Brewers association

US Brewers Association defends proposals to change definition of craft brewers

The move would allow craft brewers to be more innovative, he argues, and reflect the evolution of the category.

Essentially, the Brewers Association is considering changing the definition of a “craft brewer” from a “small, independent and traditional” brewery to a “small and independent”, removing or revising the traditional part of the equation. .

“We don’t want to prevent our member breweries from being innovative”

The United States is one of the few countries to attempt to define “craft” – more specifically by defining a craft brewer – but says the way the market evolves requires the definition to evolve with it.

The current definition of an American craft brewer is one that is small (annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less); independent (less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by a member of the beverage alcohol industry who is not themselves a craft brewer) and traditional (“a brewer that uses the majority of its total volume of alcohol in beers whose flavors come from traditional beers or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”).

The three pillars have been in place since 2006 and are important to the Brewers Association – ‘it allows us to know who we represent on a daily basis’– said Pease.

Although the first two elements are clear and objective, it is the more subjective “traditional” part of the equation that is under debate, and it is this part that the Brewers Association proposes to revise or delete.

“The rationale and thought process behind this is that innovation is a hallmark of independent craft brewing in the United States – it’s one of the calling cards,” Pease said this post to Brau Beviale in Germany last week.

“Innovation and tradition can sometimes be in conflict. We do not want to prevent our member breweries from being innovative, offering new products and being able to compete in the national and global market.

American brewers are increasingly turning to products such as hard sodas and hard seltzers; and in the coming years – legislation permitting – the BA expects to see a number of brewers switch to using CBD oil or cannabis.

“We don’t want to prevent our members from exploring beverages in these areas – and then not being able to meet the definition of a craft brewer,” he added.

Big boat versus small boat?

The BA’s proposals – which were communicated to members late last month – sparked some consternation among some craft brewers, who felt the change could signal a shift away from beer staples and bow to demands of large craft brewers who are increasingly turning to other products (this change would mean that large craft brewer Boston Beer Company – producer of Sam Adams but also a number of other products – could retain its craft beer status​).

But on reflection, Mark Meckler and Sam Holloway of Crafting a Strategy – a global online learning community for craft brewers – said the revised definition reflects an evolving industry.

“With a week to cool off and try to reconcile how our old silver lining, the Brewers Association, could seemingly backfire in favor of only the biggest craft brewers, we have come to a sobering achievement. : the Brewers Association is doing the right thing”, they wrote on their Blog.

“They’ve grown, the industry has grown, and the issues the BA needs to focus on are more complex.

“The craft brewery has grown exponentially. In the past, small breweries turned into regional and national breweries. That hasn’t stopped local micro, nano, and breweries from entering the market and succeeding. The “rising tide floats all boats” theory offers logic to the argument that growth has helped everyone. »

The Brewers Association is currently seeking feedback from its members on the proposed change to the definition.

“Our mission in terms of promoting and protecting small independent craft brewers has never been stronger.”

Bob Pease, BA

A change could take place as early as the end of this month when the BA Board meets in Phoenix, Arizona; although the board may choose to consider the change at its first meeting of 2019 in February.