“Craft Brewer” Just Got Bigger

Beer Smack by | Jan 2011 | Issue #48

Though this is not the first time it’s changed, we knew this particular change was coming. The Brewers Association recently announced that they’ve changed their definition of “craft brewer.” And it’s a big change. “Small” no longer means 2 million barrels per year. According to their definition, brewers can now produce up to 6 million and still be considered “craft.”

“In the Brewers Association’s craft brewer definition, the term ‘small’ now refers to any independent brewery that produces up to 6 million barrels of traditional beer. The previous definition capped production at 2 million barrels.”

The reason?

“The industry’s largest craft brewer, The Boston Beer Company, is poised to become the first craft brewer to surpass 2 million barrels of traditional beer within the next few years. Loss of The Boston Beer Company’s production in craft brewing industry statistics would inaccurately reflect on the craft brewing industry’s market share.”

We know that this was also a political move to sync with their legislative efforts, and we’re not saying that Boston Beer Company isn’t a craft brewer, but this change has further diluted their meaning of craft. Nick Matt, Chairman and CEO of Matt Brewing Company, brewers of the Saranac brand, made an interesting point when he said, “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.” Unfortunately, celebrating success is selective at the Brewers Association.

While compromises are made for one brewery, other brewers are not considered “craft” by the Brewers Association—like Goose Island Beer Company, which brews under 140,000 barrels per year and is most definitely a craft brewer in our book. Why? Simply due to the fact that Widmer Brothers Brewing Company (part of Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc., along with Redhook) has approximately a 35 percent minority stake in Goose Island, and A-B InBev has approximately a 40 percent stake in Widmer.

For us, a craft brewer is like obscenity. No one needs to strictly define it for us. We’ll know a craft brewer when we meet one and try his or her beers.

Respect Beer. 

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