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Craft Beer Delivered: Lots of “craft” beer is brewed by Anheuser-Busch – here’s how to spot the real stuff
As Big Beer has snapped up craft breweries, it’s grown harder to tell who the true indies are. But a new industry effort hopes to clear up the confusion by declaring their ownership right on the bottle.
More than 800 breweries – including Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium – will soon begin printing seals on their beers that identify them as “Certified Independent Craft.” The initiative, which was spearheaded by the trade group for independent craft brewers, is intended to differentiate “true” craft beers from those made by the likes of MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch and Heineken.
To qualify to use the seal, breweries cannot be more than 25 percent owned or controlled by any alcohol company that’s not itself a craft brewer. Its annual production also can’t exceed six million barrels.
“We’ve been hearing from our members for almost two years that there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace, fueled by the Big Beer acquisitions,” said Bob Pease, the chief executive of the Brewers Association, which represents the independents. “This is a way to give beer drinkers more transparency and more information.”
Small breweries have grown increasingly anxious about Big Beer’s incursion on their limited turf. Five international conglomerates – Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Constellation/Crown Imports, Heineken and Pabst – already control more than 80 percent of the U.S. beer market, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
That market dominance has given the big corporate brewers significant advantages over their independent competition. On the brewing side, large companies can leverage their volume, and their capital, to score more and better hops. Thanks to the fact that these companies brew at multiple facilities in different markets, they can also react more quickly to local demand and, theoretically, supply a fresher product.
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