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Newly US Independent - Craft Beer Seal

 Recently there are a number of acquisitions of craft breweries by the commercial giants, such as Lagunitas was acquired by Heineken, the legendary Goose Island was acquired by AB InBev (owner of Budweiser). Other examples including the hype wild Ale brewery Wicked Weed and even Boxing Cat in China. The trend will go on, and it becomes difficult for customers to distinguish craft beers made between commercial and independent breweries.

The Brewers Association (BA) is implementing a new “Independent Craft Beer Seal”, in which certified independent breweries can stamp it on their cans or bottles so that customers could recognize easily.

Soon after the news released, AB InBev with their 6 craft breweries, expressed its reluctance to the issue with an online video, claiming that The Brewers Association (BA) was failed to provide customers with information about beer quality and simply separate beer as “commercial” or “independent” will destroy the healthy growth of the entire beer market. These arguments have provoked a debate among beer geeks and brewers.

In my opinion, beer quality is very important to the growth of craft beer culture. With the huge investment on equipment and resources, commercial breweries should have the advantage in quality control. However, in order to maximize the profits, they always attempt to cut the expense, such as on logistics and storage cost. These actions may turn the beer bad when reaching the end users. Thus, both commercial and independent breweries should keep an eye on every step to maintain the beer quality.

近年多家大型商業啤酒廠正在不斷收購精釀啤酒廠,例如被 Heineken 喜力收購的 Lagunitas、被酒業大王 AB InBev(Budweiser 主腦)收購的傳奇美國精釀酒廠 Goose Island、受一眾酸啤酒愛好者愛戴的 Wicked Weed ,及中國內地新興精釀酒廠 Boxing Cat 等,而這個風潮將會持續下去,一般顧客越來越難分辨誰是大廠出品、誰是獨立的精釀啤酒廠。

有見及此,美國釀酒協會 「The Brewers Association (BA)」正預備推出一個「獨立酒廠印章(Independent Craftbeer Seal)」,獨立酒廠可以把印章刻於啤酒罐或啤酒瓶上,好讓顧客容易分辦。

在消息廣傳後,AB InBev 聯合旗下六家酒廠,在網上以短片分享對獨立酒廠印章的想法。他們認為美國釀酒協會的做法,並未能為顧客提供啤酒質素等資料,標籤「大廠出品」或「獨立酒廠」只會損害整體啤酒市場的發展。不過,這些論點在啤酒飲家及啤酒廠商之間出現不少爭論。

筆者認同「強調品質」才是最有效推動精釀啤酒文化的方法,而大廠擁有大量優質配備及資源,應該更容易去監控品質。如習慣在提高利潤而犧牲物流及冷凍存放,就算多優秀的啤酒經過粗糙的運輸及存放下,到顧客手中經已出現大量的不良風味,這是啤酒大廠及獨立酒廠均需要注意的地方。