Not Sure If Your Craft Beer Is Actually Owned by an International Conglomerate? Look Out for This
Craft brewers tend to be a freethinking bunch. It’s not a bad trait: That headstrong spirit is what’s allowed independent breweries to infiltrate a beer market that, in the 1970s, was beginning to look like a monopoly. And it’s the same mentality that pushed drinkers to think outside of the pale lager box and start embracing IPAs and barrel-aged stouts and sours. So needless to say, getting brewers to agree on something can be tricky, and when the Brewers Association – America’s primary craft beer trade group – launched its “Certified Independent Craft” seal last year, the concept was a bit of a gambit. Would brewers who pride themselves on going their own way come together to embrace the seal on packaging to differentiate themselves from big beer conglomerates?
By all indications, the answer has been, yes, craft brewers are behind the idea. If there’s one thing most craft brewers will agree on, it’s that large internationally-owned conglomerate breweries are bad for their business, so a seal showing their independence can’t hurt. “In less than eight months, more than 3,000 craft brewing companies … have signed on to use the independent craft brewer seal,” Julia Herz, craft beer program director at the Brewers Association and publisher of CraftBeer.com, wrote on the BA’s website. “Reaching this milestone is just the tip of the iceberg. More breweries will continue to adopt and use the seal, deepening the impact of this powerful new certified mark.”
With the number of American breweries currently hovering somewhere about 6,000 – the vast majority of which are independent craft brewers – this latest news means that about half of all breweries now use the seal. Since, as Herz explains, one of the primary goals of the seal is to differentiate truly independent breweries from “the flood of acquired beer brands now making their way into the market,” at some point, it’s possible that the Certified Independent Craft seal could hit a true tipping point: one where brands who don’t use the seal risk looking like they aren’t actually independent brands.
Still, despite the seal’s continued growth and this latest milestone, Herz also included an appeal to those who haven’t yet embraced it. “Brewers, are you still on the fence?” she asks. “Remember, there is strength in numbers, and the movement is growing.” Despite the potential benefits to the craft industry as a whole, nonconformity is a tough habit to break.