The Definition Matters: App Helps Craft Beer Fans Avoid “Crafty” Brews

A new app is drawing fresh attention to what—and who—makes a real craft beer, using the Brewers Association's definition set in 2012. But like the recipe for any good brew, there's always room to tweak the definition—something the group did earlier this month.

If you’re a craft beer fan, you don’t want to be fooled by an imitation.

That’s why there’s a market for Craft Check, an iOS app launched earlier this month with much fanfare. The app allows beer fans to scan or search for different kinds of beer and find out whether they’re drinking an actual craft beer or an imitation. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA? Totally craft. But Blue Moon? “Crafty,” or designed to look like a craft beer but produced by a corporate giant.

So who makes the decision, anyway? Well, the app relies on the official definition from the Brewers Association, which requires that makers of craft beers must be “small, independent, and traditional,” as noted in this 2012 graphic.

BA’s 2012 statement on the issue caused a bit of controversy at the time, especially for calling out large breweries like MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

“The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers,” the association said in the statement. “We call for transparency in brand ownership and for information to be clearly presented in a way that allows beer drinkers to make an informed choice about who brewed the beer they are drinking.”

Room for Tweaks

It was a bold stance at the time, but BA has largely stuck by it. But that doesn’t mean it’s been immune to change.

Earlier this month, the association announced that it had modified the standard slightly. The “small” and “independent” parts of the equation remain mostly the same (with a little tightening), but there’s movement on “traditional” to make room for beer producers who have been willing to experiment with their formulas.

“The revised definition provides room for the innovative capabilities of craft brewers to develop new beer styles and be creative within existing beer styles,” Gary Fish, who chairs the association’s board of directors, said in the announcement. “Taken as a whole, these changes are about looking forward, about the BA of the future, making the association stronger and keeping staff focused on the vital work they do for all of us in the craft brewing community.”

(Craft Check screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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