Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jimmy Crack Corn and I Don't Care

It sure is a good thing the Brewer's Association has back peddled on their use of adjuncts in "craft" beer. The BA has a laundry list of amended items in their "Strategic Changes" press release, sent out yesterday, including a more benevolent view of "innovative" adjuncts. According to the release:
The revised definition recognizes that adjunct brewing is quite literally traditional, as brewers have long brewed with what has been available to them.
"The revisions to the craft brewer definition reflect the evolution in thinking regarding the elements of the definition. As the industry continues to rapidly advance, so must the framework that upholds and reflects it," said Gatza*
Fish** concurred: "The revised definition provides room for the innovative capabilities of craft brewers to develop new beer styles and be creative within existing beer styles." He added: "Taken as a whole, these changes are about looking forward, about the BA of the future, making the association stronger and keeping staff focused on the vital work they do for all of us in the craft brewing community."
So, why the about face? Is it really about developing new beer styles and being creative within existing beer styles—or is there something else going on? Like, perhaps that a 2.5 million barrel brewery—that regularly uses adjuncts—has recently joined the Association? 

Maybe I'm being cynical. 

It might actually be about the ingredients. Like the release says, "brewers have long brewed with what has been available to them." I'm sure there was a pig bollocks shortage at some point in U.S history and brewers were forced to make the switch to bull testicles. The same goes with moon rock beer. Everybody knows Martian iron dust is far better than plain, old moon dust—but you make do with what's available. Technically those falvori aren't "fermentable" adjuncts, but hey, the door's open, right? Everybody in the pool—Corn, honey, berries, transmission fluid, silly putty, Campuchin Monkey dander. It's all good.

And if brewers can double the selling price of their beer afterwards, everybody wins!

Uh, waaait a minute...

*Paul Gatza – Brewer's Association director.

**Gary Fish – chair of the BA board of directors and president of Deshutes Brewery.


  1. Notch Brewing likes to think that their beer, the Mule (which uses organic heritage corn) is part of the reason: http://www.notchbrewing.com/2013/07/30/corn-myths-and-a-mule/

    Mitch Steele of Stone (who used to be a brewer at Budweiser) has argued that the rice that Bud uses actually costs more than malted barley, contrary to the popular belief that they use it as a cheap replacement for barley. They do it for the (lack of) flavor that it creates. We don't need no stinkin' Reinheitsgebot. They are having this same debate in the UK about what is craft beer. If it weren't for Prohibition, the US might have more breweries like Fullers, which might not be considered craft beer in the UK, but I would choose it over many different craft beers there. Yuengling may not be the greatest beer, but I think we should give them some credit just for staying in business this long and making something other Yuengling Lime Light. This might actually have some positive effect on them. I think the same story is playing out at Narragansett, which has stepped up their game in the last few years.

  2. My issue isn't with Yuengling, or August Schell, or Narrangansett, at all. I think some really great beers can be made with adjuncts. My point is, BA seems to preach one thing—and preach loudly, I might add—and then turns around, and changes the rules when it suits them.

  3. This is why I ignore BA and CAMRA. Let good brewers make good beer and celebrate. Aim all the hate at the wine people, not your fellow beer people.

    1. Awesome - "Aim all the hate at the wine people"!!!

  4. It's not about hate. It's an observation.

    1. I wasn't talking about you, Craig! I meant BA and CAMRA. They are set up in opposition to the big adjunct lager brewers. It is easier for them to describe what they are against rather than to positively and creatively define what they are for. That is all I meant.

      As for hating the wine people, that's just my personal view on what we should do.

    2. Whew! As long as you agree with me all time Brian, we'll be fine. Besides, I'm going to see you on Saturday and otherwise it might be awkward. By the way feel free to hate the wine folk as you like. They are out of my target demographic.

  5. I'm not against adjuncts, but using adjuncts—be it something simple, like corn or steel belted radials—to make a beer taste like what the brewer wants it to taste like, doesn't necessarily make it a good beer.

  6. Basically from what I can see the BA removed the part of its rule that required that the majority of its beers be malt-based - I think before a beer could be mostly malt, i.e., if the adjunct was used to enhance flavour and not to reduce it as in the typical case where 40% or more of the grist is corn or rice, that was okay. But in other words the focus in practical terms was all-malt, a mantra for decades for craft brewing.

    I have no issues with the change, however I feel the best beers - including strong beers - are made from all-malt. English law required all-malt before 1845 and you can say all you want about tax considerations but I think it was palate-driven too, they didn't want to go down the slippery slope to, well, 40%+ adjunct beer.

    The Pure Beer Law in Germany, which still exists in modified form, is the same thing. These were and are valid demarcations in the world of fine palate, but I guess BA is going with the flow to keep relevant; you can't blame them and it is (yes) a flip flop surely. But better to swallow the bitter pill now than to stay out on a limb on this issue - and I guess the day may come when the stuff about independence goes too. What will BA stand for then? I don't know, perhaps by then we won't need a BA or maybe it will redefine itself in a way to keep attracting members. That is its concern as a trade association.

    BA has members which do not qualify as craft brewers, e.g. I understand AB InBev is a member presumably because it wants to support the cause of brewing in general. So Yuengling could have joined regardless although perhaps being able to call itself a craft brewer made the difference for them, hard to say (from the outside).

    Good spot Craig on this, it is not just a blip, it is an important change IMO.