The world of beers is vast and diverse, with countless styles, flavors, and brands to choose from. One question that often arises is whether or not a particular beer can be considered a “craft beer.” In this article, we will dive deep into the debate surrounding Blue Moon and its status as a craft beer. We will explore the factors that define craft brewing, the origins of Blue Moon, and how it fares against these criteria.
Understanding craft beer
To determine if Blue Moon can be considered a craft beer, we must first understand what sets a craft beer apart from others. The Brewers Association, an American trade organization dedicated to promoting independent breweries, has established certain standards that a brewery must meet to be classified as a “craft brewer.” These criteria include:
- Small: Annual production of six million barrels of beer or less.
- Independent: Less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by an entity that is itself not a craft brewer.
- Traditional: A majority of the brewery's total volume must come from beers that are brewed using traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and fermentation methods.
Meeting these three elements serves as a baseline for evaluating if a brand like Blue Moon can be called a true craft beer.
A brief history of Blue Moon
Before diving into the analysis of Blue Moon's credentials as a craft beer, let's take a look at its origins. Blue Moon Brewing Company was founded in 1995 by Keith Villa, a brewmaster who had completed his studies in brewing science in Belgium. The company's flagship beer, Blue Moon Belgian White, was inspired by the witbier style popular in Belgium and is brewed with Valencia orange peel, coriander, oats, and wheat.
Blue Moon's unique flavor profile quickly gained popularity among consumers, which led to an acquisition by Coors Brewing Company (now part of Molson Coors Beverage Company) in 1995. This acquisition provided Blue Moon with a broader distribution network and resources for growth, but it also raised questions about whether it could still be considered a craft brewery due to its ties to a large brewing entity.
Analyzing Blue Moon against craft beer criteria
Now that we have established the context of Blue Moon's origins, let's examine how it measures up against the aforementioned craft beer criteria.
Molson Coors, Blue Moon's parent company, produces far more than six million barrels of beer annually, putting them well beyond the limits set by the Brewers Association for a “small” brewery. However, it is important to note that the sheer size of Molson Coors' output does not automatically disqualify Blue Moon from being classified as a craft beer, as the focus should be on the production volume of Blue Moon specifically rather than its parent company as a whole.
The independence criterion poses a significant challenge for Blue Moon's classification as a craft beer. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Molson Coors, one of the world's largest brewing companies, Blue Moon does not meet the requirement of less than 25% ownership or control by a non-craft brewer.
Traditional brewing methods
In terms of traditional brewing methods, Blue Moon scores high marks. Its flagship beer, Blue Moon Belgian White, is a faithful adaptation of the Belgian witbier style, using a traditional combination of ingredients and fermentation methods. The company has also showcased its creativity by experimenting with various seasonal and limited-edition releases that further highlight their commitment to brewing innovation.
Final verdict: Is Blue Moon a craft beer?
In conclusion, while Blue Moon demonstrates a strong adherence to traditional brewing methods and showcases considerable creativity in its offerings, it fails to meet the independence criterion set forth by the Brewers Association due to its ownership by Molson Coors. As a result, Blue Moon cannot be classified as a true craft beer according to these standards.
That being said, it is essential for beer enthusiasts to remember that the label of “craft beer” should not solely determine the worth of a beer. Blue Moon's continued popularity and unique flavor profile speak to its appeal among consumers, regardless of whether it falls under the craft beer umbrella. Ultimately, personal taste and enjoyment should take precedence over arbitrary classifications when selecting your next brew.