The Brewers Association (BA) board of directors late last week introduced changes to the association’s foundational framework to better serve the not-for-profit trade group’s membership of small and independent American craft brewers.
The board approved changes to the Brewers Association purpose, mission, core values & beliefs, and the craft brewer definition—including revised criteria of what constitutes a "traditional" brewery, something that had been a source of much debate of late. The group also articulated a goal for the craft segment to hit 20 percent share of the overall beer market by 2020.
"The changes to fundamental elements of our industry were undertaken with significant deliberation and consideration of many voices,” says Paul Gatza, Brewers Association director. “In November 2013, at the Board’s direction, the BA surveyed our voting brewery members regarding the ‘foundational documents’ of our association. The results gave us ample member input on these matters of critical importance as the Board headed into its strategic planning meeting.”
Gary Fish, chair of the BA Board of Directors and president of Deschutes Brewery, notes: “The board takes seriously its duty to help the association evolve with the dynamic industry it represents. The Board worked to provide forward-looking leadership, recognizing our role as elected decision makers while taking into account the variety of views expressed by the Brewers Association’s diverse membership.”
Slightly revised, the Brewers Association now states its purpose as: To promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.
“In spirit and action, our purpose remains unchanged,” said Fish. “Removing the previous reference to ‘craft beers’—which the Brewers Association does not define, but rather leaves to the beer enthusiast—allows the focus to remain on the craft brewers the BA works to promote and protect.”
The Brewers Association mission now states:
By 2020, America’s craft brewers will have more than 20 percent market share and will continue to be recognized as making the best beer in the world. We will:
· Promote access to raw materials and markets
· Support research and advances in safety, sustainability, education, technology and raw materials
· Exercise political influence to secure fair legislative and regulatory treatment
· Foster the commitment to quality
· Educate consumers to understand and champion beer from craft brewers
· Cultivate new ideas and a commitment to a living and active beer culture among craft brewers, homebrewers and beer enthusiasts
“The 20-by-‘20 objective is an aspirational goal for our craft community, with an inspiring symmetry. I’m convinced this goal is within our reach if we, as an industry, continue to focus on our strengths and passions—making and delivering high-quality, innovative, full-flavored beer to craft beer enthusiasts,” Fish indicates. “Additionally, by noting a commitment to quality and clarifying the place of homebrewers and brewing enthusiasts, we further acknowledge the critical role each plays in the health and growth of the craft brewing industry.”
Core Values & Beliefs
The Brewers Association core values & beliefs are now described as follows:
· Promoting and celebrating the small, independent, traditional and innovative culture of American craft brewers
· Vigorously defending our industry and providing craft brewers with a unified voice
· Fostering transparency within our own organization
· Supporting and encouraging the responsible enjoyment of beer
· Providing stewardship for 10,000 years of brewing history
· Educating brewers and consumers about the diversity, flavor and quality of beer
· Improving the economic health of American craft brewers
· Working to build a collegial community of brewers, homebrewers and brewing enthusiasts
· Promoting ethical and legal trade practices
· Building relationships and collaborating with our industry partners
BA Director Gatza noted: “Much like the Brewers Association purpose, our core values & beliefs have not so much changed as been reworded to ensure we’re saying what we mean.”
Specifically, the word “innovative” was added to the first bullet point among the core values & beliefs to recognize that cutting edge component of craft brewing. The phrase “unified voice” was moved to a more appropriate context within the core values & beliefs, “fostering transparency” moved up the list to show recognition of the importance of this value, and “collegial” was added to “community of brewers,” while clarifying that homebrewers are part of this group.
Craft Brewer Definition
The three pillars of the craft brewer definition remain the same; however, under the BA Board’s direction, some elements of each pillar have been modified to reflect the evolution within the industry. Specifically, the craft brewer definition now states:
An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
· Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
· Independent: Less than 25 percent 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.
· Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
While the “small” component of the craft brewer definition previously encompassed the flavored malt beverage (FMB) exclusion—as FMBs are not beer—that language is now contained within the traditional segment of the definition, where it more appropriately applies.
The update also added a parenthetical “(approximately 3 percent of annual U.S. sales),” which gives context to the small percentage that 6 million barrels or less of annual production represents vis-a-vis overall beer industry sales.
The revised language more tightly aligns with common beverage alcohol terminology used throughout the beer, wine, spirits and FMB businesses.
The revised definition recognizes that adjunct brewing is quite literally traditional, as brewers have long brewed with what has been available to them.
Though subtle on the surface, one of its most significant change is in its definition of "traditional" in its three pillars of what constitutes a craft brewer. The new pillar reads:
The ingredients guidelines are a little more inclusive now. The revised definition recognizes that adjunct brewing is quite literally traditional, as brewers have long brewed with what has been available to them. The prior version of the definition had drawn the ire of some traditional brewers that had been excluded from the "craft" label because they had brewed with corn. For instance, in December 2012 August Schell Brewing Co. had publicly taken the organization to task on its definition of "traditional." That brewery had been following the same recipe of its 19th century founders, which included corn.
“The revisions to the craft brewer definition reflect the evolution in thinking regarding the elements of the definition. As the industry continues to rapidly advance, so must the framework that upholds and reflects it,” said Gatza.
Fish concurs: “The revised definition provides room for the innovative capabilities of craft brewers to develop new beer styles and be creative within existing beer styles.” He added: “Taken as a whole, these changes are about looking forward, about the BA of the future, making the association stronger and keeping staff focused on the vital work they do for all of us in the craft brewing community.”