Boston to Depart ‘Craft’ Ranks Soon

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.