In a letter to its members, Brewers Association board president Eric Wallace covered three updates from a recent board of directors meeting.
The first was a “proposed” update to the Brewers Association’s craft brewer definition. This change would eliminate the “traditional” requirement from the current craft brewer definition. The current definition states that an American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. The traditional component, which would be removed in its entirety, currently states that a brewery is traditional if that brewery has a “majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavors derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored Malt Beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.” By removing this tier of the definition, breweries would remain a “craft brewer” by definition even if more than half of their production was non-traditional such as cider, mead or other products taxed as beer (such as hard seltzers, sake. alcoholic kombucha, etc.). Wallace stated in the letter that, “As it reads today, the traditional pillar of the definition stifles the innovation that our breweries are using to survive or succeed. This change will allow companies to operate both in traditional and innovative ways and still be a part of the craft brewer data set. He added that “By adjusting the definition, we are being more inclusive of the needs of our voting members.”
The BA has been criticized in the past for changing the definition a number of times since 2002 when the original craft brewer definition was created through the merger of the Association of Brewers and the Brewers Association of America. Some in the industry have felt that these changes were made to accommodate certain members, most notably Boston Beer Company when the BA raised the maximum annual production from 2 million to 6 million barrels to qualify as a voting member. This change was made just prior to BBC growing past the 2-million-barrel threshold. Non-traditional products such as hard tea, cider and seltzers make up almost half of BBC’s production today.
The second change to the association bylaws is the creation of a new taproom membership class. This will be accomplished by transitioning one of the board seats from the packaging brewery class to the new taproom class with the 2019 election and transitioning one of the board seats from the pub brewery class with the 2020 election.
Lastly, it was announced that the BA would be forming a political action committee (PAC) fund. Wallace said that “Having a Brewers Association PAC as a supporter of key legislators from both sides of the aisle (remember beer is bipartisan) could help make the difference. Long term, the PAC will help bolster our influence and access on other issues affecting our businesses.”