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The Rise of the Brand Brewery

By March 4, 2015Whatchamacallit

Two years ago I wrote a story in response to the Brewers Association’s “Craft vs Crafty” campaign that called out some breweries that were regularly referred to as craft but didn’t actually fit the definition because they were partially or entirely owned by a non-craft brewery.

I included this diagram:

It shows the three criteria that are required to be considered a craft brewery (small in size, independently owned, and used traditional ingredients). At the time I made the argument that the terms we were using to describe breweries weren’t consistent and didn’t convey enough information.

As you can see any brewery that produces over 6 million barrels a year (the cut-off line to be “small”) is simply a large brewery whether they use traditional ingredients or not. You will also notice there are two sections without names. Breweries that are small but either aren’t independent or don’t use traditional ingredients.

I threw out the term “brand brewery” as a way to describe these breweries that make good beer with traditional ingredients but are owned by non-craft breweries. At the time I was thinking about crafty brands like Blue Moon or Shock Top, but recently there has been an increasing need for the term as “Large Brewery” company AB-InBev has been snatching up breweries that were previously referred to as craft.

Breweries like Goose Island Brewing, Blue Point Brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing, and Elysian Brewing have all had to hand over their craft membership cards to secure their futures as the founders grow older. If you think this is a passing fad you are in for some long years of fist shaking.

Aging brewery founders will want to enjoy their later years AND keep their breweries alive and many won’t have the option to sell to a fellow craft brewer like Boulevard Brewing did with Duvel Moorgatt. I don’t think it will be long before Miller Coors joins the acquisition game.

So now that brand breweries are on the rise how long do you think it will be before we small adjunct breweries? Small operations that are independent but have made the business decision to use cheaper or non traditional ingredients like rice and corn. Only time will tell.


Author Brian

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  • Sarah says:

    Parallel 49 in Vancouver, BC, has a seasonal Imperial Rice IPA they’ve called “Snap, Crackle, Hops”. I don’t know if P49 has made it past the 6m barrel mark yet, but they’ve only been around since around 2008.

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