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Patriot act: Brewers Association raises cap for ‘craft’ breweries

January 04, 2011 By: mike Category: Beer in the news, Craft beer

Samuel Adams beerOn a recent tour of Ghost River Brewing in Memphis, founder Chuck Skypeck gave my group a pop quiz: name the largest domestic-owned brewing company in the United States.

Nope, it’s not Anheuser-Busch, Miller or Coors, which some folks guessed. Those are all foreign-owned.

It’s the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beers.

The Boston Beer Company holds another distinction: it’s also the nation’s largest “craft” brewer, as defined by the Brewers Association, a trade group that represents the craft beer industry.

Craft breweries are, by official definition, “independent,” “traditional” and “small.”

On Monday, the association announced that it’s revising the designation of “small” in its definition of a craft brewer, raising the cap on annual production of beer to 6 million barrels. Previously, a craft brewer was defined as a brewer with annual production of 2 million barrels of beer or less.

The change means that the Boston Beer Company, which was poised to become the first craft brewer to surpass 2 million barrels, will still be included in craft brewing numbers for the foreseeable future.

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. Brewers Association statistics on craft brewers will continue to keep pace with the growth of the industry,” Nick Matt, chair of the Brewers Association board of directors, said in a release. He added: “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.”

The change in how a craft brewery is defined also puts it in line with federal legislation being sought by the Brewers Association to reduce excise taxes for small brewers.

As of July 31, the latest Brewers Association statistics available, there were 1,599 craft breweries in the United States: 994 brewpubs, 534 microbreweries and 71 regional craft breweries.

After the Boston Beer Company, the second-largest craft brewer in the nation is Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., followed by New Belgium Brewing. The Brewers Association has a list of the top 50 craft brewing companies, based on 2009 beer sales volume, on its website.

The market for craft-brewed beer in the U.S. is about 5 percent.

What do you think about this change? Leave a comment below.

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