What is Big Beer?

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Craft beer accounts for a very small portion of shelf space in traditional grocery stores.

Big Beer is beer brands that are owned by corporations like A-B InBev, MillerCoors, Molson Coors, Heineken, Constellation Brands, and more. However, to make matters complicated, these corporations can own a portion of a brewery — up to 25% — and that brewery will not be considered Big Beer.

Craft beer, of course, is in contrast to Big Beer. According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewer has to be:

  • Small: 6 million barrels or less per year
  • Independent: Less than 25% is owned or controlled by an “alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”
  • Traditional: The beer “derives [its flavor] from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”; flavored malt beverages do not apply

Often, a craft brewery makes considerably less beer than this definition allows. In North Carolina, state law mandates that craft breweries must make fewer than 25,000 barrels per year in order to self-distribute; above that cut-off and the brewery must find a third-party distributor in order to sell its beer in grocery stores, taprooms, and bottle shops. There is a large opposition to this arbitrary cut-off because most craft breweries want the freedom to self-distribute. Breweries signed up to this opposition have banded together under the Craft Freedom movement.

Why should you buy craft beer and avoid Big Beer?

  • You put money into the pockets of people who live in your community, rather than corporate schmucks somewhere out there. In other words, you support your local economy.
  • Big Beer corporations engage in anticompetitive practices against craft brewers.
  • Craft breweries often give back to their communities through fundraisers and drives for charities and regional or local disasters.
  • You will continue to get high-quality beer. Big Beer has a history of changing recipes — and downgrading quality — to make beer for less money.
  • People keep their jobs. When breweries get bought out by Big Beer, the staff often changes, which means local people (including the original owners/brewers) get put out of jobs.

To find out what beers are still considered craft, download the Craft Check app.

Take a look at the list below for beers that are considered Big Beer. Many of these corporations also own popular wine and spirits brands, which are not listed here. If you notice an error or a brand missing, please contact me.

Anheuser-Busch (A-B) InBev:

  • Beck’s
  • Best Damn Brewing Company (root beer, etc.)
  • Blue Point Brewing
  • Breckenridge Brewery
  • Budweiser, Bud Light
  • Busch
  • Corona
  • Devils Backbone
  • Elysian Brewing Company
  • Four Peaks
  • Golden Rod
  • Goose Island
  • Hoegaarden
  • Hop Hound Amber Wheat
  • Jupiler (Belgium)
  • Landshark
  • Leffe
  • Michelob
  • Oculto
  • Rolling Rock
  • Shock Top
  • Stella Artois
  • 10 Barrel Brewing
  • Wicked Weed
  • Wild Series (Wild Blue, etc.)

Constellation Brands:

  • Ballast Point
  • Corona
  • Modelo Especial
  • Negra Modelo
  • Pacifico
  • Tocayo Brewing

Heineken:

  • Amstel
  • Caledonian Brewery
  • Fosters
  • Heineken
  • Lagunitas
  • Murphy’s
  • Tecate

MillerCoors (a subsidiary of Molson Coors):

  • Blue Moon
  • Coors (and its variations)
  • Crispin Hard Cider
  • Hamms
  • Hop Valley Brewing Co.
  • Leinenkugel’s
  • Miller (and its variations)
  • Saint Archer Brewing
  • Terrapin Brewing Co. (yes, the Wake and Bake!)

Molson Coors:

  • Batch 19
  • Carling
  • Killian’s Irish Red
  • Third Shift Amber Lager

Pabst Brewing (partners with New Holland, the brewers of Dragon’s Milk):

  • Ballantine
  • Cerveza Minerva
  • Colt 45 malt liquor
  • Jacob Best
  • Lone Star
  • Old Milwaukee
  • Olympia
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Ranier Beer
  • Schmidt Beer
  • Tsingtao
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