August Schell Brewing to BA in response to “Craft vs. Crafty”: “Shame on you”

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[Credit: SchellsBrewery.com]

(New Ulm, MN) – BeerPulse received this note from August Schell Brewing’s Jace Marti on Friday afternoon in response to The Brewers’ Association’s “Craft vs. Crafty” statement.

We here at the August Schell Brewing Company would like to take this time to respond to the recent media offensive that the Brewers Association has launched against ‘faux-craft’ or ‘crafty’ brewers which can be found here.

We whole-heartedly believe in breweries being transparent, and the consumers right to know who is producing their beer, and where it is being made. Where we take issue, is their definition of what constitutes a craft brewer, and the fact that we have been in a sense, “black listed.” In 2005, the Association of Brewers, and the Brewers’ Association of America merged to form the Brewers Association to “promote and protect small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.” With the merger, they decided to create a set of guidelines of who is and isn’t a craft brewer in an attempt to essentially kick out the big guys. Their definition stated that a craft brewer is “small, independent, and traditional.” Three things that the big guys supposedly weren’t. The problem with those guidelines is that it ended up excluding some of their largest members, so they changed their definition and made exceptions repeatedly to make sure they were included in their group. We apparently were not important enough, and were thus no longer considered a “craft brewery,” because according to their definition, we’re not “traditional.” As a 152-year-old brewery, and the second oldest family-owned brewery in America, stating that we are not “traditional” is insulting.

Their definition of what makes a traditional brewer, and thus a ‘craft brewer,’ comes down to the use of adjuncts. Big brewers often use adjuncts in excess amounts to cut down on brewing costs, and to lighten their beers- the opposite of what the craft beer movement is all about. While this is true for them, it is also a very shortsighted view of brewing in America, and most definitely not the case for in our brewery. When August Schell emigrated from Germany and founded this brewery in 1860, his only option to brew was to use was available to him, as it was impossible to ship large quantities of raw ingredients from Europe at that time. The high quality, two-row malting barley he could use back home, wasn’t native to North America. Instead, he had to use the locally grown, but much higher protein, 6-row barley to brew his beer. When he decided that he wanted to produce a high quality, clear and stable, golden lager, he had to cut down that protein content somehow. In order to accomplish this, he used a small portion of another locally grown ingredient he called “mais” as is hand written in our old brewing logs, better known as corn. He didn’t use corn to cheapen or lighten his beer. He did it because it was the only way to brew a high quality lager beer in America at that point. By the time high quality two-row malting barley was finally cultivated and available to use, our consumers had already been drinking our high quality beers for many years. We continued to brew our beer using this small portion of corn because that was the way we traditionally brewed it.

The question we have for the Brewers Association is why are we being punished for brewing with a locally grown ingredient, which started out of necessity, and has continued out of tradition? And why is it only bad to use adjuncts if you are brewing an American Lager, yet perfectly acceptable to use them in basically any Belgian style of beer, IPA’s or double IPA’s? The use of adjuncts in those styles is to lighten the beer, period. Labeling us as strictly an “adjunct brewer” as you so kindly have in your list of ‘Domestic, Non-Craft Brewers,’ is false. What you fail to give us credit for is that we also make a dozen traditional German-style beers that are all-malt and have never contained adjuncts. Yes, we brew our American Lager beers with a small portion of corn. This is the traditional way we’ve always brewed them, and the way we will continue to brew them. Have you looked at the price of corn lately? For us, it’s more expensive than malt. If we were so concerned about producing the cheapest beer possible, our American Lagers would be all malt! We brew them this way because that is the way we always have done it, not because it is cheaper. We put the same amount of pride and effort into producing our American Lagers as we do our line up of all-malt “specialty” beers, since we can’t dare call them “craft.” I know for a fact the same holds true for our friends at the Yuengling and Straub breweries. For you to say that the three oldest, family-owned breweries in America are “not traditional” is downright disrespectful, rude and quite frankly, embarrassing. If you want to keep us on your list of shame, then so be it. That is your decision. We will continue to pour our heart and soul into every drop of beer that we make in this small, independent, and traditional brewery. Just like every other craft brewery out there does, and just like we have done for over a century and a half. Shame on you.

Jace Marti
6th Generation
August Schell Brewing Company

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39 thoughts on “August Schell Brewing to BA in response to “Craft vs. Crafty”: “Shame on you”

  1. Awesome. This Brewers’ Association bias that all American pale lagers are automatically bad is infuriating. It always drives me nuts to see Papazian rail against adjuncts in commercial beers when his homebrew books are full of recipes with adjunct ingredients.

  2. Spot on response and very interesting to read about their tradition of using corn. The BA press release was one of their, if not the, worst.

  3. Vinny uses sugar in his Pliney, right? I’ve heard many craft brewers extol upon the virtues of using adjuncts. Sounds like August Schell is getting a raw deal.

  4. Its articles like Craft vs Crafty that make craft beer drinkers look like a bunch of snobby beer geeks. who think their to good to drink anything that’s not 90 IBU’s or oak aged. Charlie P get over your self

  5. Interesting. I wonder what part of the ‘traditional’ definition ASchell didn’t fit. Was it the absence of an all-malt flagship beer?

    There seems to be a confusion of definitions and motives. It’s a shame that this dispute enters into the beer world.

  6. Very well said. Anyone who gets fussy about corn in brewing in general is not aware of a large section of American brewing history – it’s been there from the beginning, long before mega-brewers started using it in penny-pinching ways, and it’s perfectly possible to make a good beer with it. I’d much rather see things simplified – is your beer good? Great! Do you try to block your competitors from the marketplace? Don’t do that, just focus on your product. Done.

  7. Both sides are correct. The problem with BA is they constructed an abstract box thus putting a bunch of brewers inside and a few outside their definition. The spirit of the definition is spot on the letter of it obviously is a bit false. That’s the danger with categories. Maybe that’s what BA wanted, a little dangerous discussion about the industry as whole. Any way, New Glarus Brewing proudly adds corn to their flagship Spotted Cow and New Glarus certainly qualifies as craft.

  8. Excellent reply.
    I was surprised and dissappointed to see the likes of Schell and Yuengling included on that ridiculous list. Terrible move by the BA in the first place, and downright insulting to 2 pillars of American brewing tradition.

  9. I still agree that it makes sense to use the traditional component (i.e. use of adjuncts or percentage of adjunct in various flagship beers) as a measuring stick for a brewery/beer’s legitimacy in the larger U.S. craft beer landscape. When describing the difference between a beer made by a craft brewery vs. Bud Light, I find ingredient usage to be a compelling example.

    It’s not, however, as black-and-white, cut-and-dry as that, as this well-constructed response from August Schell has pointed out. I think the BA has the best intentions of the craft beer community in mind. That said, this press release and graphic were not executed correctly and don’t serve what I’m sure was the original goal: to educate consumers as to WHAT craft beer is.

  10. The Pub Dialogues (@PubDialogues) – Can’t be that they don’t have an all-malt flagship. If that was the case, New Glarus would be disqualified from their definition of craft brewer since Spotted Cow is made with corn and makes up more than 50% of their total sales.

  11. Jefferson sought out Coppinger’s book on brewing precisely because it talking about malting corn for beer. I guess that Founding Father wasn’t quite the traditionalist Papazian and co were trying to claim!

  12. I was surprised to see that the BA did not take offense to some of the contract or “gypsy” beer companies, doing the same thing. Some of these companies work very hard to make it seam as if they are brewers, doing the craft thing. In CA, the businesses that hold type 17 licenses are actually wholesalers, not even permitted to brew. The BA does have them as members however…….

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  14. I have family that have been working for the Marti’s at Schells for years. They are the bench marks that all brewers should aspire to (Schells). They promote,educate,and produce a high quaility beer(s). To say that they are not traditional is poppy cock ! Seems to me they have not made it to New Ulm Minnesota. Idiots probably couldn’t find it on a map cause of all the clouds around there ears!

  15. Im going to buy some Schells beer as soon as stores open today, Schells brews lagers to a level of quality that very few craft brewers can achieve.

  16. ” In 2005, the Association of Brewers, and the Brewers’ Association of America merged to form the Brewers Association”

    For some reason this reminded me of the “People’s Front of Judea” and “Judean People’s Front”, circa Life of Brian.

    Anyway — good editorial.

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  20. Heh, I thought people had moved beyond BA and what they thought. BA is a joke at best. The attitude of the members is elitist and junk. When I want a decent beer rating, I drink the damn beer myself. My hope is that some day BA will go away. I really hope that happens.

  21. “downright disrespectful, rude and quite frankly, embarrassing”…exactly right. BA has become a black mark on the craft brewing community.

  22. A Minority Report eg supporting BA for different reasons

    I don’t know what Schell’s production #’s are…

    but Yuengling @ 2.5 Million Bbls certainly isn’t a #craftbeer operation (adjuncts or no) it’s a brewery #beer, ok? ESPECIALLY if you factor in the consideration for the ‘spirit’ of craft brewing (People Planet Profit [in that order]) – and – furthermore re production ‘gates’ > the FED ‘bump’ in production cap for FED’s ‘gate’ for ‘craft’ up to 6 Million Bbls should ‘disqualify’ BBC too.

    Leaving adjuncts out; IMHO, if you’re making MILLIONS Bbls/yr of beer in a factory(ies) & are a slave to quarterly earnings / SEC reporting / shareholders; YOUR ‘craft’ is maximizing EPS/making money, NOT hand crafting quality #craftbeer for LOCAL consumption #justsaying

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  24. I been saying that for years and I’ll say it again, “beer snobs need to go away.”
    The BA is shamefully full of beer snobs that know a little about beer but are clueless to its true history and purpose. Its purpose, to enlighten those of you that are snobs, is to produce a product that pleases the consumer base. Being that millions of people like beer of all styles the “crafty” brewers and snob brewers alike are fulfilling that purpose. What’s the beef?

    “Leaving adjuncts out; IMHO, if you’re making MILLIONS Bbls/yr of beer in a factory(ies) & are a slave to quarterly earnings / SEC reporting / shareholders; YOUR ‘craft’ is maximizing EPS/making money, NOT hand crafting quality #craftbeer for LOCAL consumption #justsaying”

    This describes all brewers, the difference is scale, Period. Whether the shareholder is a single person, a family/friends, or investors profit is a must or the business dies. Get a clue people. Mom and Pop burger stand is in fact direct competition with McDonalds.

    Home-brewers and beer snobs, there is far more to brewing beer then the 225 page book you have on doing-it-yourself.

    Jace Marti, I fine and worthy reply indeed.

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  26. @Carl Brewer
    “…clueless to its true history and purpose. Its purpose, to enlighten those of you that are snobs, is to produce a product that pleases the consumer base.”

    I’ll have to go back to the history book on this one but I think you just created your own version of history. “produce a product that pleases the consumer base.”

    Beer was part of the daily diet of Egyptian Pharaohs over 5,000 years ago. Then, it was made from baked barley bread, and was also used in religious practices.

    The role of beer in Egyptian society was far greater than just a drink. Often, beer was prescribed to treat various illnesses. Beer was considered to be the most proper gift to give to Egyptian Pharaohs, and it was also offered as a sacrifice to the gods.

    It was not produced as a product to “please the consumer base” That was what the multinational conglomerates made it into. A money making machine, capitalizing on cheap ingredients and mass production.

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  28. The “traditional” line in the craft brewer definition simply has to go. Size is the only thing that we can objectively separate breweries on, and even that will have arbitrary lines drawn.

    We proudly use corn (sugar) to lighten the malt flavors of our IPAs and win plenty of medals doing it, so you can take that for what it’s worth.

  29. I have never had a Schell beer, but agree 100% with their rebuttal! In my opinion, the BA has gone too far with this and doing so with little or no thought to the consequences of their actions.

    I have not had a BMC (Bud/Miller/Coors) beer (including Shock Top & Blue Moon) in over 15 years. That said, their blanket statement of “adjuncts” is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! Most of Dogfish Head’s beers are brewed with adjuncts. Kuhnhenn Brewing Company took a Gold Medal from the BA with their IPA called DRIPA. The “DR” stands for “Double Rice.” Last time I looked, “rice” is still considered an adjunct! Yet neither Dogfish Head nor Kuhnhenns made this list.

    While I’m on the soap box here, doesn’t the BA cash the checks that B/M/C sends their way for the beers they enter in the GABF??? I find this approach totally hypercritical! If you’re truly upset, why take their money? Oh that’s right . . . everyone has their price!

    Lastly, regarding “large” breweries, their original definition of “large” just took a HUGE step as their good friend, Jim Koch (and his Sam Adams brewery) just surpassed that mark. So . . . let’s move the lines for our friends, but everyone else . . . “go take a hike!”

    Get real BA! Papazian: You and your crew should be embarrassed over this one! I would like to see an apology given to those you “black listed” but just like the politics we’re all used to in America, we know that will never happen!

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