Who Makes Your Beer?

By Julia Herz

There has been a lot of talk lately about small and independent craft brewers, and for good reason. The craft beer community has seen constant growth despite an economy that is recovering from one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression.

In 2011, craft brewers saw industry growth of 13 percent by volume, while the overall beer industry was down 1.3 percent by volume. Currently, one of the biggest topics being discussed in the beer industry is how global brewing companies are reacting to this huge industry shift.

In a recent CNN Money article,”Big Beer dresses up in craft brewers’ clothing,” Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of Stone Brewing Co., said: “Craft brewers are creative. We don’t follow trends—we create them. We specifically went against the mass-homogenized, corporatized business model…. When that very empire, the multinational conglomerate, starts giving the impression to unsuspecting consumers that they’re a part of our world, of course that’s offensive.”

What Koch is referring to are recent changes from big brewers including the creation of separate divisions featuring fuller-flavored beers (e.g., Blue Moon Brewing Company, Tenth & Blake Beer Company, and Green Valley Brewery), and purchasing all or part of existing small breweries (e.g., Anheuser Busch’s recent purchase of Goose Island).

So what is a craft brewer anyway?

Craft Brewer Defined

The Brewers Association, publisher of CraftBeer.com, defines a craft brewer as:

  • Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less.
  • Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.
  • Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

With all that is going on in the beer world right now, CraftBeer.com wants to know:

Julia HerzJulia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association, is a homebrewer, BJCP beer judge and Certified Cicerone™. Despite her extensive experience, she will always consider herself a beer beginner on an unending journey to learn more about craft beer. Additionally, for interesting articles on small and independent craft brewers check out Delicious and follow Craft Beer Muses on Twitter.