Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Craft" Beer

My last post, the article published by The Chicago Tribune about Goose Island closing their brewpub and the general happenings surrounding Half Acre Beer Co , got me thinking. The Brewers Association, and subsequently the Chicago Tribune, knocked Goose Island for not being a “Craft,” beer company because more than 25% of their company is owned by a “Non-Craft,” beer company, referring to Widmer Brothers / Anhueser-Busch. To me, this is crazy. defines the word craft as an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, esp. manual skill. I think I personally think about craft along the same lines. What I don’t get is why anyone would base a classification of craft based on who owns how much of something. I would think the classification would directly relate to how they go about making what it is they make. Thinking about it based on ownership would allow a company that was 100% independently owned and operated to defrost some sort of beer popsicle into a bottle, put a cap on it and they’d be a “craft,” beer company just the same as if they were going to great lengths to foster thoughtful practices mindful of actual craftsmenship.

We chose to begin our company with the help of another brewing company in Black River Falls, WI. We develop our own recipes then brew them with the help of their staff. This was much less expensive and a way for us to build some awareness, productions numbers and know-how before plunging face first into building a brewery. To most people, they couldn’t care less. They’re excited that we offer more beer to Chicago and that we’re out there giving it a shot and making things work in the way that makes sense to us. However, there is a small group of folks that this bothers. To them, we’re not as true to the ‘craft’ and our process is somehow tainted. We’re up-front about our process and why we chose this route. Our beer is brewed in small batches, by hand with the best ingredients mother nature has to offer, but because our staff is also employed by another brewing co, we’re offending an unwritten rule.

All in all, regardless of who is defining whom as what, people have to make decisions that respect the best interests of the people and products involved. I’m sure John Hall isn’t losing any sleep over other people’s definition of Goose Island’s process, but how can it not be a thorn in his side when his company has been making beer by hand for 20 years.

Me on the other hand, obviously I’m a little prickly, and more than once I’ve refrained from laying into someone with an explanation on how hard it is to get something like this off the ground. But then I remember that we have a fun company that has positive intentions for the brewing community, respect the integrity of the brewing process and appreciate the people nice enough to buy our beer.

Brewery tours available soon....

Half Acre Beer Co
Chicago, IL

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