The Craft Beer Protection Agency isn’t a real thing, but you’d think it deserved a TV show given how much the Brewers Association tweaks the definition of craft beer to suit their needs. The new definition of “craft beer” proves the previous one was off-point.
The old definition stated a brewery had to be small (less than 2 million barrels), independent (less than 25% owned by non-craft brewery), and traditional (produce an all malt flagship beer). That was updated three years ago to allow 6 million barrels because Boston Beer Company was about to surpass the 2 million barrel mark, and it would have been a huge loss for craft.
The definition was just updated again to include some of the oldest breweries in the country that have been pointlessly excluded because the powers that be wanted to make sure you knew macro brewers used adjuncts. The latest new change allows for beer “whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation…” Absurd oxymoron aside, this means that the three oldest family owned breweries in America, among others, are no longer liars.
Did you think that Yuengling you were drinking was craft? Nope. Sure it’s the oldest (1829) operating brewery in the U.S. and is still owned by a Yuengling after 185 years, but until this week it wasn’t a craft beer. Do you feel dirty now? All this time they’ve been overtly adding corn in accordance with their traditional recipe to lighten the body of their lager, which according to some was the first sign of the apocalypse.
A long time ago (1860) in the far away land of Minnesota, August Schell opened a brewery that is now the 2nd oldest family owned brewery in the country. Back then two-row barley didn’t grow locally and it was too expensive to ship from Germany, so he had to use six-row which has a whole lot more protein. To cut the protein down he added corn and created a damn fine beer. Too bad that meant it wasn’t craft until now.
Narragansett was made famous when Captain Sam Quint chugged a beer and crushed the can aboard the SS Whatever The Hell from Jaws, but they’ve been brewing beer since 1890. As you can probably start to sense a theme here, breweries from the 19th century tended to include corn, and Narragansett was no exception. They shut down for a few years in the 90s, but they’ve been brewing again since 2005 and hopefully this new moniker will get shark lovers back on board.
Straub Brewery is one of the country’s oldies breweries (1831), is still owned by the founding family, and is the smallest pre-prohibition brewery in operation. That all amounted to jack shit as far as craft beer was concerned though. They used adjuncts which clearly meant they were the devil.
Minhas Craft Brewery
Even though the name implied it, until this week the Minhas Craft Brewery (est. 1845) was anything but. Why? Adjuncts obviously. Their beer does frequently taste like fancy Budweiser, but they’re officially craft now so you’re welcome to drink it guilt-free.
Cover image: cropped from Vince Giantesano.