Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams really aren't 'craft beer', though. By the legal definition they are, but not by any honest, realistic definition. Of course the 'most popular' are going to be the most widely distributed.The definition of "craft" beer is one of no little controversy, but can we agree that there's no definition that eliminates Sierra Nevada, makers of some of the finest beer on this or any other planet? Everything about Sierra Nevada bespeaks quality, from their processes to ingredients to recipes to quality control.
Okay, I guess there's one way to critique the brewery: size. Ken Grossman does not stand over a three-barrel mash tun with a wooden canoe paddle. His beer is brewed in industrial-sized tanks with the help of lots of technology. Some people feel that you can't craft a hundred-barrel batch of beer (or whatever Sierra Nevada's is); somehow, the volume prohibits it. The Brewers Association made a similar connection when it declared that craft breweries had to be small and independent, until the independent breweries grew--and now you don't have to be small anymore.
The problem with this of course, is that it means that every small brewery is a craft brewery, no matter if they turn out delicious beer or pond water. (And everyone who loves good beer has had the pond-water experience at some little brewery or another.) Brewery size and beer quality are not correlated. Good beer is good beer, no matter which system it's brewed on or who owns it.
I commend you to this hilarious, exquisite post from Alan, wherein he writes, among other things:
On the nose, there are notes of petroleum jelly and brown crayon. In my mouth, it is not the beer of yesteryear but a reasonably moderately soft slightly rummy middle with acrid burnt toast finishing beer. Bitter like a bit of white grapefruit set alight by a bit of damp cocoa pod coaxed into flame by a bit of gasoline. There it is - that tang of the plastic and cat sick on the carpet taste that I recall but, to be fair, it is very neatly tucked into a corner. Hardly notice it at all.You'll have to click through to discover which beer he's writing about.
More beer-and-Obama news.
A titanic rant against Budweiser. (A huge amount of wrongness contained therein, but the misinformation and bias sort of adds to the fun.)