The Brewers Association Updates Its ‘Craft Beer’ Definition

Brewers, The Brewers Association Updates Its ‘Craft Beer’ DefinitionThe Brewers Association has updated its criteria for what defines a “craft brewer’ yet again. It’s the fourth time the Boulder, Colorado- based trade organization has updated its definition and we expect that it won’t be the last…

As Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association (BA) noted… the “fourth evolution is more inclusive and adds more breweries to the craft data set”

The updated craft brewer definition incorporated member input and is approved as follows:


Craft Brewer Definition An American craft brewer is a small and independent brewer.

Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to rules of alternating proprietorships.

Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Brewer: Has a TTB Brewer’s Notice and makes beer.

Key changes include…

The BA replaced “Traditional” with “Brewer”

The change in the BA’s definition involves the removal of the “traditional” pillar, which required a craft brewer to have “a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavors derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.”

That definition has been replaced with a simpler “brewer” pillar that requires a craft brewer to 1) be in possession of a TTB Brewer’s Notice and 2) make beer.

The primary takeaway of this update is that a brewer is no longer required to have a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beer. That means that companies such as Boston Beer that produce across beverage alcohol categories can be considered craft brewers if they meet the other requirements: produce less than six million barrels (of beer globally) and remain independent.

The Craft Brewer Definition is now More Inclusive

Brewers, The Brewers Association Updates Its ‘Craft Beer’ Definition

Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association

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. And that number continues to grow as more organizations such as wineries expand into beer…

Bart Watson, the BA’s Chief Economist expands on the not-for-profit’s position…

“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.”

“Although it is impossible to know how many companies would have been excluded in the 2018 data set, it would likely have been around 100 breweries, which will now be included. This will also create the need to generate a comparable 2017 base, as those small companies will bring with them some existing beer production. However, these shifts will be small, likely in the 15,000-barrel range, and won’t significantly impact overall craft share.”

Beer’s Definition Fine Tuned

With the BA stepping away from the traditional pillar previously specified that “Flavored Malt Beverages are not considered beers,” to its current definition that simply requires a brewer to “make beer,” Watson explained that it was “therefore necessary to define beer for the purposes of the data set….

“Based on guidance from the board of directors and member feedback, the craft brewer data set will continue to use the trade understanding of beer, which includes all-malt and adjunct beers, but not flavored malt beverages, flavored sugar beverages such as hard seltzers, or other products taxed at the same rate as beer but that are generally acknowledged to be different products, such as sake or high alcohol kombucha.”

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