Big Brands Blur Craft Beer Lines

The craft beer industry has been growing at a fantastic rate in Ontario, across the country, and around the world. But, even with that growth major beer brands still find a way to push themselves into every sales opportunity.

norfolk-county-fair-craft-brew-loungeThis weekend the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show will attract thousands of attendants, and sell thousands of pints of beer and cider. And they’ll sell it in their Craft Brew Lounge. It’s a name that presents itself as a home for craft beers and ciders. Small batch operations that aren’t owned by large corporations making millions of dollars all over the world. However, that’s not the case.

The Molson Coors Brewing Company, one of the largest in North America, will be represented with one cider and five beers on the menu. Four of the beverages are easy to spot as large market brews: Molson Canadian Cider, Coors Light, Molson Canadian, and Coors Banquet.

When reading the menus though there are two more brews that are sneakier. In the Domestic Brews section, Creemore Springs Premium Lager and Belgian Blue Moon look like they could actually be craft beers. They sound trendier, they’re lesser known, and they aren’t branded as large corporation commodities. But, both brands are owned by Molson Coors, adding to the big brand presence in what has been named to be a small brand space.

After looking at the menu in preparation for his visit to the fair, Blade’s Chief Creative Officer, Wayne S Roberts pointed out the clear “blurring of lines in beer classification and how the big guys will muscle into even the smallest market to push legitimate craft brewers around.”.

ramblin-road-brewery-farm-logoOne of the true craft breweries represented in the Craft Brew Lounge is Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm. A Blade client, the brewery farm has both their IPA Unleashed and Pure Bred brews on the menu, ready to thrill the tastebuds of Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show drinkers.

Ramblin’ Road owner John Picard understands the realities of the situation saying, “No big surprise. It’s business. Our beer appeals to a person who wants a premium brew and a unique experience. they can only get at our Brewery Farm. The big guys have factories, not farms.”.

There are two ways to look at this situation.
1) The Norfolk Craft Brew Lounge is poorly named.
2) The big beer brands have no problem pushing into craft brewery spaces.

In truth, it’s probably some of both. The Craft Beer Lounge is a great name, but it promises craft beer, not Coors Light and Canadian. And with the Ontario grocery store beer sales as an example, we know the major beer brands are happy to take every opportunity they can to sell their suds. Regardless of the opportunities they may be taking away from smaller brands.

Ontario is home to some amazing craft beer, Ramblin’ Road included, and those brands deserve every opportunity they have to be exposed to beer drinkers. So yes, it’s great that John Picard can present IPA Unleashed and Pure Bred at the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show. But it would be much more satisfying to see the big boys back off.



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