This is the editors note from the Best In Beer 2017 issue of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®.
Recently, the Brewers Association (the trade group that represents the interests of craft brewers in the United States, for those who aren’t familiar) rolled out a new symbol for member brewers that fall under their definition of “craft” to use to differentiate themselves from non-craft breweries owned by AB-InBev, MolsonCoors, and friends.
It’s a move I applaud and support wholeheartedly, even if the aesthete in me wishes the logo design were a bit more compelling. You can’t always get what you want, but at least we’ve got what we need.
That symbol got me thinking—where’s the corollary for independent craft beer media? Do we need one? How do craft beer enthusiasts and even professional brewers themselves know when that website or blogger is a trustworthy and independent source of information, or part of a network paid for by big beer to further their own interests?
This is not a theoretical discussion, it’s a very real one. Sites like AB-InBev’s “The Beer Necessities” blog appear to be perfectly useful and serviceable media sources, covering a wide range of topics, and even showcasing actual craft breweries in an effort to build a connection to the real craft community. October, a “joint venture” between AB-InBev’s venture capital arm ZX Ventures and Condé Nast’s Pitchfork Media Group is similar in its scope covering the entire world of beer.
I don’t pretend to know what their end game is, but at some point you have to ask yourself whether it’s a good thing for one of the largest beer conglomerates in the world to also control significant media channels. The 16-year-old punk rocker in me bristles at the idea, and the 40-something media veteran in me isn’t as excited by the idea, either.
But back to the question of independence—if you think it’s a good thing that independent beer has independent media, then you have to support it, or it will go away. We’ve just seen one of our contemporaries, Draft Magazine, announce that they’re ceasing publishing the print magazine. There may be a few dominoes in the media market yet to fall (don’t worry, we’re sticking around). But one thing above all else is true—if independent craft breweries don’t support independent craft beer media, then all that will ultimately remain are those craft beer media sources funded by big beer.
That’s not a future we want to see, so we hope you’ll get out there and support those independent craft breweries that support us, subscribe to the magazine, and practice the same level of discernment when you consume media or share social stories on the web as you do when you’re buying beer on the shelf from your favorite retailer.
We hope you enjoy this issue. We made it for you.
Cofounder & Editorial Director
Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®