The CBC has posted a story gleaned from interviews at last week’s Canadian Brewing Awards and Conference held in my old hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia that breaks the mold of “fourth line Jr B hockey player” level PR skill that we usually here out of these sort of revival tent meetings. The problem? Contract brewers:
Mistry says he tries to work with clients who already know something about brewing and, in many cases, they eventually move on to build their own brewery. The contract batches are just a chance to get a foothold in the marketplace without having to risk too much on capital investments up front. But he concedes that since craft beer has become so popular, some people contract brew as a hobby or vanity business venture. “There’s a lot of bankers out there that start their brands, so they have no scientific background,” said Mistry. “There’s one guy we deal with who [has] a marketing company.”
Mistry is Jamie Mistry, operations manager at Common Good Brewing Company in Scarborough, Ontario. It’s a pretty blunt statement in a pretty blunt report. Apparently all is not well in the Canadian brewing scene. Brian Titus, owner of Garrison Brewing in Nova Scotia appears to be quoted as saying there’s the worry that contract beers flood an “already saturated market, while also diluting the strength of the craft beer brand.” Hard to disagree with that sentiment. Sam Corbeil of Sawdust City Brewing Co. in Gravenhurst, Ont. said called the idea on contract brewing was originally “appalling” to him. Appalling!
Strong stuff. But what most caught my eye was the use of the phrase “virtual beer” to describe the phenomenon. It states contract brew is (i) referred to in the industry as “virtual beer”and (ii) that this is a concept mostly unknown to the public. A Google search for the term finds not a lot of back up for the assertion that it is a thing. There was a weird iPhone app around 2006 by the name. Plus it’s code for well earned praise amongst coders.
So, I am not sure it’s really a term that is really used in craft beer. Is there really that level of disgust or at least distrust? Not sure the phrase works, myself. If anything, it would be better to reference the practice as “virtual craft” if the goal is to make an oblique slag to the integrity involved. Unless the online knitters have already cornered that market.