The Brewers Association defines craft beer in the following way:
Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
But the definitions of what is “craft” is evolving and it depends on who you ask. If the BA hadn’t raised it’s ceiling on production Samuel Adams and a few others wouldn’t be considered craft beer. The ceiling used to be lower, but Samuel Adams lobbied the BA to increase it. Some people don’t care what craft is or what the Brewers Association thinks. Just ask, Founders Brewing. They’re fine with just making amazing beer (KBS, et al.) How relevant is the BA’s definition?
Why does this even matter? Who cares what we call this thing we love, right? Well, maybe. But there’s a few justifications for a definition. The entire craft beer movement originated because it was this movement’s beer that showed consumers they could understand the origins of what they consumed and created an entire culture behind it. If we don’t have definition, and to take the argument to it’s logical extreme, do we need definition in beer styles? Some breweries don’t think so. Definition kind of matters.
The government defines “craft differently.” Last year a judge heard the case of a man who sued Blue Moon for misleading him into believing it was craft beer (it’s owned by MillerCoors.) The judge disagreed and ruled that Blue Moon was, indeed, craft beer. Also, there are multiple legislation pieces being discussed by Congress that will require a definition of craft beer. These legislation pieces proposed tax and paperwork breaks for the little guys, but is Elysian still considered craft by Congress? In this discussion Samuel Adams pops up again because Congress might not consider them craft if they had their druthers.
Another question arises, “Are we changing the definition of ‘craft’ only because Big Beer can now “do craft” as well?” They own breweries that were previously called “craft breweries.” If so, are we just haplessly forging ahead and creating a meaningless gap between ourselves and Big Beer? Is there a gap? If so, shouldn’t it be defined?
But is craft beer the way it should be defined? Tap Trail’s Ariana puts it this way
“Craft” is becoming increasingly meaningless. The term gets tossed around so frequently, it only gets more muddled and creates more confusion for beer drinkers.
The term Indie Beer has popped up recently to battle this evolving brewery buyout market and, for some, it’s catching on and makes sense for some. I know titles get silly, but, as we’ve shown, some level they matter. To discuss something is to have definition. So what happens if craft beer loses definition? We’ve shown that a lack of definition can create legal, tax and consumer issues. If you say this question doesn’t matter, you still need to answer the question, “What roll would no definition have on the consumer and the industry?”
What would we call “craft beer”? Take the poll and then tell us what you think in the comments. If you disagree with the question altogether tell us why.