How to tell when big brewers play it craft-y

NEWS ITEM: A California beer drinker has filed a class-action lawsuit against MillerCoors for deceptive advertising in marketing its Blue Moon label as a craft beer.

This is possibly the stupidest beer-related lawsuit since a California lawyer went after Anheuser-Busch a couple of years ago for watering down its beer. A judge eventually tossed the case because everyone knows Bud is supposed to taste that way.

I have no doubt the Blue Moon lawsuit is headed for the same fate.

Yes, it’s true that Blue Moon’s advertising says that it’s “artfully crafted” by, I’m guessing, elves. In fact, it is brewed in the same factory that makes Keystone Light.

But “craft beer” is a term with no legal definition. It’s not like “certified” beef or “organic” soy milk.

Paying an extra 2 or 3 bucks for Blue Moon, then, is the equivalent of overpaying for a Lexus. Everyone knows it’s a Toyota. And if you don’t, well, consider that $600-a-month lease the price you pay for a life spent in willful ignorance.

Which is not to say that I am unsympathetic to your plight. With corporate takeovers and the growth of specialty beer labels, it’s getting harder to identify what is and what is not “craft” beer.

It wasn’t so long ago, for example, that I wrote that we’d never see the day that a corporate brewer would spend the time and money necessary to make a niche, handcrafted product like barrel-aged sour ale. But now that Anheuser-Busch Inbev owns Goose Island and built the biggest barrel program in America, you’d be excused for confusing the multinational corporation with some dude’s Kickstarter campaign.

So, in the spirit of pointing you in the right direction, here’s some updated advice on how to tell a phony craft brewer from a real one:

  • Phony craft brewers invest in barley futures.
  • Real craft brewers bum malt from their local home-brew shop.

  • Phony craft brewers lose their jobs if they’re caught drinking a competitor’s beer.
  • Real craft brewers make collaboration beers with their competitors.

  • Phony craft brewers have an in-house staff of trademark attorneys to protect their brands.
  • Real craft brewers act surprised and offended when they open cease-and-desist letters from attorneys telling them that their clever, new brand name is already trademarked.

  • ¬†Phony craft brewers spend millions on naming rights, endorsements, advertising and packaging for massive marketing blitzes.
  • Real craft brewers get massively blitzed.

  • Phony craft brewers talk about “consistency” and “balance. “
  • Real craft brewers talk about “hops” and “more hops.”

  • Phony craft brewers put their logos on NASCAR hoods.
  • Real craft brewers put decals on fixed-gear bikes.

  • Phony craft brewers pretend that they never made disasters like Zima or Miller Chill or Budweiser BE.
  • Real craft brewers re-release defunct brands as retro “favorites,” even when – as is happening now – it’s the best-forgotten Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic.

  • Phony craft brewers make light beer.
  • Real craft brewers call it “session beer.”

  • Phony craft brewers hire beautiful, skinny models to pour beer at festivals.
  • Real craft brewers don’t need to hire ’em. They volunteer.

  • Phony craft brewers use strong-arm tactics to control tap handles in bars.
  • Real craft brewers . . . uh, wait a minute. Some of them do that, too, according to an ongoing investigation in Boston.

  • Phony craft brewers have stock options.
  • Real craft brewers have tattoos.

  • ¬†Phony craft brewers make great commercials.
  • Real craft brewers make great beer.

Looking for more guidance on the difference between real craft beer and the fake stuff? Join me tonight for a live taping of “Bar Talk,” with Glen Macnow and Joe Sixpack, at Dawson Street Pub (100 Dawson St., at Cresson, in Manayunk).

It’s free and starts at 6:30 p.m. Tonight’s guest is Sarah Baicker, of TV’s “Breakfast on Broad. “


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