With New Labeling Program, Brewers Association Makes Craft Beers Clear

The beer industry group, which represents small-scale beer-makers, is now offering up a seal to its members. The label comes at a time when there is increasing confusion around craft beers in the marketplace.

What’s the difference between craft and “crafty”? If you were buying beer in a store, the difference between a truly independent beer, like Sierra Nevada or Fat Tire, wouldn’t be obvious next to a mass-market brew like Shock Top or Blue Moon.

The Brewers Association, which famously sets the standards of what makes an independent craft brew, wants to make that a little more clear. BA recently announced the Independent Craft certification, a small icon that makes the difference clear.

Paul Gatza, the association’s director, says that the move is coming now due to calls for such an action in the marketplace.

“The calls for action continue to grow in the craft brewing community to clarify who are craft brewers in the marketplace,” Gatza said in a blog post. “Beer lovers know that there have been a number of deals made where large brewers have purchased small brewers, but they might not know for certain which companies are independent craft brewers.”

BA will license the seal to those that meet its official definition of a craft brewer—a company that produces less than 6 million barrels annually; that is not more than a quarter-owned by a company in the alcohol industry not already a craft brewer; and that generally produces beers through traditional processes, rather than flavored malt beverages.

One factor at play is that some former independent brewers, like Goose Island, have been acquired by large conglomerates, changing the dynamic of what makes a craft brewer.

“As Big Beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent,” BA President and CEO Bob Pease said in a news release. “Beer lovers are interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. This seal is a simple way to provide that clarity—now they can know what’s been brewed small and certified independent.”

The new seal represents one of a few standards-setting moves that the association has made in recent months. In March, in anticipation of FDA rules on menu labeling, BA launched a database for brewers to determine calorie-count ranges for different kinds of beers. (The rules have yet to take effect, but brewers are ready.)

And perhaps more closely related to the current move, the group changed its marketing rules around another seal it offers up to independent brewers—in this case for winning beers at its events. While beers with potentially offensive brand names or imagery can win awards, they won’t be allowed to license branding from the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Fest for their products.

(Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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