Boston to Depart ‘Craft’ Ranks Soon

Boston Beer will soon ‘outgrow’ craft beer definition

Beer writer Greg Kitsock wrote an interesting story for the Washington Post this week pointing out what many saw coming; that Boston Beer Company will soon outgrow the industry definition of “craft brewer.”

Boston Beer could surpass the 2 million annual production mark perhaps as early as this year and most likely by the end of the next. Boston Beer will be allowed to remain in the Brewers Association, of which he has been a strong supporter of, but the membership status will change to an associate member and the barrelage will be expunged from “craft” category statistics.

The BA defines a “craft brewery” as one that’s small, independent and traditional, and “small” specifically means “annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels.” Boston Beer shipped 1.992 million barrels last year.

When the Brewers Association directors codified the new definition in 2006, they might not have expected the maker of Samuel Adams to graduate so quickly into the ranks of the large national brewers. Boston Beer reported an 8 percent spurt in volume last year, higher than the craft category as a whole. (The second-largest craft brewer, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., turned out fewer than 700,000 barrels last year.)

Inasmuch as Boston Beer’s output accounted for 23 percent of total U.S. craft volume in 2008, it’s going to leave an awfully big hole when it gets booted. “When that day comes, you’re going to see a lot of asterisks in our statistics,” acknowledges Gatza.


  1. lhall says

    This is kind of silly. Why not adjust the volume qualification upwards to keep including Sam Adams? What point is made by eliminating them from our category? Why is there a volume qualification anyway? There’s as much difference in volume between Sam and a 500 bbl/ yr micro, as there is between BMC and Sam! Is it craft or is it not?

  2. beerking1 says

    Good points, Linus. I think the volume “limit” in the definition is a legacy from the days when there were only 2 kinds of brewers (as defined by the AOB): Macro-Brewers and “Microbrewers,” a microbrewery being defined solely as a brewery making less than 15K BBLs per year.
    Seems the volume was changed when the definitions were changed, SPECIFICALLY to keep the likes of SA, Sierra Nevada and Anchor within our ranks.

  3. irishsnake says

    It is all silliness. What does total production have to do with “craft”? Or ownership structure? I’m more offended that Bridgeport is no longer a “craft” brewery than Sam Adams. Sam Adams has always been a marginal case considering how much of their beer has been brewed at “non-craft” venues. But Bridgeport gets bought out by Gambrinus and now they aren’t “craft”? The definitions are absurd.

  4. Graydon says


    I am more interested in the beer a company makes than how much beer they make. Don’t worry about political labels etc. just buy and drink the best beer you can find. Any brewer that respects the art of brewing can share a beer with me.;)
    Graydon Brown
    Golden Hills Brewing Co.

  5. jesskidden says

    irishsnake wrote: … I’m more offended that Bridgeport is no longer a “craft” brewery than Sam Adams … But Bridgeport gets bought out by Gambrinus and now they aren’t “craft”? The definitions are absurd.

    BridePort’s listed as “craft” on the PR from the B.A. (#33 [Craft] and #44 [All])- what’s even more interesting is that another Gambrinus-owned brewery, Spoetzl, is also on the craft list, even tho’ their flagship, Shiner Bock, is an adjunct beer (thus seemingly contrary to the “traditional” definition “A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer’s brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.” I was told by one person that Gambrinus convincing the B.A. that the corn in Shiner Bock “enhanced” the flavor. :confused:

    Maybe you’re thinking of the confused situation re: A-B, Redhook, Widmer, Goose Island and Kona?
    According to a recent cover article in “Beverage Industry” (November 2008), AB-Inbev owns 36% the merged Redhook and Widmer company, the Craft Brewers Alliance.

    CBA in turn, owns 40% of GI but only 20% of Kona.

    Still, 36% of 40% would equal only 14% of Goose Island owned by AB-I, right? Still under the “magic” 25% of the BA. Yet Goose Island doesn’t make the list (Kona does).

  6. irishsnake says

    jesskidden wrote: BridePort’s listed as “craft” on the

    jesskidden says

    irishsnake wrote: I know Bridgeport has had problems with their “craft” title, as they (and Spoetzl, and Trumer) do not fit the ownership requirements to be a “craft” brewery. Apparently that has been resolved?

    IIRC, in the past, some lists used to just group all 4 breweries’ total under “Gambrinus”, but I don’t remember if that was the B.A. or another industry publication. (Altho’, given the nature of the internet, the B.A. seems to take down previous years’ listings, so it’s hard to compare, year to year. There is something to be said for “hard copies”. Of course, a single copy of “The New Brewer” cost $15, so….).

    irishsnake wrote:

    Still, the definition of “craft” is utterly absurd:

    who cares about a brewery’s ownership structure?

    Well, to state the obvious- The Brewers Association cares, and the “regular media” and a lot of the beer geekery take their word as gospel (tho’, in the latter case, that seems to be changing somewhat). What I don’t understand is why some breweries continue to pay dues to an industry organization that considers them a “lesser” brewer due to size, ingredients or ownership? According to the B.A.’s membership pdf, breweries like The Lion, High Falls, Goose Island, etc. (not to mention each individual A-B and MillerCoors brewery) pay due to the B. A.

    irishsnake wrote:

    and if I recall, “small” used to be 1 million barrels until Sam Adams topped that figure.

    They claim the current 2 million barrel definition of small comes from the IRS, based on the quote in Kitsock’s original Washington Post article- “Two million barrels, explains Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, is the ceiling for the small brewers tax differential, passed by Congress in 1976.”

  7. Fat Alebert says

    TTB imposes a $7 tax on first 60,000 barrels for a brewer who produces less than 2 million barrels, and $18 per barrel after the first 60,000 barrels.