'Craft Brewers' No Longer Have to Focus on Beer, According to Updated Industry Definition
Lady Gaga is clearly a singer first, but after her acclaimed turn in A Star Is Born, should she not be recognized an actress as well? Of course she should. Now, the Brewers Association is bringing a similar mentality to the world of craft brewing.
Craft beer trade group the Brewers Association (BA) has announced that it has officially changed its definition of a "craft brewer" to include anyone who has a TTB Brewer's Notice (meaning they are legally allowed to brew) and who actually "makes beer." Though this definition may seem obvious, under the old definition, to qualify as a "craft brewer" the majority of your business had to be "traditional" beer (as opposed to things like flavored malt beverages or cider). Now, even if producing beer is your side gig, you can still be in the club.
This new definition has two major impacts: First, the change brings more producers into the fold. "In 2017, approximately 60 small brewers were kept out of the craft brewer data set due to the 50 percent 'traditional' requirement, mostly due to wine or mead production," BA Chief Economist Bart Watson explained in a post on the BA website. "That number was set to grow in 2018 as more small wine companies started brewing beer, and as other small breweries approached the 50 percent threshold."
But the second impact of the change is that it will also help keep some major players from being unintentionally kicked out. Specifically, the Boston Beer Company — producer of Sam Adams but also of a number of non-beer products like Angry Orchard ciders and Twisted Tea — had come dangerously close to having beer account for less than 50 percent of their millions of barrels of booze production. Needless to say, losing Boston Beer Company as a "craft" brewer would mean a huge producer leaving the BA's data set, but with this adjustment to the "craft" definition, the Boston Beer Company can now produce other products to their heart's content without losing their beer cred.
(For the record, when the BA calculates its numbers, it only includes beer, not other products produced by brewers like flavored malt beverages, cider, mead, wine, etc. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of all of that, Watson's post has you covered.)
Meanwhile, BA Director Paul Gatza provided this reasoning for the definition change. "The 'traditional' pillar became outdated because craft brewers, seeking new sources of revenue to keep their breweries at capacity and address market conditions, have created new products that do not fit the traditional definition of beer," he wrote in a post. The business of craft beer is still, in the end, a business.
On a final note, the BA also announced one other interesting change today: They are adding a new "Taproom Brewery" voting member class. These members will have to "sell more than 25 percent of their beer on site" but do not have to "operate significant food services," which serves to tease them off from the "Brewpub" class. The decision would seem like a clear acknowledgment of the huge shift the beer world has seen in the past half-decade or so where more and more breweries are choosing to focus their business on selling beer out of their own breweries.