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.
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.
August Schell Brewing Company