This week, the Brewer’s Association, a not-for-profit trade group dedicated to small and independent breweries in America, launched a new seal. The “Independent Craft” seal can be licensed for free, designating a brewery’s independence.
For a little insight, the Brewers Association intends this move to create more transparency when it comes to brewery ownership. For instance (and something you will see in the comments below), one of the most controversial purchases this year is the Anheuser Busch’s acquisition of Wicked Weed. Wicked Weed will continue to brew as normal, and be sold under the Wicked Weed Brewing name, even though the ownership has changed.
For the Brewers Association, which fiercely supports the small and independent brewers, this move lacks consumer clarity. Thus, the “indie” seal.
Today, brewers that make up “The High End,” the series of breweries that AB InBev has purchased over the past fews years (Goose Island, Devil’s Backbone, Four Peaks, etc), have a response to the seal.
The responses range from, “the beer tells the story,” to, “we will always support the craft beer industry,” to responses that are a little more salty – “that logo doesn’t mean shit to me.” You’ll find a little bit of animosity towards the Brewers Association in the “Six Viewpoints from The High End” below:
David Buhler – Elysian
“What would I do, because it’s about my brewery and my people and as a team of graphic designers and packaging on that side of the business and what we do — I thought how I would use it and how would I use it and what are the decision that other breweries across the country are doing right now looking at this logo. Is this logo a mandate for breweries to put on their labels that are not part of “big beer?” Does this logo designate something like quality? Does it differentiate anything about what the beer is or how it is perceived by consumers – because it’s all about the consumers, the consumer is what drives our businesses, right?”
Walt Dickinson – Wicked Weed
“I mean at the end of the day we are all making beer, we are all brewers, whether you want to call us craft or not craft or whatever. I’m pretty sure Pernicious was a craft IPA like 2 months ago and I’m pretty sure it’s a craft IPA now, right? So we’re all doing the same thing – we are beer. We are fighting this bigger battle which is wine and spirits and we are losing margin every year to them, and so they have to be looking at us and just laughing, thinking this is just — why are you throwing us a bone right now? You guys are literally in-fighting, this is just a civil war meanwhile this armada of boats is coming across the Atlantic to crush us and we are shooting each other with, you know, muskets and sling-shots. So what’s the point? We need to band together and grow this market as a whole and if we do that everyone has a great space in the market, right? Small independents like us innovate, they get a platform from a strategic to take those great ideas and take them to a bigger market and create new consumers and grow the space as a whole and what does that do? It opens up more spaces for innovation and good product wins. So that’s the point of this whole thing. You know, I was just hoping we could get back to just talking about beer, but I guess we’re not there yet — but hopefully soon.”
Garrett Wales – 10 Barrel
“At the end of the day the beer does the talking, not the label on the package, and the consumer makes up their own mind. The problem is that the BA continues to refuse to let the consumer make up their own mind and try to make it up for them. They have a little bottle that someone told me “that’s what I have to buy” because there is a bottle on the six packs – but that doesn’t mean shit to me.”
Andy Ingram – Four Peaks
“There are clear threats from wine and spirits out there that, whether we are being willful and not noticing that or we are too busy fighting amongst ourselves, there is a clear present danger out there, there are storm clouds on the horizon for the beer industry. Some people think its top heavy — I don’t, I think we can sustain a lot more — but we are not going to be able to do that if we are divided. I think that is a key role going forward that the BA needs to focus on, as well as getting back to quality. When a major trade organization is saying it doesn’t matter whats in your glass as long as it’s independent, and they’re telling consumers that, then that’s a big issue, you’re saying go ahead and drink crap just as long as you don’t support the big guys. And it’s not heathy and not a good way going forward.”
Felipe Szpigel – The High End
“And now comes this piece on- you know independence, and for me the real thinking behind independence is that consumers don’t necessarily care about independence. What they care about is, what is the impact that small businesses have on the communities? And are the communities being better? Think about our partners, the amount of support we give locally, the amount of jobs that we provide locally by keeping on investing on our own partners. By the responsible things we do in terms of drinking or connecting to communities or natural resources and giving back – honestly I see no other brewer that does as much as we do. That makes me proud. And I think that’s what we are going to tell our consumers. That at the end that’s what really matters behind being independent or being small — is doing the best for your community or the communities… I’m proud of what we do and our partners do in the communities that we are in.”
Steve Crandall – Devils Backbone
“We are going to continue being the same guys we have always been. We are going to continue offering the best possible beers and occasions to our consumers that we have always done and we are always going to support the craft beer industry.”
David Buhler – Elysian
“Well to be independent would mean you don’t put the logo on because you’re indie. So to be truly punk you don’t use the logo, you do your own thing and you follow your own rules.”