New definitions to change meaning of “craft”

19th June, 2014 by Rupert Millar

Brands such as Yuengling, August Schell and Narragansett will be able to label themselves “craft” from next year following changes implemented by the Brewers Association.

Yuengling-Logo3According to the Huffington Post, the BA has changed the definitions surrounding craft beer by allowing brewers to use rice or corn rather than just barley malt and allowing breweries producing up to 6 million barrels a year (rather than 2m) to call themselves “craft”.

The BA’s craft beer programme director, Julian Herz, told the paper that the change was an “organic evolution” and that it was time to “move forward” in beer and that the new rules, “takes the subjective element out of what’s considered ‘traditional’.”

Understandably, some current craft breweries are worried this will “water down” their brand and message.

When the plans were first mooted earlier this year, it raised eyebrows among the craft brewing community.

However, Yuengling, founded in 1829, is the oldest brewery in the US and it and other breweries set to be included in the new “craft” definition argue that there are historical reasons for the inclusion of rice or corn in their recipes.

Furthermore, Sam Adams – a brewery that for some time has been producing over 2m barrels a year – still has a unique position as still being regarded as a craft brewery.

In 2012, 25 craft breweries passed the 100,000 barrel benchmark, Sierra Nevada produces over 1m barrels and New Belgium in Denver is approaching that figure.

As was reported yesterday, California-based Lagunitas – long considered one of the pioneering breweries in the craft beer wave – is opening a new Chicago brewery which will be producing 1.5m barrels a year when fully up and running.

The identity crisis surrounding craft beer has been building for a while and looks set to be entering a new stage.

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