Becoming an indie darling of the craft beer scene can be expensive. Like half a million dollars expensive. We don’t all have that kind of cash to throw around; we’re not all Scrooge McDoodlepants. That’s where contract brewers come in — brewers who make the actual beer for other companies that can’t afford a big enough brewing and distribution facility. Slate says contract brewers aren’t evil; they’re helping the little guy get a leg up. But it also means that California beer you love might be made in the Midwest:
For instance, 21st Amendment brews the beer served in its San Francisco brewpub on the premises, but they produce their canned line via an alternating proprietorship with Cold Springs Brewing in Minnesota …
Kona Brewing is based in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. As mainland demand for their beer increased, Kona entered in an alternating proprietorship relationship with Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., to produce kegged and bottled beer stateside. In 2010, Kona merged with Widmer and Redhook to become the Craft Brew Alliance.
As the president of Kona Brewing pointed out, brewing on the continental U.S. rather than crafting beer in Hawaii and shipping it across the Pacific is substantially better for the environment (like taking 319 cars off the road for a year). He doesn’t mention the slight misrepresentation of beer with a gecko and “Kona, Hawaii” on the label actually being made in Portland. As Stone Brewing founder Greg Koch told Slate:
As a consumer, I want the truth to be easy to understand and require no special knowledge … If [the beer] is not brewed at the company whose name is on the label, I’d want to know.
Exactly. Not everyone buys whichever beer is on sale at Safeway as long as it’s one step up from PBR (don’t judge me). Some people want their Hawaiian beer to actually BE MADE IN HAWAII. And some people just have a lot of bragging about their local-food lifestyle to live up to.
Your Local Beer Isn’t as Local as You Think, Slate.
Get Grist in your inbox