Merry Christmas 10 Barrel! (Big Brewery vs Small Independent Brewer)

As most of my readers already know, 10 Barrel Brewing Company based out of Bend Oregon was acquired by Inbev Corporation. If you didn’t know that, you’ve been living under a rock, or a bridge, one of the two. Or perhaps both?
I heard a figure the other day as to what the agreed upon transaction was for, and it was some astronomical figure in the millions of green back. I don’t know the exact figure and I have a feeling the number I heard is just here-say, but you can imagine it was a lot as 10 Barrel has a pretty big standing in the craft beer world.
So that raises the question to be answered and debated. What defines craft beer? Is it the size? Does size really matter? Is it defined by how it’s crafted? By hand or by machine? When we brew by hand do we still not use machines?
I want my readers to chime in on these questions. For the record I will answer these questions staying true to my personal opinion. Keep in mind these are strictly my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of the Mail Tribune, BricktownE, or anyone else for that matter.
What defines craft beer? Well according to the Brewers Association for which I am a member, “it defines American craft brewers as “small, independent and traditional”: “small” is defined as an “annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less”; “independent” is defined as at least 75% owned or controlled by a craft brewer; and “traditional” is defined as brewing in which at least 50% of the beer’s volume consists of “traditional or innovative” ingredients. This definition includes older microbreweries, which traditionally produce small quantities of beer, as well as other breweries of various sizes and specialties.” Direct quote courtesy of the Brewer’s Association.
I don’t necessarily agree, and I will tell you why. If we look back at the history of beer going back to ancient beer makings in Sumaria, it becomes obvious that beer was brewed from grain, and it was consumed as a social aspect pertaining to life. The Sumerians were depicted as using reed straws to consume the beer out of communal vessels holding the fermented grain beverage. This becomes the first evidence of commercially brewed beer to be enjoyed by all the masses. By the definition provided from the Brewers Association this means the very first ever made beer was indeed craft. At what point in time did we suddenly draw the line and say, nope that beer is not crafted, it just appears suddenly in a bottle or a can, how, spontaneous beer ruption? No I think not, it is still made from grain and yeast and water and hops. I think that ALL beer, yes I said ALL beer is crafted. It does not just spontaneously appear! After all it takes crafters and builders and humans of all walks of life to create that beer that resides in your bottle, or can, or keg. Ultimately the alcohol is created by nature through the act of yeast, no matter the size of your vessel or brewing system.
Does quality play into whether or not we can call it craft? Isn’t quality subjective? If your looking at the category of a great American Lager, isn’t a Coors Banquet Beer perfectly to style for a great American Lager? So is this our definition of quality? Or do we define quality by our own personal preference?
So many questions and so many subjective answers. I do want to hear from our readers so please leave us a comment.
I am of the opinion that craft beer should be defined by the intent of the original crafter of that beer. If the beer is crafted by a small team of people that passionately believe in what they are brewing and how they are brewing it, and their primary focus and intent is on a high quality delicious product and the income takes a second to quality, then by God and country they are truly crafters of a product and can be called a craft brewery.
On the other hand if their primary interests are taking care of their stock holders and generating revenue to continue growing their empire, and their passion is for financial gain, then they are primarily a financial institution and a craft brewery second. This is strictly my opinion.
Given the circumstances surrounding 10 Barrel Brewing Company I give them cheers, and my hat is off to them. They recognized their shortcomings and their needs. They put those first in preservation of the great name and product they produce. As a final result they have salvaged a great company by joining forces with an empire that can keep them on track growing and succeeding. My sincere hope is that they as a team can retain that passion and desire to create craft beer of the utmost quality and continue to put their craft first and foremost.
So until next time may your glasses always be full and your taps never empty.

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  • About the Author

    Craig McPheeters

    Craig J. McPheeters is a freelance writer, founding brewer of Bricktowne Brewing Co. and a registered Beer Judge Certification Program beer-competition judge. He is actively authoring two publications set to be published by 2018. When he isn't ... Full Profile
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