A couple weeks ago the Brewer’s Association made a point of reaffirming exactly what qualities constitute a “craft brewery” distinction. The central piece of this campaign was a chart that called out a couple prominent breweries who the BA thought were being mis-represented as craft breweries.
This caused much ado in the beer world. Some people praised the BA for sticking a flag in the ground and calling out big beer for misleading consumers. Others cried foul and pointed out all the small breweries who were getting a bad rap because they were partially owned by bigger breweries but made a quality product with traditional ingredients. All the while big beer says that customers should judge the product on it it’s merits not it’s origins.
In reality this is a business move made by the BA more akin to protecting a trademark. “Craft brewer” is term that the BA has adopted to define it’s membership with qualities they feel are important. So who gets the coveted Craft Brewery title and who doesn’t. The BA defines a craft brewery as:
- Small (produces less than 6,000,000 barrels a year),
- Independent (less than 25% owned by another entity)
- Traditional (HAs an all malt flagship or 50% of it’s beers are all malt)
Wait there’s more, they go on define market segments including Microbrewery, Brewpub, Contract Brewery, Regional Brewery, Regional Craft brewery, and Large Breweries. The multitude of titles can cause confusion for consumers and even those within the industry. It only gets worse when you consider that a brewery can be both a micro and craft. They are not mutually exclusive descriptors but rather describe aspects of the brewery’s operations.
To help myself understand the distinctions between classifications I plotted some of these segments using the BA’s key descriptors: size, independence, and ingredients.
You can quickly see that the same amount of thought that went in to defining what a craft brewery is has not been applied to what a craft brewery isn’t. Sections of the diagram have no name at all while anything that isn’t “small” is simply “large”. While I understand the motivation behind this slight I think it does the industry a disservice to simply lump these organizations together. Why can’t we give these segments descriptive names that clearly define how they differ from craft.
For example a brewery that is small and independent but doesn’t use primarily traditional ingredients should have a unique classification to separate it from a brewery that is small and uses traditional ingredients but is not independent.
The following are my ideas for naming but I would love to hear your ideas:
- Small + Independent + Traditional = Craft Brewery
- Small + Independent = Adjunct Brewery
- Small + Traditional = Brand Brewery