“Craft Brewer” Definition Changed to Accommodate Sam Adams’ Shift Away From Beer

This past Halloween we learned that the Brewers Association, the trade organization representing small brewers, was considering a rules change to how “craft brewer” would be defined. In its twelve-year history, the criteria has changed three times already. One of those changes expanded the definition of “small” so that the largest and most influential member, Boston Beer, would still be included. This current change was also tailored specifically for Boston Beer, which has in recent years focused more on cider, alcoholic seltzers, and teas than beer. The new definition would allow it to remain within the organization’s definition even if it didn’t principally make beer. 

Today the Brewers Association announced the change. It dropped the “traditional” criteria and redefined “brewer” as any entity that “has a TTB Brewer’s Notice and makes beer.” In other words, it doesn’t matter how much alcoholic sugar water a company makes, so long as it brews a batch of beer every now and again.

I wrote about this more extensively when word of the possible change was announced, and I encourage you to read that. But to place a period at the end of this episode, let’s note the characteristics of the company the BA has catered to and how they contrast the layman’s understanding of “craft brewer.”

  • National distribution

  • Public corporation listed on the NYSE

  • National television ad campaign

  • Growing majority of volume of products are cider (Angry Orchard) or flavored malt beverages (Twisted Tea, Truly Spiked and Sparkling seltzers), diminishing minority is beer.

  • Multiple industrial plants and breweries nationally.

  • Roughly a billion dollars of annual revenue.

I wonder how the owner of the corner brewpub is going to feel about this change?

Jeff Alworth4 Comments