Henry Weinhard’s beer will soon join the ranks of other macro-brewed faux-craft beers like Shocktop and Blue Moon. The iconic brand from the Pacific Northwest is being relaunched by SABMiller as a national brand sold as affordable, uncomplicated craft beers.
The iconic Oregon brewery has been owned by SABMiller since 2003, and production of the beer has been handled in the Full Sail Brewing facilities for several years. SABMiller has announced that the brand will no longer be produced under contract with Full Sail and that three varieties of Henry Weinhard’s will be launched nationally this month.
The three varieties of beer, a lightly hopped IPA, an amber ale, and an American pale lager are described as “Rock-solid, uncomplicated beers that are textbook examples of Henry’s original motto: craft good ingredients into quality products.” They look to be toned-down versions of craft staples and an unexciting version of an unexciting style. All the while the marketed as real craft beer.
Craft beer fans know better though. Henry Weinhard’s is just another macro-brewed wolf in craft-brewed sheep’s wool. What’s even more insidious than the insincere PR and marketing is the motivations behind SABMiller’s new branding push: chain restaurants. According to New School Beer the brewing giant will begin franchising their Henry’s Tavern restaurant concept nationally.
There are a lot of implications in this news. Craft brewery Full Sail will surly feel the strain without the cash generated by the Weinhard’s brewing contract. The introduction of another faux-craft brand will no-doubt cause more consumer confusion and spread more misinformation about craft beer. The development of a chain of corporate brewpubs will threaten local proprietor-owned establishments. And I can only imagine that we will begin to hear more stories similar to this one as the Big Beer companies look to reverse the losses in sales and market share that they’ve seen due to craft beer’s rising popularity.
The beer wars look to be heating up, and we are all a part of it. Stay vigilant, educate those around you, support your local craft beer business, and drink local beer!