US Brewers Association defends proposals to change craft brewer definition

The move would allow craft brewers to be more innovative, he argues, and reflect the evolution of the category. 

Essentially the Brewers Association is looking at changing the definition of a ‘craft brewer’ from a brewery that is ‘small, independent and traditional’ to one that is ‘small and independent’, removing or revising the traditional part of the equation.

‘We don’t want to limit our member breweries from being innovative’

The US is one of the few countries to attempt to define ‘craft’ – more specifically by defining a craft brewer – but says the way the market is evolving requires the definition to evolve with it.

The current definition of an American craft brewer is one that is small (annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less); independent (less than 25% of the brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member which is not itself a craft brewer) and traditional (“a brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavors derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”).

The three pillars have been in place since 2006 and are important for the Brewers Association – ‘it lets us know who is it we represent on a day-to-day basis’​ – says Pease.

While the first two components are clear and objective, it’s the more subjective ‘traditional’ part of the equation that is up for debate, and it’s this part that the Brewers Association proposes revising or removing. 

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