though... it was a small independent brewery for most of it's existence, and was only recently purchased by miller. they still brew the beer in chippewa falls as far as i know.

@ ryan

Good beer is good beer. Blue Moon may be a Coors product, but it's a drinkable beer and just as good as a handful of "craft beers" of the same style. Not that I'm a fan of supporting big, industrial beers instead of quality local breweries, but if a beer tastes good to folks, they'll continue buy it... especially if the company making it has millions of $$ to put it on TV every 15 minutes. Wait, that also applies to awful industrial beer too!


fair enough (even though i think blue moon is WAY too sweet for the style). so that being said, why even having naming rules at all?

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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