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Craft Beer Needs More Shelf Space, Fewer Crybabies

Stocks in this article: SAM BREW TAP BUD

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- The definition of craft beer is broader that it has ever been, but it still leaves out a handful of brewers who helped usher in the microbrew and craft beer movement.

Blame the rulemakers for that one.

Listen, we understand why a group like the Brewers Association craft beer industry group would want to exclude brands like Blue Moon, Shock Top, Leinenkugel's and Goose Island from the club. They're the wholly owned subsidiaries of Anheuser-Busch InBev  (BUD) and SABMiller/MolsonCoors joint venture MillerCoors. We realize that the Leinenkugel family's brewing tradition in Chippewa Falls, Wis., predates prohibition and that Goose Island put Chicago at the forefront of the craft beer movement, but being bought out by the big boys doesn't help either's case.

However, until just recently, the Brewers Association excluded brewers like Pottsville, Pa.-based D.G. Yuengling and Sons and New Ulm, Minn.-based August Schell and left beer drinkers scratching their heads over which beers qualified as craft beer and which beers didn't.

But BA changed its mind and its rules defining craft brewers -- which already flexed in 2010 to raise the production limit for small brewers from 2 million barrels to 6 million to accommodate Samuel Adams producer Boston Beer Company (SAM). Back in February, the board decided to soften its stance against the use of rice and corn as adjuncts and whittled down the traditional pillar of its craft brewer definition.

So why are we having conversations with the Widmer Brothers about the exclusion of not only their brewery, but the entire Craft Brew Alliance including Redhook (which was a craft beer pioneer in 1981) and Kona Brewing? Why do we have to ask poor Brewers Association spokesman and overall good sport Paul Gatza why his organization continues shunning Rochester, N.Y.-based North American Breweries and its brands including Seattle-based Pyramid Breweries (founded in 1984) and Burlington, Vt.-based Magic Hat (1994)?

Because as the beer industry changes, breweries grow, business model evolve and rules change, it becomes increasingly obvious that a whole lot of the ironclad rules designed to protect craft beer years ago only make it look foolish today.

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