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August 19, 2008

Mug Shots

BIG on brewing unity

Wikipedia informs us that guilds originally were “small-business associations” composed of “self-employed skilled craftsmen with ownership and control over the materials and tools they needed to produce their goods.” 

Accordingly, my company is a member of the Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG). Here’s the mission statement:

The Brewers of Indiana Guild (BIG) was organized to provide a unifying voice for the microbrewers in Indiana, promoting public awareness and appreciation for the quality and variety of beer produced in Indiana through economic development, academic research and educational programs. 

Indiana’s neighbor to the north has a widely respected guild:

The Michigan Brewers Guild exists to unify the Michigan brewing community; to increase sales of Michigan-brewed beer through promotions, marketing, public awareness and consumer education; and to monitor and assure a healthy beer industry within the state.

The overarching theme is unity. Just as members of a trade union yield a proportion of individual autonomy for the collective good, member breweries of a guild agree that while remaining separate entities, they’re all in business together, competing not so much against each other but working to build and expand a particular segment of the market.

Some 90 percent of Indiana beer drinkers still prefer mass-market lager, and the percentage may be even higher in Kentucky. This appears discouraging at first glance, but it bodes well for the future of craft brewing. It means that better beer’s segment of the market can continue to grow as Miller Lite and Budweiser drinkers are plucked from the majority and happily converted to Ambers, Stouts, Weizens and Pale Ales. 

To succeed, the other primary thematic imperative cannot be forgotten: Craft brewers must always educate, increase awareness and raise consciousness. For me, that’s the fun part of brewing unity.


Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.