Beer Drinkers’ Right to Know

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The word is getting out, and faux craft beers can’t hide anymore.

Graham Mackay, chief of SABMiller was quoted this week on CNNMoney as saying:

The consumer has gone back to saying, “Let’s get a bit of interest, let’s have a bit of difference. So, there’s been the growth of craft beer. But it’s also local, anti-marketing, anti-global, anti-big, and more focused on experience and knowing the brewer who produces it.”

The head of one of the global brewers acknowledges that beer drinkers wants to know and care who makes the beer. I hear regularly when one of my neighbors asks me as the beer guy what I think of Blue Moon or Shock Top. More often than not they are surprised when I inform them that the beer are brewed and brands owned by MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch, respectively. The follow-up conversation is often one of annoyance at feeling they have been misled into buying something they wouldn’t have, since the label makes it appear that the beer comes from a small, independent company.

Brewers Association members have shared with me common experiences. They are the beer gals and guys in their communities and are sought out for their knowledge. The media is also catching on, as we have seen multiple press reports in the last month revealing who is behind these faux craft beers. Denis Wilson of Fortune started the run of coverage with his article “Big Beer Dresses up in Craft Brewers’ Clothing.”

Mackay also states “For most beer, the proposition is emotional. It’s not functional…. So you’re trying to create new emotional associations in people’s minds. To do that, you’ve got to act like a small company.” That comment doesn’t sound very “authentic.” It sounds like the strategy is to pretend you are something you aren’t.  

In the U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) call for input on serving facts labeling a few years ago, the Brewers Association replied that the push to provide nutritional/serving facts info in a linear display on labels was fine by our membership. The beer drinker should be able to access the information that help them make an informed decision about what to buy. That spirit of open information also applies to allowing the beer drinker to know what company is behind the beer they drink so they can make their own informed decision.

Paul Gatza

December 13, 2012