Changes to Craft Brewer Definition Won’t Greatly Affect Data Set

For decades, the craft brewer data set has been based on the Brewers Association’s craft brewer definition. Consequently, changes to the craft brewer definition brought on by decisions at the latest board of directors meeting will also bring minor adjustments to the craft brewer data set. Although the updates largely lead to continuity more than change, it may still be helpful to outline what the changes mean and detail the process of managing the craft brewer data set.

Replacing “Traditional” with “Brewer”

The change in the definition involves the removal of the “traditional” pillar, which required a craft brewer to have “a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavors derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.” This has been replaced with a simpler “brewer” pillar that 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. 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.

Craft Brewer Data Set to Be More Inclusive

In 2017, approximately 60 small brewers were kept out of the craft brewer data set due to the 50 percent “traditional” requirement, mostly due to wine or mead production. That number was set to grow in 2018 as more small wine companies started brewing beer, and as other small breweries approached the 50 percent threshold. Although it is impossible to know how many companies would have been excluded in the 2018 data set, it would likely have been around 100 breweries, which will now be included. This will also create the need to generate a comparable 2017 base, as those small companies will bring with them some existing beer production. However, these shifts will be small, likely in the 15,000-barrel range, and won’t significantly impact overall craft share.

“Beer” as Defined by the Craft Brewer Data Set

The traditional pillar previously specified that “Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers,” whereas the new definition simply requires a brewer to “make beer.” It is therefore necessary to define “beer” for the purposes of the data set. Based on guidance from the board of directors and member feedback, the craft brewer data set will continue to use the trade understanding of beer, which includes all-malt and adjunct beers, but not flavored malt beverages, flavored sugar beverages such as hard seltzers, or other products taxed at the same rate as beer but that are generally acknowledged to be different products, such as sake or high alcohol kombucha. To learn more about the different methods of production for flavored malt beverages and beer, please refer to the TTB ruling on the subject.

Other technical notes:

  • In the case of mixed beverages, such as graf (a beer/cider hybrid), braggot (a beer/mead hybrid), and other beer/wine hybrids, the data set will continue to use the rule of 50 percent of the fermentables deriving from grains (or pseudo grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa). This is a continuation of existing practice and will not change the data set.
  • Because U.S. territories do not have the same licensing requirements with the TTB as U.S. states and the District of Columbia, for the purposes of the data set they are exempt from the Brewer’s Notice requirement and will continue to be included.

Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, is a stats geek, beer lover, and Certified Cicerone®. He holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where in addition to his dissertation, he completed a comprehensive survey of Bay Area brewpubs one pint at a time. You can follow him on Twitter @BrewersStats.

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