The can was opened by Alison, in a comment on the first post, when she provided her own (via BeerAdvocate) definition of craft beer: “Beer brewed in limited quantities often using traditional methods”. She goes on to ask Jeff if he equates craft beer with microbrewed beer, but that seems exactly what the BA definition is doing!
To determine exactly where the line is, several people raised the question of Blue Moon. Jeff says it could be credibly judged against other white ales, but I think that’s a stretch. Maybe if the flight is only Mothership Wit. But I would agree that it qualifies as craft beer.
Regarding Fat Tire, Jeff says, “I find it so substandard, and so perniciously commercial, that I have a hard time thinking of it as craft beer. To me, it’s the economic engine that allows New Belgium to brew the more interesting, niche beers in its lineup.” This is a tough area to get into. Most (successful) microbreweries brew a compromise beer. Think of most amber ales or American wheat beers. Some places (Goose Island, New Belgium, etc.) brew two or three. It is these compromise beers that sell well that are the “economic engine” for the brewery but does that mean they are no longer craft beer? What about it isn’t craft? Is it simply the fact that they sell alot of it? Don’t get too white on me now.
Fundamentally I think it is dangerous to try to exclude certain products from your definition of craft beer simply because you don’t like them. This is especially true in a case like Fat Tire where most of the uninitiated would consider it craft beer. It is simply not productive. It reminds me of the efforts of the Bush administration to redefine all sorts of words.
I would agree, Bud American Ale is a craft beer. I would also say that Fat Tire and Blue Moon are both craft beer. I would argue that PBR is not necessarily so easily written off either, but that is a discussion for a later date.
One last thing. I would echo Ryan Hirscht’s comment that it is good to see them finally not trying to hide their affiliation with this beer. Respectable actions at long last. Take note SABMillerCoors, as you move into your new offices.