America’s craft brewers should be “gravely concerned” about efforts to downplay the importance of brewery independence to beer drinkers, the Craft Brewers Conference heard in Washington DC on Tuesday.
In his opening address, Brewers Association chairman Rob Tod said America’s small and independent brewers are now making nearly 25 million barrels of beer a year.
“Anyone running one of the industrialised brewers knows that it’s not too efficient to brew 25 million barrels of beer at 5000-plus breweries,” said Tod, founder of Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine.
“For starters it takes a lot of people to do it that way. We are inefficient. We should embrace our inefficiency, it means jobs.
“We should be proud that we are now employing nearly 130,000 people in thousands of communities all around the country.”
Tod said craft brewers have a responsibility to raise awareness about these positive contributions they are making.
“We should be gravely concerned when we hear themes like, independent does not matter to the beer drinker,” he said.
“Or themes like, the beer lover should only care about the beer, not who makes the beer.
“These are misleading themes and I’ve been hearing them rear their head more and more lately.
“We have a responsibility to tell our story. If we don’t tell it, not only will someone else tell it for us, it will probably not be the same story or the same version of our story that our pioneers, or you sitting in the audience would tell,” he told brewers.
“Tell beer lovers, tell the press and tell people in your communities the difference that small and independent is making.
“Remind them of the jobs we are creating, the wonderful gathering places we’ve built, the innovation that never would have happened in our absence and the wealth of additional contributions that we are making,” said Tod.
Russian River gonged
Also this morning, the Brewers Association Recognition Award was given to Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, who founded Russian River Brewing Company in 1997.
“If you would have told us back then, that we would be receiving this award a couple of decades later, we would have just shook our head in disbelief,” said Vinnie Cilurzo, accepting the award.
The award is presented each year to an individual or company whose inspiration, enthusiasm and support have contributed to the brewpub and microbrewery movement.
The conference continues.