Bloomberg had a fun article this week about Blue Moon, the popular wheat beer that just happens to be a branch of the MillerCoors empire. After years of taking a beating from beer purists, who complain that Blue Moon is a stealthy intruder by the big boys into the craft beer market, the makers of the beer are barking back. Their argument boils down to Who Cares?
“We should be proud to make beers that grow and are popular — that’s the American way,” MillerCoors CEO Tom Long told Bloomberg. “Being small and unpopular, what’s the utility in that?”
A similar debate has swirled around craft brewers who have been bought in part or whole by mass market brewers. The most prominent example is Goose Island from Chicago, one of the pioneers of the craft beer boom, which sold itself to Anheuser-Busch in 2011. Beer discussion groups have been flooded ever since with drinkers wondering at the ethics of continuing to drink Goose Island products now that they are part of the world-dominating InBev company. Here’s a typical example: a thread on Beer Advocate from May wondering “Should [Beer Advocates] start staying away from Goose Island?”.
The Brewers Association, a craft brewing industry trade group, weighed in last year with a list of “real” craft brewers, dubbing everyone else, such as Blue Moon, “crafty.” As the Bloomberg article notes, the association has since backed off that in-your-face tone a bit, taking down the list, though it continues to make the “Craft vs. Crafty” distinction once in a while.
I tend to come down in the “Drink What You Like” camp. There is a beer for every palate and we should celebrate the fact that we have so many options. I can’t stand Coors Light, for example, but there are plenty of perfectly nice people who drink it – and probably can’t stand the hoppy stuff I prefer. Here’s a funny reflection on this very question from Draft magazine.
The Bloomberg article puts it well, stripping aside the beer philosophy and putting a key question to Freddy Bensch, founder of Atlanta-based Sweetwater Brewing, himself a pioneer of the craft movement: is Blue Moon is a good beer?
Even craft brewers such as Sweetwater’s Bensch acknowledge its merits. Blue Moon is a “great representation of the style,” he said. “They pretty much single-handedly revived the white beer category with that beer in the U.S.”
And Blue Moon is pretty good, actually. It’s not my favorite style, nor even my favorite example of the style, but it’s not bad.
So drink what you like and give other beer drinkers room to do the same.
– Sean Scully