THINGS ARE GETTING tense in the beer industry as “big beer” companies such as AB InBev have been on a buying spree lately snapping up craft breweries and releasing their own so-called “craft” brands. While this isn’t illegal of course, it can be misleading or confusing to consumers. What’s really craft at this point? To clarify things, the US Brewer’s Association (BA) has introduced a new seal to indicate craft beers that have been brewed by independent brewers. The new seal, accredited by the BA – which represents small and independent American craft brewers – signals that the brew has been produced by a brewery that is independently owned and “free of influence from other alcohol beverage companies which are not themselves craft brewers”.
Last year the US craft beer industry added 1.4 million barrels to its production volume, growing the segment by 6%, despite losing 1.2 million barrels to macro producers that had purchased numerous craft brewers throughout the year. 2O16 saw an unprecedented amount of craft purchases by big brewers, as they work to gain a foothold on the thriving sector. In the US, AB InBev has bought Houston-based Karbach Brewing Company and Virginia-based Devils Backbone, following earlier purchases of Goose Island, Blue Point, Elysian and Golden Road, while MillerCoors bought a majority stake in Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co. In the UK, AB InBev bought Camden Town Brewery late in 2O15, with the brewery relocating to Enfield this year. Heineken has also jumped on the bandwagon launching two new beers under its new Maltsmiths Brewery label earlier this year.
The seal is available for use free of charge by any small and independent American craft brewers that have a valid TTB Brewer’s Notice, are willing to sign a license agreement and meet the BA’s craft brewer definition of craft beer. That is, those that produce fewer than six million barrels of beer a year, have less than 25% of the brewery owned by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer, and whose beer derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.