AB-InBev Gives Craft Beer a “Couple Years”
AB-InBev has been getting some heat based on a video the released showing members of The High End talking about the death of craft beer coming within “a couple years time.” I certainly have some issues with the video and how the idea presented, but that point isn’t one of them. The term craft beer might be dead in a few years. That could be for the best, and it could really hurt AB-InBev.
Enthusiasts of the craft beer industry have likely seen the branding around the Brewers Association’s latest campaign. The newest leg, “Seek the Seal,” implores beer drinkers to be on the look out for their Independent Craft Brewer Seal the next time that they’re out at a brewery, bar, or beer store. This seal denotes that a product is made by an independently owned brewer that follows the BA’s definition of a craft brewer, though that subject is getting murkier as the industry develops. Yes, the seal still features the term “craft” that the Brewers Association has been using to define itself for years, but the focus is now on that first term, independent.
The BA’s definition of what constitutes a craft brewery has largely been supported by the industry of small brewers, but that’s predominantly from an industry professional position. To the average consumer, craft beer is just high-quality beer, which can be seen as anything aside from the American macro lagers that just about everyone is familiar with.
The issue with craft beer is not the industry or the quality of the product for the BA, it is the term craft. Craft is too generic for where they see their mission statement pointing them. AB-InBev can and does make full flavored beer that some people really enjoy and see as high quality. They see it as craft. The BA’s specific definition does nothing for the average person grabbing a 6-pack on their way to a friends house to denote where they want consumers to look.
It’s not just the BA or the brewers that wants this clarity. In May of 2017, Brewbound and Nielsen collaborated on a survey of beer drinkers about what influenced their purchasing decisions. 81% of the 2,000 beer drinkers surveyed said that the terms “independent or independently owned” resonated with them and it was determined to be the most positively influential descriptor on the survey. Terms also included words like “sour” and “hazy” both of which negatively influenced purchasing decisions in 2017. Oh, how our tastes and trends have changed.
Americans like supporting others on their way to the “American dream,” especially if that dream involves making beer! When the average consumer sees a new IPA in the beer aisle with a clever name and a list of hops used, most assume they’re supporting a local, small business when they buy it. The BA wants to make it absolutely clear to people the difference between an independent craft beer, and what the industry has labelled as “crafty” beer, breweries that want to be capitalize on the popularity of local brewers but are owned by large scale macro-breweries.
Whether Elysian, Ballast Point, or Blue Point are some of your favorite breweries out there or not isn’t the point. The Brewers Association is trying to make it as clear as possible whether your next beer purchase is supporting a locally owned craft brewer, or one of the largest beer companies in the world. It’s not a statement about the quality of their beer, it’s about the story behind it.