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I wonder how many people walking through the beer aisles at Trader Joe’s realize that when they pick up that six-pack of Lagunitas, the little craft brewer from just outside Petaluma, California, they’re picking up a Heineken product? Do you think someone who grabs a Wicked Weed’s West Coast IPA realizes they just bought an Anheuser-Busch brand?

I, too, was unaware of this fact until recently when I was checking out an interview we did with Beverage Master magazine.

The article, Do You Judge a Beer by Its Label? was really cool because the image at the beginning of the article was a beer bottle with a craft beer label that we had created.

Well, as I was going through Beverage Master’s website, I came across an article by Robin Dohrn-Simpson entitled, What Will You Do When the Big Boys Come Knocking? The article really surprised me.

I understand the concept of mergers and acquisitions. A big company comes along and buys a smaller company. The truth is this happens fairly often in the printing and labeling industry. But there was something about this article that made me feel a little unsettled.

What is “Craft Beer?”

When I think of craft brewers I think of an artist who’s working to create the perfect brew. I imagine someone who chooses select hops and barley then combines them with flavors like pumpkin, orange, apricot or tropical fruits.

I appreciate a brewer who understands how apples aged on oak with tart cherries, orange peel and bourbon barrel staves can create a unique and flavorful cider. It’s using the right processes and combining these flavors that create a beverage that is appreciated by craft beer aficionados.

These are the images I have in my head when I think of craft beer brewers.

I imagine that creating a quality beer is like creating a quality label for that beer. When designing a label we start with a unique substrate or facestock. Of course, you can start with a simple paper, but what about all the other materials that are available? Think about Birch or Cherry Wood veneer, which has just enough hand-feel that you know it’s real wood but is smooth enough to be printed upon. Or what about metalized facestocks such as Bright Silver or Dull Gold? And that’s just the beginning.

Once you have a great facestock you build on that by adding textures with embossing, foils, textured inks, varnishes and numerous other embellishing techniques. It’s by combining all of these materials and processes that you create a label that stands out on the shelf; a label that people take notice of.

How do you define “Craft?”

When I think of craft, whether labels or beer, I don’t think of a giant corporation with a board of directors that dictates how something is to be created. I believe that craft is created by dedicated individuals who come to work every day to make the best product they can. Maybe I feel this way because I work at a second generation, family-owned company. Our name says it all, Adcraft Labels.

At Adcraft we craftdesign and build your brand.

  • Everything we create is custom
  • There are no stock labels
  • We don’t pull some standard label stock off the shelf
  • Each label is a special recipe
  • We create small batch, short run, unique labels

Please understand, I’m not saying that a big company can’t manage numerous brands. I’m sure a corporation can make sure that quality standards are kept in place after an acquisition. And they have the ability to take a great product and market it to the masses.

What I am saying is this; I like and want to support small craft brewers and their products. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating a quality brew. And, I’m not alone. A recent consumer survey from Nielsen shows that craft beer consumers choose craft beer because of the unique flavors that are offered, the high-quality ingredients and the fact that the beer is not mass-produced.

Don’t call us craft — call us independent

In an effort to help the craft beer lovers identify the difference between mass-produced and small craft beer producers the Brewers Association has created the Independent Craft Brewer Seal. Nearly 2,000 independent craft brewers have already adopted the seal.

According to the Brewers Association website, “The independent craft brewer seal is a handy tool for enthusiasts to easily differentiate beer from craft brewers and beer produced by other, non-craft companies.”

This is a great idea. The Independent Craft Brewers Seal printed on the label of a craft beer bottle is the best way to help consumers know they are enjoying a unique and special beer created by a small group of true artisans.

So, the next time you’re walking down the beer aisle look for the seal and know that the craft beer you’re picking up is truly created by an artist, an expert, an independent craft brewer.