If you’ve been following craft beer news recently then you know about the Independent Craft Brewer seal that the Brewers Association (BA) announced on June 27th. Since it’s release, I’ve been wondering how this program is doing? Which breweries have signed up? Who was the first to use the logo on their packaging? These questions compelled me to do a Independent Craft Brewer Seal update.
If you need more info, just check out my article about the seal here.
To get some insight, I reached out to Julia Herz, Program Director at the Brewers Association & Publisher of CraftBeer.com. She is an expert on craft beer and part of the team that is driving the Independent Craft Brewer Seal program. If anyone knows the importance of this seal, it is her and she shared some great information with me.
Related Post: Why The Independent Craft Brewer Seal Is Important
The Independent Craft Brewers Seal Update
Launched on June 27th by the Brewers Association, the Independent Craft Brewer Seal is a major shift in how the craft beer world is educating consumers. For the longest time, it was easy to recognize which breweries were independent. But over the last few years, large beer companies have begun to purchase craft breweries. This has made it increasingly difficult to know who owns how.
This is not good for craft beer as it dilutes the value that small, independent breweries bring to the industry and makes it more difficult to compete. In addition, some beer companies, specifically AB InBev, are known to lobby for laws that make it hard for small breweries to be successful. The seal helps consumers better recognize which breweries are still independent so they can make an educated decision on which beer to purchase.
Are Breweries Signing Up For This Program?
Currently, there are over 5,500 breweries in the USA. Within the first month, over 1,500 have signed up to use this seal on their packaging and marketing.
You can get the updated number here.
While this is only a little more than 25% of the breweries, the BA has indicated that these breweries represent more than 50% of the craft beer in production. Read more about this here. This means a lot of the big players are adopting the seal.
Julia told me that the Brewers association is very pleased with the response and the roll out of the program is going better than expected. She added that their goal is 100% adoption but they know that this is only accomplished over time. So for now, they are happy that there is a lot of momentum and enthusiasm.
When it was announced, there was an instant outpouring of support from some big names in the craft beer world. For example, Dogfish Head Brewery, Left Hand Brewing, Maui Brewing and Green Flash Brewing are among the many that immediately took to social media to let the world know that they would be adopting the seal. Take a minute and check out #IndependentBeer on your favorite social media to see the latest.
In fact, in Beer Advocate’s latest issues (#127) Dogfish Head Brewery ran this ad. I don’t know about you but it looks like they are all in on this seal.
Why Release This Seal Now?
Markets move fast so it can be difficult to know exactly when to launch a new initiative, product or program. However, with the right research and input, selecting a date can become much easier.
In the case of the Independent Craft Brewer Seal, Herz let me know that this concept has been in the works for decades. First discussed in the mid 90’s, a seal was a differentiation tool for craft beer. However, they determined it was not the right time.
Fast forward and we find ourselves in a world where frequent acquisitions make it nearly impossible for most to know who is making (and profiting) the beer they buy. This is a critical time for craft beer and the seal is a needed tool to help craft breweries.
To ensure it’s success, the Brewers Association was able to engage brewers and other members of their organization to ensure that this strategy was something they would embrace. However, no one knew what the artwork would look like until its release.
When Will We See This Seal In The Wild?
But just because they have signed up for the program doesn’t mean the seal is on their labels yet. The reality is most breweries will need to exhaust old packaging before the Independent Craft Brewer seal can be put into place. On a positive note, the TTB does not require re-submission to add the seal. This should speed up the process. It will take time for many to get this rolling but I suspect you will start seeing it very soon.
However, some breweries are all in on this program and have already released some beer that feature the seal. Make sure to check out the end of this article where I take a look at what many have been the first beer to feature the new seal.
Is This The First Beer To Feature The Independent Craft Brewer Seal?
I have a lot of pride when it comes to my local craft beer. With 40 breweries, Cincinnati has a vibrant beer scene that has been relevant long before craft beer became popular. When Listermann Brewing and Warped Wing Brewing announced a collaboration, I was excited to see what they had for us.
Not only was the beer amazing but I believe it is the first to feature the Independent Craft Brewer seal. If not the first nationally, definitely the first in Ohio.
Located on the back of this beautiful label is the Independent Craft Brewer Seal. And even on a silver/gray label, the black and white seal is easy to spot.
Related Post: Craft Beer Spotlight: Cuvee De 75
Future Of The Seal
Finding this seal on more and more beers will be exciting. It provides a simple and fast way for everyone to ensure they are supporting the craft beer industry with each purchase. To protect the future of craft beer, this is necessary and important. Craft beer is adding value to our communities so we must ensure that our buying habits support independent brewers.
Julia Herz told me that “There is no better time than now to support craft beer.” There is a real sense that without action, macro beer companies could edge craft beer off of store shelves and limit consumer’s choice. She added that every company should have a right and chance to market their product. The seal accomplishes that.
Herz also spoke about the globalization and localization of beer. A greater variety of beer can be found in more areas while it is being made in more places than ever as well. Craft beer is driving much of this change and protecting what independent and craft mean is important.
My opinion is the Independent Craft Brewer Seal will be successful. While there will be some breweries that opt to not participate, they will be in the minority. The Brewers Association is letting all independent, craft breweries use this seal even if they aren’t members of their organization so there is little excuse not to jump on board.
I anticipate in a few years that we will be able to instruct friends and families to look for this seal when making a beer decision.
But the battle isn’t over; a pending issue is the FDA Menu requirements. More or less, by May of 2018, beer served at restaurants must provide nutritional information. Most craft breweries might struggle with this which will limit where their beer is sold. The Brewers Association is actively involved in helping lobby for tools and processes to make this easier. I’ll have more on this topic in future articles.
I mention this because there will be continual hurdles for craft beer as it becomes a bigger part of our culture. This seal is huge step in the right direction. However, there will be other concerns to address so craft beer can continue to grow, thrive and create community.
Have you spotted the Independent Craft Brewer seal on any beers yet?