Skip to main content

Judge brewers by their beer

By Tom Long, Special to CNN
updated 12:54 PM EST, Fri December 21, 2012
People sample beers at Savor, a craft beer show, at the National Building Museum in Washington in June.
People sample beers at Savor, a craft beer show, at the National Building Museum in Washington in June.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • MillerCoors CEO: Small brewers want to exclude large brewers' products in craft category
  • He says his company wants to be judged not by its size, but the quality of its products
  • Tom Long: Company acquired a craft brewery nearly 25 years ago
  • He says the company's craft, import brands operate autonomously

Editor's note: Tom Long is the chief executive officer of MillerCoors. He wrote this column in response to a CNN Opinion piece by Steve Hindy of The Brooklyn Brewery: "Don't let big brewers win beer wars."

(CNN) -- The other day, the industry group representing small brewers issued its latest definition of what qualifies as a "craft" beer. Based on our size, that definition excluded us, even though we brew some of the most popular craft beers in the marketplace.

We respect the fact that some of our fellow brewers would want to differentiate themselves, but we're convinced that the ultimate assessment of our beers will not come from an industry organization, but instead from America's beer drinkers.

We know that no matter what style of beer it is, we will ultimately be judged by the quality of our beers. We like that, because we are confident that the quality of our beers stacks up well versus that of any brewer of any size, anywhere.

Tom Long
Tom Long

Now, because we are best known for brewing some of America's biggest light beers, some people may be skeptical about that claim. We urge those people not to confuse the style of a beer with the quality of the beer. Whether it's a light lager designed to provide the refreshment many American beer drinkers seek, or a vigorously hopped IPA designed to provide the nice bite many other beer drinkers desire, our brewmasters are obsessed with crafting superior-quality beers within each style.

While we may be big, we are still a company of beer people who take great pride in our beer culture and heritage, tracing our roots to two visionary immigrant entrepreneurs who opened breweries in the mid-19th century, Frederick Miller and Adolph Coors.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



We're also proud of our craft heritage. Nearly a quarter century ago, we acquired the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., which was making great beers, but struggling financially like many smaller brewers of that era. Leinie's, as it's affectionately known, was founded in 1867, and we promised we weren't presumptuous enough to tell it how to brew its beers.

We've kept that promise, and the Leinenkugel family -- now on its sixth generation in the business -- is experimenting more than ever with new styles and flavors, including the popular lemonade-flavored Summer Shandy.

Then there's Blue Moon Belgian White. Launched in 1995 by brewmaster Keith Villa, Blue Moon exposed U.S. beer drinkers to Belgian-style ales at a time when they were not widely known. After a quiet start, Blue Moon has gone on to become the best-selling craft beer in the country. In fact, Blue Moon introduces many consumers to craft, opening their eyes to the diversity of beer.

The brewers of Leinie's, Blue Moon and other smaller craft and import beers operate autonomously so they can maintain their own unique personalities and keep experimenting and pushing limits.

As a large brewer, we do not view the emergence of craft beer as a threat, because we know that innovation is essential to the American beer industry. In fact, we appreciate the vital role craft beers play within our industry. And we believe it's good for beer that there are more breweries and more brands available to American beer drinkers than at any other time in U.S. history.

We're determined to continue to play a leading role in that innovation. And whatever style beer you might prefer, all we ask is that you judge us by the quality of the beer in the glass.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tom Long.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:50 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT