Brewers Association Revises “Craft” Brewer Definition

Breweries that make up to 6 million barrels a year can now consider themselves "small," which includes Yuengling, August Schell, and Narragansett.


Photo: Craft Brewing Business

Fans of craft beer have long been wary of the many “crafty beers” on today’s market—essentially, macro brews that market themselves as small-batch, artisanal products.

The appearance of crafty beers was recognized back in 2012, when the Brewers Association called out majors SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev for trying to create sub-brands that mislead consumers into thinking that they are “craft.” Need an example? How’s Blue Moon.

The issue lay with the fact that the megabrewers were deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers.

According to Brewers Association standards, brewers had to make sure their operation was small, independent, and traditional, in order to market their beers as “craft.” Additionally, they could only use barley malt for their brews, and not rice or corn.

However, the BA modified these rules in February. It will now allow breweries that make up to 6 million barrels a year to consider themselves “small” (it was capped at 2 million barrels until 2010), reports The Huffington PostAdditionally, the BA has lifted the barley malt requirement. 

As a result of this revised definition, bigger brewers like Yuengling, Narragansett, and August Schell can now distinguish their brews as craft.

This alteration has caused concern with smaller breweries, whose existence—less than eight percent of the U.S. beer market by volume, according to the below chart—is already being dominated by larger, multinational brewers.

craft2 Brewers Association Revises Craft Brewer Definition
[Photo: WP]

Dan Del Grande, owner and brewer of Bison Organic Beer, told NPR in May, “I think the Brewers Association has watered down the meaning of craft beer, and of good beer.”

But Yuengling, the nation’s oldest brewery, sees nothing wrong with this new classification. David Casinelli, Yuengling’s chief operating officer, tells HuffPo,

“[The craft definition] is always subject to change based upon the board’s desires. When you now have close to 3,000 actual craft brewers or brew pubs in the USA all making very wide ranges of styles and adding limitless ingredients, it’s very hard to have a definition that’s totally inclusive.”

According to Keg Works writer Caleb Houseknecht, many people in the craft-beer community are concerned that the shift in rules “will compromise the quality of beer produced and sold under the craft beer umbrella.”

[via The Huffington Post]

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