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UK beer ‘missed its chance’ with craft

The argument over what really makes a beer “craft” in the UK looks set to continue as brewers have “missed their chance” at creating a firm definition, according to a leading US craft beer representative.

Bob Pease, CEO of the Brewers Association (Photo: BA)

“The cat is already out of the bag”, and brewers haven’t acted quickly enough to get a concrete definition for “craft” products in the UK, meaning that it is now too late to do so.

This is according to Bob Pease, CEO of the American Brewers Association, who spoke to db after his keynote speech at the SIBA BeerX convention in Sheffield, England.

Pease made the point when comparing the craft beer environment in the UK with the US, where there exists a firm set of rules regarding the size and nature of beer production to make the term “craft” a distinct one.

In the States, a brewer must have a production of under 6 million barrels per year, no more than 25% of the company can be owned by a non-craft producer, and it must use “traditional” methods in its production before its beer can be included as part of the Brewers Association. Interestingly, the onus is on defining the brewer as “craft” rather than each individual beer brand.

However, Pease said, “through conversations I’ve had with Mike Benner [managing director of SIBA, the UK’s Society of Independent Brewers], it seems like the cat is already out of the bag… It is too late to get a ‘craft’ definition here.”

His speech to the conference confirmed the exceptional growth of craft beer production and export from the US – a growth that “shows absolutely no sign of slowing down” claimed Pease.

American craft beer exports for 2014 rose globally by 35.7% compared to 2013, global exports rose to 383,422 barrels worth $99.7 million in 2014 and growth was strong in all major markets with Canada up 32.2%, Western Europe up 36.6%, Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) up 38.1%, Japan up 31.7% and Brazil 63.9%.

By comparison, US craft beer exports totalled just $2.9 million in 2004.

Pease said in his speech, “The American craft beer scene is one of the most dynamic in the world. The Brewers Association’s purpose is to promote and protect American craft brewers, their beer and the community of brewing enthusiasts.

“As our brewers increasingly look to export markets, we are working to educate and inform the international trade and media about the quality and diversity of US craft beer through trade shows and festivals, competitions, seminars, publications and much more.

“These figures bear out the growing success of craft brewers in spurring international interest in innovative and flavourful beers that are delivered to consumers as freshly as possible.”

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