Yesterday, MarketWatch columnist Jason Notte created a buzz in the beer community, claiming that “Sam Adams is about to be kicked out of the ‘craft beer’ category” if the recently proposed Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2015 passes.
Let’s all take a deep breath. Sam Adams’ craft beer cred isn’t going anywhere. It’s not to say Notte got things wrong: His technical analysis of the bill appears to be spot on. Instead, where the problem lies is in how and by whom the term “craft brewery” is defined.
The term “craft brewer” is in some ways intentionally vague and was forged out of necessity. Long ago, at the origins of the modern craft beer revolution – around the late ‘70s and early ‘80s – small breweries were typically called “microbreweries.” As the market for handcrafted beers gained steam, microbreweries weren’t so “micro” anymore. Because of this, the Brewers Association, a trade group, grabbed hold of the term “craft beer” to allow larger breweries that maintained a certain level of craftsmanship and independence to still be included with microbreweries – a term that the Brewers Association still defines as a brewery with production under 15,000 barrels a year.