Austin Beerworks: Karbach ‘shouldn’t be called craft beer’ as sponsor at ACL Fest

Austin Beerworks has never been afraid to speak up about issues in the craft beer industry (or the beer industry at large) or call out the people involved.

Case in point: This weekend, the North Austin brewery tweeted to Austin City Limits Festival and said that calling Karbach Brewing the festival’s ‘craft beer sponsor’ “intentionally misleads ticket buyers and you should feel bad about it.” Karbach, a Houston brewery, is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev after a late 2016 acquisition.

The tweet generated almost 550 likes and a KVUE story clarifying Austin Beerworks’ position. Co-founder Michael Graham, who wrote the tweet, said that he has no problem with Karbach being a sponsor of the fest — such sponsorships generally require large funds that smaller-sized breweries like Austin Beerworks cannot provide — and Karbach, at the end of the day, does make great beer.

It just doesn’t qualify as craft beer, according to the Brewers Association, the national organization that oversees craft brewing and represents the interests of craft brewers in the U.S. The Brewers Association defines craft beer as being made by “small, independent, and traditional” breweries, which Karbach isn’t any longer.

While some people don’t care about where their beer comes from, many others do, and it’s “false advertising” to say breweries like Karbach make craft beer, according to a new set of tweets Austin Beerworks sent out this afternoon. The tweet thread  was sent as a follow-up to the discussion on social media the brewery had seen in reaction to the Sunday tweet.

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“Having @abinbev as a parent company comes with many benefits — access to the world’s best distribution network, raw ingredients, and brewing knowledge. But you don’t get to pretend that you’re still a craft brewer,” according to the tweets from Austin Beerworks. “The sun does not rise in the west, a frozen drink made with Everclear is not a margarita, and a company 100 percent owned by @abinbev is not craft.”

“Go to @aclfestival, enjoy the great music and drink whatever you want. But you deserve to know what you’re paying for,” Austin Beerworks said in a final tweet about the subject. 

ACL Fest returns on Oct. 5 this year and will have the Barton Springs Beer Hall serving up about 20 beers and three ciders. Nine of those 21 options are made by AB-InBev-owned breweries like Karbach, and five Karbach beers are being offered in total, the most of any brewery in a lineup that also includes locally based Celis Brewery, Independence Brewing and Twisted X Brewing.

The festival did not respond to KVUE’s request for comment, but Karbach released a statement to the news station.

“To answer your question about how we define craft beer, to us it’s about what’s in the glass — quality, style of beer, innovation, passion, and ingredients. We started as a craft brewery years ago and I’ll always define myself as a craft brewer,” Eric Warner, Karbach’s brewmaster, said in part. “I’m extremely proud of the incredibly hard work of our brewing team and the craft beers we're making on Karbach Street every day where it all began.”

Austin360 has also reached out to ACL Fest for comment and will update this post if we hear back.


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