Is Generic Craft Beer Actually Craft Beer?

I’m a big, big fan of most generic items, whether it’s supermarket-brand pretzels or Target’s knock-off of my favorite cream. But I never gave generic alcohol a second thought until I read about Kirkland’s new generic “craft beer.” (To be fair, this reminded me that one of my college roommates bought oversized Costco-brand handles of tequila at the beginning of the semester, but I digress.)

My gut reaction to the budget line’s new brew: isn’t this the opposite of craft beer? To me, craft beer is all about independent microbreweries, though there’s now an overwhelming selection available nearly anywhere you go. Tom Ward points out that larger breweries were able to break into the craft brewing arena by creating a crafty beer under a separate label – he cites MillerCoors’ Blue Moon.

The real issue here is determining whether a craft beer is, in fact, “craft.” The Brewers Association in the United States, a group of independent brewers, has plans to issue an independent craft brewer seal for any brewery that is independently owned, and produces fewer than six million barrels a year.

Ward reports that he found a case of the Kirkland “Craft Brewed Ales” at his local Costco for $19.99. The case is a variety pack of an Indian pale ale, a session IPA, an American pale ale and a German-style Kolsch. These beers are made for the superstore by Bricks & Barley Brewing Co. in Wisconsin. Ward deems the beers as “worth a try,” especially considering the affordability. His review cites the session IPA as the best, and the IPA as the worst.

The generic beer train doesn’t stop there – The Washington Post reported on Walmart’s own “craft beer.” Thanks to consumer demand, the national discount store began producing beer under the name “Trouble Brewing.” The beers were released in six-packs and 12-can variety packs last year, and are found in 3,000 stores across 45 states. Offerings include Red Flag Amber Ale, Cat’s Away IPA, ‘Round Midnight Belgian White and After Party Pale Ale. Thanks to the cutesy names and hipster can designs, an innocent shopper would never know that these are Walmart brand beers.

Pretty misleading, huh? We’re not the only ones who think so – last February, someone filed a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging that by inventing a fictitious brewery, the store wanted to deceive drinkers into thinking they were buying a legitimate craft beer. Paste reports that the “Trouble Brewing” beers are not made by Trouble Brewing but are made by Genesee Brewing Co., a company that’s owned by North American Breweries. Either way, generic craft beer has piqued our interest.

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