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Trade association widens craft brewing definition

By Guy Montague-Jones , 05-Jan-2011

The Brewers Association (BA) in the US has relaxed its definition of a craft brewer, increasing the qualifying production cap from 2 million barrels a year to 6 million.

The trade association, which represents the interests of craft brewers, has also revised its bylaws for membership qualification to reflect the change.

New definition

Under the new definition, the term ‘craft brewer’ now refers to any brewery that produces up to 6 million barrels of traditional beer.

BA said the new definition fits better with its own government affairs work. In 2010 it supported bills that sought to update the cap on an excise tax differential for smaller brewers from 2 million to 6 million.

Growing market

The movement to widen the definition comes as craft brewers take a bigger and bigger share of the US beer market. After years of strong growth, BA said craft brewed beer now accounts for five percent of the US beer industry.

Some of the bigger craft brewers are now hovering around the 2 million barrel mark and BA thinks that keeping the old definition could therefore create a misleading picture of the health of the craft brewing sector.

Several sizeable craft brewers including the Boston Beer Company are expected to pass the 2 million mark soon and would therefore come outside of the bounds of the old definition.

Nick Matt, chair of the Brewers Association board of directors, said: “With this change to the craft brewer definition and BA bylaws, statistics will continue to accurately reflect the 30-year growth of market share for craft brewed beer.”

Matt added that the new definition reflects the changing size of the US beer industry as a whole.

A lot has changed since 1976 when the tax differential for small brewers defined them as breweries producing less than 2 million barrels. Since then, Matt said: “The largest brewer in the US has grown from 45 million barrels to 300 million barrels of global beer production.”

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