The Brewers Association, the national body made up of craft brewers, launched a new campaign geared toward educating the public in the battle against big beer. The campaign's core tool is a seal that craft brewers will include in packaging and other marketing spaces. The emblem states, "CERTIFIED INDEPENDENT CRAFT" as shown below, in an effort to allow consumers to discern between a craft brewery (defined by the BA's criteria) and a "faux-craft" brewery owned by one of the giants in the alcohol industry (e.g. AB-InBev).
The seal is less than two weeks old as I write this, and we are already working on incorporating it into packaging for multiple clients. Needless to say– craft brewers are pretty stoked about this. Most everyone we talk to in the industry has felt at least somewhat helpless in the last few years, as multinational corporations have bought large craft breweries in key regions across the US such as Elysian, Goose Island, Golden Road, Saint Archer, Lagunitas, Ballast Point, 10 Barrel, Wicked Weed, just to name a few! With every acquisition, the landscape became more murky for consumers looking at beer on the shelf. Who is still craft? Who's been bought by big beer?
To further complicate the challenge for craft brewers competing with big beer, many folks wondered, why does it matter if a multinational owned their local brewery, if the same people brew the beer the same was it's always been brewed, and it still tastes great!? Let's assume the product is still brewed the same way, still tastes great, and is still supporting local jobs. What's missing? Independent ownership, that's what. And it translates to not just local jobs for the lower end of the payroll, but a lot more money staying in the local economy.
Some in the industry, notably Stone Brewing or Rogue Ales, have always tied themselves closely to this idea of "Independence" in their brand story and marketing initiatives. And for many consumers, the culture of a small local brewery is one of if not the most important reason they love the idea of craft beer as a whole (besides the taste!).
The story of craft beer as a whole is one of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, forging a path that's been hindered since Prohibition, and brewing your way toward a piece of the American Dream. This romantic idea of craft beer holds great meaning for many in the industry, but it's has been challenging for breweries to communicate this to consumers in a widespread fashion, so the BA's campaign feels like a breath of fresh air.
The media coverage of the BA's "INDEPENDENT" campaign has been strong and it was released just prior to Independence Day, giving us something deeper to think about while we drink at BBQs from San Diego to Asheville. What makes craft beer "craft" (in the BA's eyes)? Should I care about "independent craft"? Do I care that this other "former-craft" beer doesn't have the BA's seal on it?
For the many craft brewers, their employees, families, local vendors, and patrons across the US, we hope the people rally behind you and vote with their dollars.
Check back with us for another post about independent craft beer as it relates to the San Diego region. We're currently working on a parallel campaign for the San Diego Brewers Guild which digs into some of the same ideas from a local perspective.