The landscape of craft beer has gone from one of unfettered growth to that of a battleground for small, independent brewers fighting to eek out a place in the now crowded marketplace. To make the fight more difficult, the two mega brewers that control 90% of the United State’s beer production — Anheuser-Bush/InBev and Molson Coors — seem to be on a tear to snatch up as many craft brewers as they can, muddying the field and confusing consumers as to who actually produces the beer they are drinking.
According to a blog post dated July 19 on the Brewers Association’s (BA) website, as the craft beer movement started to reach its crescendo and begin slowing, brewers began speaking out regarding the need for a way to differentiate their products from those produced by the mega brewers or breweries owned by them. An idea that had been kicked around for decades came to the forefront again and, on June 27, 2017, the BA announced the creation of the Independent Craft Brewer seal.
The seal is a logo designed to be displayed on packaging and advertising on products brewed by breweries that conform to the BA’s definition of a craft brewery. To qualify, a brewery must produce less than six million barrels of beer annually and be less than 25% owned by alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. It depicts an upside-down beer bottle that symbolizes how the craft brewing movement turned the beer brewing industry on its head.
During the design of the seal, research showed that almost all beer lovers have some interest in a “certification badge” or seal to identify independently owned craft breweries believing such a seal would support small businesses. Indeed, a Brewbound/Nielsen Harris Poll of 2,000 beer lovers conducted in May 2017 indicated overwhelmingly that beer drinkers want to know who is making the beer they drink.
“People want to know when they are supporting locally owned and operated businesses, in this case breweries, that are independent from the big corporations,” said Sean Nordquist, Executive Director of the Florida Brewers Guild. “People want to know that their money is going towards local businesses rather than multi-national corporations.”
With the seal, the BA hopes to clarify who is making the beer consumers are drinking. Especially as the mega brewers continue to purchase craft brewers and introduce “crafty” beers to the market that mimic craft styles.
Since the announcement of the seal, nearly 25-percent of the independent craft brewers in the United States have adopted it in some form.