A tasting flight of beer made by independently owned San Diego beer company Border X Brewing.
  • A tasting flight of beer made by independently owned San Diego beer company Border X Brewing.
  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

The term Craft Beer may be in need of a makeover. The Union-Tribune reported this week that Bend, Oregon's 10 Barrel Brewing Co. has proposed a 10,000-square-foot brewpub in East Village. In response, local beer industry podcasters have doubled down on a push to describe independently owned breweries as Indie Beer companies, rather than craft.

A couple of individuals have tried to coin the term Indie Beer before, but they had different reasons.

Not because 10 Barrel hails from Oregon but because in 2014 the company was purchased by AB InBev, the conglomerate responsible for one-third of the planet's beer supply, including core brands Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois. It owns 10 Barrel brewpubs in Oregon and Idaho and recently announced plans for one in Denver.

The podcasters' believe consumers who patronize 10 Barrel brewpubs mistakenly believe they are supporting small business rather than a global entity.

The ThreeBZine hosts introduced the term — and hashtag — Indie Beer during a November 17 broadcast, during which they announced that they will no longer buy Ballast Point beer.

The Indie Beer designation (and social media hashtag) arose during a November 17 podcast on ThreeBZine.com, a blog devoted to local beer, music, and food. During a discussion about Ballast Point's billion-dollar sale to Constellation Brands, podcasters Cody Thompson, Dustin Lothspeich, and Tom Pritchard decried the efforts of "Big Beer" to enter the craft beer marketplace, including other recent purchases of longstanding craft brands Lagunitas, Elysian, and Golden Road.

"Is craft beer even a thing any more, or is it just marketing?" asked Pritchard. "It's been appropriated by corporations." Taking a cue from the concept of Indie Rock in the music industry, the trio settled on Indie Beer as a way to distinguish small, privately owned businesses.

"Big beer has been purchasing up breweries and producing beers in a way to masquerade around as 'craft beer,'" says Thompson, who also responded to the 10 Barrel news in a blog post as "Yet another attempt to deceive and confuse the beer drinking public."

ThreeBZine's use of Indie Beer was quickly picked up by fellow podcasters Perfect Pour, out of Fresno, and SD BeerTalk. BeerTalk co-hosts Greg Homyak and Brian Beagle have been active in promoting the Indie Beer concept, locally and online.

"It immediately resonated with me as a craft beer drinker," says Homyak, who points to the 10 Barrel brewpub as a prime example of the need for new terminology. "It is something that looks like Independent Beer and will sell itself as that, but in actuality it is not."

The podcasters hope the term will encourage local beer fans to support small businesses like Monkey Paw Brewing, which sits just a block from the proposed 10 Barrel site. Monkey Paw owner Scot Blair also addressed the dilution of the term "craft" in a January newsletter sent to patrons of his South Park taproom Hamilton's Tavern. He declares "Craft is dead," and says the encroachment of big beer is "making it impossible to not find new terms to define things that I do versus AB or giant restaurant groups."

Blair suggests reviving the term Micro as well as Indie, pledging, "We will continue to make top-shelf, award-winning, world-class indie beer for our beloved fans of micro brew."

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


brianakathedude Jan. 29, 2016 @ 6:24 p.m.

Indie will just be co-opted along with any other word. How about turning it the other way and calling the ones acquired posers? Or zombie beer. Someone will come up with a good one soon enough.


GoofyAngie Jan. 29, 2016 @ 10:18 p.m.

This sounds like a job for our resident hipster :-) Any suggestions DJ?


justinoconnell Jan. 31, 2016 @ 11:57 a.m.

I personally think its more about quality than anything. That's why you'll find me drinking indie-craft beer.


PeepTheSot Feb. 1, 2016 @ 6:10 a.m.

That's a very pretty sentiment...unfortunately, size of brewer does not necessarily have anything to do with quality and while small/indie/craft strives to imply higher quality, it is most certainly not a guarantee.
While there are undeniably some standouts, the true fact of the matter is that a great deal of the indie-craft beer coming out lately tastes rather like rookie amateur homebrew and is simply just not very good.


TastingNitch May 2, 2016 @ 4:09 a.m.

@PeepTheSot, you have no idea what it's like on this side of the water.

@JustinOConnell may have a point in saying that quality is important, but only when we define what "quality" means. Big brand beer has the money to make THE BEST quality beer, THE MOST consistently, which is unfortunate, because then our money goes right back into the corporate mind machine.

I support "Indie Beer," here is Paris even though it often tastes like amateur homebrew because I want THEM to have my money, so they will potentially be able to create products to rival the big guys. I support them with my euros, and give honest feedback on their beers. Best I can think of for the the moment, what do you think?


quantumcipher Feb. 8, 2016 @ 1:20 p.m.

Craft should indeed be a moniker of quality, not quantity. Thus, craft beer would still be the appropriate term for any domestic beer brewed accordingly, whether it be a macro or microbrewry. If you wish to delineate between the two, you have the aforementioned terms already available: microbreweries being your smaller and local breweries, as well as the even smaller and more exclusive (in regards to availability/distribution) nano breweries. There's no need to create a new term solely to appease a handful of people on the Internet, when the adequate terminology already exists.


TastingNitch May 2, 2016 @ 4:19 a.m.

Hey, like I commented above with Peep and Justin, quality control is what got us into this stagnant mess to begin with. Lager beer is hard to make, and requires a lot of money to make well . Small creative breweries who may not always have THE BEST quality material (ex: larger breweries get preferential hop selection), but they have passion, are community driven and are trying to make their dream a living.

Size and quality are less of the point << Money is a vote.


RichardGardiol March 13, 2016 @ 5:48 p.m.

This is an absurd arguement that sore losers are bringing up against the microbreweries who sold out to big breweries and made a killing. There is nothing special about producing beer, it's been done for thousands of years and the world is a sorrier place because of alcohol abuse. So you losers who didn't make a killing, go drown your sorrows in a craft beer and stop annoying the rest of us with your whining BS, and please stay off of the roads after drinking.


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader