The Definition of Craft Brewing May Change. Here’s How That Helps Beer Companies Like Sam Adams

November 1, 2018, 9:33 PM UTC

The Brewers Association has proposed changes to its definition of craft beer to accommodate innovation of more non-traditional beer products such as cider, hard seltzer and beers containing CBD or THC, Brewbound reports.

In the organization’s current definition, a craft brewer must fit three criteria: small (produce less than 6 million barrels), independent (less than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer) and traditional (a majority of beverage volume from beer made from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients).

In an email to members, Brewers Association chair and Left Hand Brewing founder Eric Wallace said that the third requirement, “traditional,” is under review because a recent survey showed that a growing number of craft brewers are experimenting with nontraditional ingredients, according to the beer publication.

Half of the 1,000 members surveyed were already brewing beverages outside of the organization’s definition, more than half were considering doing so, and nearly half showed interest in producing beers containing CBD or THC should federal regulations change, according to Brewbound.

The change would allow breweries to more freely make products like cider, mead, and hard seltzer while still maintaining access to professional resources offered through the Brewers Association.

The shift also means Boston Beer Company would be able to keep its craft brewer status, Brewbound reports.

Over the past year, the company—which produces Sam Adams, Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea, and Truly Spiked—reported that almost all of its growth is fueled by cider, hard seltzer, and alcoholic tea, and growth was slow in the “traditional” beer sale. That trend would mean the company no longer meets the trade group’s definition.

Similarly, the Brewers Association also benefits from the proposed change as it would stand to keep its largest voting member.

“This move was not made because of Boston Beer, but the timing of evaluating and revising the definition is related to Boston Beer,” the board wrote. “Other companies will also be facing a similar circumstance in the coming years and it’s natural that the largest of the smallest would get there first.”

The board also intends to form a political action committee aimed at aggressive lobbying for federal tax cuts for the industry, Brewbound reports.