Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Independent Brewer's Seal

At the end of June, the Brewers Association (BA) introduced the Independent Craft Brewer Seal. The BA's objective is to offer a quick, visual indicator that differentiates independent brewers from international conglomerates such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, and MillerCoors.

Independent brewers who adopt the logo can apply it to just about anything: bottles, cans, tap handles, websites... We should see it beginning to appear around here later this summer.

If you care about such things, the information is welcome. Non-independents have grown especially crafty in shielding their identity. Look at any label, tap handle, or ad from Goose Island, Golden Road, 10 Barrel, or Elysian and you'll find no indication that they're, in fact, products of Anheuser-Busch InBev. They'd prefer you didn't know.

Both Oshkosh breweries have signed on to use the seal.

At Fox River Brewing Co., they've begun work to put it in place. "We are starting to implement the new Independent Seal on all new beer related material and any updated pieces," says Jay Supple, of Fox River. "We like the new logo, it’s a great representation for independent brewers, plus lets our customers know we are an independent craft brewer."

Bare Bones Brewery owner Dan Dringolli shares that viewpoint. "We're really good with the emblem," Dringolli says. "We're going to use it. Hopefully, a lot of people will. I think it's good to have some way to separate truly independent breweries from those that pretend to be. It's another way to help educate people about what's going on."

For small breweries such as Bare Bones and Fox River, it may be a while before the logo appears on their bottle labels. Label stock for core brands is typically bought well in advance of production. Running through the labels they have on hand may take months.

Lion's Tail Brewing of Neenah doesn't plan to use the logo.  "I don't see a lot of value in this thing," says Alex Wenzel of Lion's Tail. "I don't think it tells my customer anything that they didn't already know."

He has a point. Local drinkers of craft beer are already aware that Winnebago County's breweries are independent. Those who don't know that probably don't care. For larger independents such as New Glarus, the distinction would likely hold more value.

There are a couple of potential pitfalls to this thing. Use of the label is free, but as Wenzel pointed out, the BA is leaving the door open to adding a fee for its use in the future. That would be a mistake and stifle its use. The last thing a small brewer needs is another fee attached to its operation.

An unintended outcome might be the sort of "badge wars" you see among food products claiming to be organic or cruelty-free. There would be nothing stopping AB InBev from creating its own badge to muddle the issue. AB InBev appears intent on creating just this sort of confusion.

And that's reason enough for independent breweries to stake out a position. If ownership weren't important, you'd see the AB InBev, Heineken, MillerCoors and the other conglomerates putting their names on the beers they produce. That they don't, speaks volumes about their intent. They like to keep you in the dark.

No comments:

Post a Comment