Draw and Hold the Line

Beer Smack by | Jun 2017 | Issue #125
Illustration by David McMillian

We’ve admittedly struggled with the Brewers Association’s definition of craft brewer for many reasons over the years, but, at the end of the day, someone had to draw the line. Doing so helps protect the independent community of American brewers from corporate brewers and their self-interests. The Brewers Association definition is basically as follows:

Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that’s not a craft brewer. Traditional: The majority of the brewer’s production volume is beer brewed from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and fermentations.

It’s easy not to care about this seemingly arbitrary definition. So long as the beer tastes good, right? Wrong. With a growing number of brewers selling out to AB InBev and the like, it’s critical to draw and hold the line. Why? Because these corporate brewers are not only buying up craft brewers. They’ve practically owned the distribution channels, raw ingredient producers, and retail placement for ages and have begun to diversify their interests into homebrew suppliers, bars, publications, websites, and probably every other facet of the industry. ZX Ventures, AB InBev’s venture capital arm, for instance, likes to say that its activities are stimulating “disruptive growth.”

And there’s intentionally little to no disclosure, which makes it even easier not to care. This, of course, works to the benefit of Big Beer. So we’ve begun to compile a resource to look up brewers, publications, and other entities that are now owned by corporate brewers. Keep an eye open for it on beeradvocate.com.

In the meantime, the war for independent brewers is happening now. Which side are you on?

Respect Beer.