With the rise in craft beer brands that have been bought by larger producers, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, there’s been another phenomenon: People standing in beer aisles, squinting at the tiny type on the labels to see who actually bottles their beer.
Think of it like the circle and U that signals a product is certified kosher, or the little shield that shows no GMO produce was used in making a product. Designed to look like an upside-down bottle, the symbol can be used on bottles, cans, labels, tap handles and websites.
“A lot of beer lovers really care about who makes their beer and they want to make sure it comes from a small and independent craft brewer,” says Paul Gatza, the association director. “What this provides is a clear message to the beer drinker.”
Margo Knight Metzger, executive director of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, expects broad support among breweries in the state.
“We definitely support the effort to help consumers understand which breweries are independent,” she said. “So much of what defines craft beer is an independent spirit to be innovative and creative and unencumbered. It’s becoming more and more confusing to the consumer, to differentiate what is craft.”
The seal is part of an effort that has gone on for decades within the craft beer industry. It has been discussed before, but was put aside in favor of coming up with a definition of a craft brewer. In order to use the seal, craft brewers don’t have to be members of the Brewers Association, but do have to meet a list of criteria:
1. The brewer must fit the association’s craft brewer definition: Small, with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less; independent, with less than 25% owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that isn’t itself a craft brewer; and traditional, with a majority of its output flavors that derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and fermentation. (Flavored malt beverages are not considered beers.)
2. The brewer must have an active TTB license to commercially brew beer in the United States.
3. Brewers will have to sign a licensing agreement covering several points, including that if they sell or no longer meet the definition, they will have to remove the seal from future packaging.
For more information on the seal, visit www.craftbeer.com.