| Confusing Craft
by Dave Henderson
Hi Bob - I love craft beer and want to support craft breweries but I'm
getting confused. Case in point - Boulder's Avery Brewing recently
announced that it had given up a 30 percent stake in the company
to Spanish brewing giant Mahou San Miguel. The sale keeps the
Avery brothers in charge of the brewery's future, but it means that
the beer maker, founded in 1993, is no longer considered to be a
"craft" brewery — at least according to the definition used by the
Brewers Association (BA) trade group.
That definition has grown increasingly controversial and confusing
over the past three years as large craft breweries have sold all or
parts of their companies to a variety of big money interests,
including private equity firms and foreign breweries. For me the
whole concept of what is craft It has become a bit irrelevant and
I see understand it the BA jettisons a brewery if more than 25
percent is owned by a beverage company that is not a craft brewer.
That means the BA has lost some of its largest members, including
Lagunitas Brewing (owned by Heineken), Ballast Point (Constellation
Brands), Breckenridge Brewery and Four Peaks (Anheuser Busch
InBev) and Founders, which also sold a 30 percent stake to Mahou
San Miguel in 2014.
In the meantime, breweries that have been purchased or invested in
by fellow "craft" brewers or private equity firms remain part of the
club. These include Oskar Blues, Dogfish Head and many more.
Since it was created, the definition of what a "craft brewer" is has
changed twice, and many breweries believe the BA will change it
again based on the organization's interests. I hope you see why I'm
scratching my head over all of this.
Maybe a look at the BA's actual definition of craft will be of interest to
Here is the definition:
1) Small. "Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less
(approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is
attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships."
2) Independent. "Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned
or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol industry
member that is not itself a craft brewer."
3) Traditional. A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage
alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or
innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt
beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers."
I read on BeerNexus that the BA recently created a logo that
breweries who meet that definition can put on their bottles and cans
to make things easier for we consumers who want to support craft
beer. And yes, I do look for it. Needless to say the logo doesn't
mean the beer is any good only that the BA considers it craft.
Bob, I seriously want to support craft beer but wonder if for any
widely distributed brand is really craft even if it qualifies for the BA
logo. When in doubt I now opt for beer made by local breweries
Hope you find the topic of interest and publish my article.
Many thanks Dave. for tackling an important concern to all of us who
support craft beer. Personally I support the BA's effort to make a
stand against the takeovers by the macro brewers. I agree things are
getting a bit muddled but at least the Independent Logo is a start.
I enjoyed your thoughtful article - please write again.
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer in any way just as Dave did. I select the best and
publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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