Brewer’s Association removes ‘traditional’ from craft beer definition

The US Brewer’s Association has updated its definition of craft beer, removing the outdated requirement that the majority of beers be “traditional”, allowing brewers to innovate in new areas without sacrificing their ‘craft’ status.

Since the launch of the BA’s original craft brewer definition in 2006, the craft brewing industry has more than tripled in size and market share, with 7,000 breweries now operating in the US.

Previously, the organisation’s definition of craft covered those brewers deemed to be “small, independent and traditional”.

Small means that the brewer has an annual production of six million barrels of beer or less.

Independent means that “less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer”.

While the “small” and “independent” definitions remain unchanged, “traditional” has been replaced with “brewer”.

Previously, “traditional” related to “a brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavour.”

That term has been replaced with “brewer”, which more simply requires a craft brewer to “1) be in possession of a TTB Brewer’s Notice and 2) make beer”.

“The primary implication of this change is that a brewer is no longer required to have a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beer,” the organisation states. “That means that companies that produce across beverage alcohol categories can be considered craft brewers if they meet the other requirements: produce less than six million barrels (of beer globally) and remain independent.”

It means that brewers can still be considered craft, even if they are producing equal, lesser or greater volumes of other beverages, such as cider, mead, hard seltzers, sake or alcoholic kombucha.

In 2017, approximately 60 small brewers were excluded from the Brewer’s Association’s data on craft beer, due to the requirement that at least 50% of its production was “traditional”. Going forward, these brewers will be included in data on the US craft beer industry.

New definition of a US craft brewer, as defined by the Brewers Association from this month:

Small​: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3% of US annual sales). Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to rules of alternating proprietorships.

Independent​: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Brewer​: Has a TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] Brewer’s Notice and makes beer.

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