Boston Beer Company, the second largest craft brewery in the United States, could soon lose its status as a craft brewer according to the rules of America’s Brewers Association (BA). In order to qualify as “a small and independent craft brewer” at least half of a brewery’s sales by volume must be composed of “traditional” beer.
But declining beer sales of its flagship brand Samuel Adams and additional offerings for alternative beverages such as Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard cider, and Truly Spiked & Sparkling seltzers is pushing Boston Beer Co.’s product mix close to the 50% threshold. Rumors about a possible change in status of Boston Beer already arose in April (inside.beer, 22.04.2017).
Still, the BA is backing Boston Beer and its founder Jim Koch, who also holds a seat on BA’s board of directors. It is widely believed that the association could also adjust its rules like in 2010, when the volume limit for craft brewers was lifted from 2 to 6 million barrels. The new rule was also nicknamed “Lex Koch”.
Critics argue that the BA should acknowledge the changes in the industry and totally drop the size limit and requirements for a product mix but should instead position itself as an organization for “independent brewers”, regardless of the size.
In May, in a similar move the former Craft Beer Industry Association (CIBA) of Australia renamed itself to Independent Brewers Association (IBA) and expelled members breweries like Little Creatures, Malt Shovel and Mountain Goat, all of which are 100% owned by global brewing concerns (inside.beer, 18.5.2017). Chris McNamara, IBA’s Executive Officer, explained at that time that the reason for the repositioning was that “craft has become such a nebulous term to be able to describe.” The term independent seemed much better suited to define the distinctive nature of the members.
Similar organizations for independent brewers already exist in other countries like in the UK (Society of Independent Brewers/SIBA, inside.beer, 10.7.2017) and Germany, where actually three different organizations (Freie Brauer, Verband Private Brauereien, Brauring) represent the interests of independent brewers.