Drinks

Craft Beer Week toast reveals a brewing battle

May 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM ET

Craft Beer Week
Jim Galligan

American Craft Beer Week is upon us, and there are hundreds of events going on across the country in celebration of America’s independent craft brewers.

One event added to this year’s festivities is a coast-to-coast toast, which will have thousands of craft beer lovers simultaneously raising their pints from Asheville to San Diego on Thursday, May 16 at 8 p.m. E.T.

The Brewers Association, the trade group that created American Craft Beer Week and whose mission it is to promote the interests craft brewers, has authored a toast to celebrate this synchronized sipping.

While its verses seem cheery on the surface, a closer look at its text reveals just how aggressive the Brewers Association has become in defending its members against craft beer lookalike brands owned by big brewing corporations like AB-InBev and SABMiller.

Let’s inspect the verses to see how this mission to keep “big beer” from infiltrating the craft beer marketplace has been woven into the text:

Come all ye craft lovers, let’s hold up our beers,

And let us roar forth with a thunderous cheer.

As we pledge our support for the real craft beer thing,

And the flavor that true independence shall bring.

The toast starts out friendly enough, with the first two lines focusing on beers and cheer. But before long the prose is peppered with buzzwords like “real craft beer” and “true independence.”

While it’s saying good things about craft brewers, this stanza also seems to be taking shots at the big boys and their crafty-looking beers like Blue Moon and Shock Top (which aren’t “real” craft beer according to industry definitions), as well as former craft brewers like Goose Island and Leinenkugels, which are now wholly owned by large corporations and therefore no longer enjoy “true independence.”

We demand honest beer to fill up our glasses,

Not snobbery or status or a fad that soon passes.

We’re seekers of quality in lagers and ales,

Compared to true craft beer, all other drinks fail.

Looking at the words “honest beer” in the first line, this stanza would seem to be aimed at the “status” beer brands brewed by the big multinational brewers. The Brewers Association has stated that it wants more honesty in the marketplace about brands that appear to be craft beer, but are actually brewed by big corporations that have the resources and know-how to market their wares as trendy status symbols.

We hail the bold brewers who have built paradise,

Saving beer from dilution by corn or by rice.

To truth! To transparency! Valuable charms,

Repaid with our loyalty, with wide open arms.

Things get even more pointed here, as “bold brewers” are credited with saving beer from being watered down with rice and corn, two ingredients used in adjunct lagers like Budweiser to control the consistency of the brew and save on grain costs. This is a clear instance of the Brewers Association calling out the multinational conglomerates.

The passage also mentions “truth” and “transparency,” which the Brewers Association has rallied for in the past, believing that people should know who made the beer in their hand - an independent craft brewer, or a large corporate entity.

May our passion for quality never be stopped,

In the land of the free and the brave and the hopped.

We salute with this glorious beer in our hand,

Let the true taste of freedom clink out ‘cross this land.

Things lighten up in the final bit of the toast, with only a gentle jab at the big boys, proclaiming that the “true taste of freedom” should clink out across the land.

Craft beer! Craft beer! Craft beer!

I like the finish, as these are three of my favorite things.

American Craft Beer Week is a time to celebrate a thriving artisanal industry, and some might wonder if the tone of this toast adds a political element to the mix that sullies the fun.

Chances are most craft beer drinkers will happily recite the verses, as a 2012 poll conducted by Examiner.com showed that 95 percent of respondents preferred to support their local craft brewers. This is simply giving voice to that sentiment.

Agree or disagree with the nature of the toast, I just want to know one thing - when did raising a beer in celebration get so complicated?

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