Brewers Association has new seal for really, truly “independent” craft beers

The Brewers Association recognizes it might be difficult for some beer drinkers to know if they’re really sipping craft beer.

Beer, seen here from inside the cooler at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, Colfax and Clarkson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Sour beer at Goed Zuur. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) beer; nightlife; bars; five points; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Sour beer at Goed Zuur. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The craft beer waters are muddied with beer giant Anheuser-Busch buying some small brewers and private equity firms having a hand in others.

The Brewers Association recognizes it might be difficult for some beer drinkers to know if they’re really sipping craft beer. That’s why the Boulder-based promoter of the industry unveiled a new seal aimed at identifying beers that are independently produced.

The seal is available for use free of charge by any of the more than 5,300 small and independent American craft brewers that have permission from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to operate. Brewers must also meet the Brewers Association’s definition of a craft brewery to use the seal, but they don’t have to be members of the nonprofit.

The Brewers Association's label for independently produced beers. (Courtesy of the Brewers Association)
The Brewers Association’s label for independently produced beers. (Courtesy of the Brewers Association)

In order to qualify as a craft brewer, breweries have to be less than 25 percent owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer, according to the Brewers Association. Colorado’s largest craft brewery, New Belgium Brewing Co., meets that threshold. AB-owned Breckenridge Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing Co. do not.

Independence has long been a hallmark of the craft brewing industry.

“As big beer acquires former craft brands, beer drinkers have become increasingly confused about which brewers remain independent,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association.

“Beer lovers are interested in transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. This seal is a simple way to provide that clarity — now they can know what’s been brewed small and certified independent,” Peas said in a statement.

Sour beer at 10 Barrel Brewing. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) beer; nightlife; bars; five points; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Sour beer at 10 Barrel Brewing. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The fight over what kind of beer people are drinking partly boils down to money. Craft brewers are fighting to carve out a larger share of beer sales while beer giants are working on the opposite end to retain their dominance over the industry.

While small and independent craft brewers represent 99 percent of the more than 5,300 breweries in the U.S., they make just 12 percent of the beer sold in the country, according to the Brewers Association

“Craft brewers build communities and the spirit of independent ownership matters,” said Rob Tod, chair of the Brewers Association Board of Directors and founder of Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine.

“When beer lovers buy independent craft beer, they are supporting American entrepreneurs and the risk takers who have long strived not just to be innovative and make truly great beer, but to also build culture and community in the process,” Tod said in a statement.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.