Insights on beer marketing & PR by a beer-war vet

25 November

Sizeism and craft beer

Sizeism is discrimination based on size.

When it comes to craft beer it usually translates to ‘big is bad’ antipathy.

The sizeism word jumped out to me in an article about coffee in the February edition of Time Out Melbourne. It was about big versus small coffee companies and ended with:

“So maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to get on our high horses because a brand isn’t new and tiny. Remember friends: sizeism is wrong.”

Having worked for big brewing I know that ‘big’ provides an easy target. But, as the guy from Genovese coffee noted, you usually get bigger if you get better.

And so it is with craft beer.

Big is often positioned as bad. Much of that angst is just sizeism. An earlier post highlighted the beneficial halo effect of big retail and big brewing’s venture into the craft segment.

Big smoke & mirrors: faux craft
Where ‘big’ does itself no favours is when it pretends to be artisan and small.

On this point, regular commentator Crafty Pint highlights what the editor calls ‘faux craft’ beers. Crafty’s recent enewsletter pointed to faux craft call-out examples by Phil Cook’s Beer diary in NZ and an article by Denis Wilson ‘Big Beer dresses up in craft brewers’ clothing‘ in the US.

I’m not sure whether it’s the size or the subterfuge, or the combination of both, which clearly gets up the nose of these commentators. Which ever: their bullsh*t radars are pinging loudly.

Transparency rules
In an increasingly networked market where Googled social media will quickly uncover a brand’s provenance, pretentious smoke and mirrors – faux craft – is stupid.

Consumers respond positively to honesty and transparency and negatively to deception and obscuration. No surprises there. So .. if a brand is owned by big brewing then deliberately trying to hide that fact is not only stupid it also smells – and consumers have good noses.



  • Phil Cook

    For me, it’s definitely the subterfuge, not the size; it’s the bullshit, not the bigness. You only need to look abroad to see breweries that have gotten ‘huge’ by our antipodean standards, but who’ve stayed independent and not resorted to the nonsense tactics of the traditional “big breweries”. Rogue probably produce as much as our entire NZ craft sector; Sierra Nevada (who might not be a darling of the craft scene, but who aren’t a lazy bastard, either) make about as much as our entire industry, all levels included. There’s just no need to spin off pretend-brewery ‘imprints’ like Crafty Beggars or Boundary Road, or whatever.

  • beerlinesblog

    Thanks Phil; I appreciate your getting back. I suspect that as craft beer further confirms its viability this side of the ditch we will see an escalation of big brewing and big retail staking claims in this frontier. As both LION and CUB have well-established footholds in this segment via Little Creatures, James Squire and Matilda Bay it will interesting to see where they go next to expand their portfolios. Couple that to what the big retailers are doing in creating ‘retail’ craft brands – mainly to soak up big brewing’s margins – and we have mounting competitive pressure to, as you say, “spin off pretend-brewery ‘imprints’.” Hopefully not – but most likely ‘yes’. I look forward to comparing notes. Cheers!