Last year, 409 new breweries opened in the U.S. That’s the biggest surge since the period just after Prohibition ended. After such a spurt, you might think that brewery growth would level off.
Nope. The Brewers Association, which speaks on the behalf of craft brewers in the U.S., reports that there are now more than 1,250 new American breweries in the planning stage. Many of these breweries wouldn’t necessarily be entirely new companies, however. Instead, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Brewers Association director Paul Gatza said that many businesses are exploring the possibility of opening up multiple breweries around the country:
“We’re starting to see more breweries, instead of shipping across the country, opening up new breweries,” Gatza said, adding that he thinks more craft brewers will follow suit.
The Brewers Association is also actively trying to limit the world’s big beer companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev from owning beer distributors. “When A-B [Anheuser-Busch] owns a distributorship, they have a lot of control” over which beers are carried and shipped around the country—and at what cost—said Gatza. The costs and red tape involved in using a distributor to transport their beers around the country is surely one of the factors influencing craft breweries to consider opening up new businesses and developing new products rather than shipping the goods that they already make.
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Distributor ownership is hardly the only issue pitting craft brewers against Big Beer. The craft brew crew, which includes the tiniest operations as well as bigger players like Samuel Adams, has gone public with complaints about the “crafty” beer produced by the world’s largest beer companies, MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. They gripe that Blue Moon, Shock Top, and other brands market themselves as small craft labels, despite the fact that they’re mass produced by multinational beer companies. The Brewers Association has called for all brands to state their corporate parent clearly on their labels, so consumers truly know what they’re buying.
More recently, the Beer Institute, a trade group that includes Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors (Samuel Adams too, interestingly), announced that it is actively opposing the Small BREW Act, a bill lobbied for by the Brewers Association that cuts federal excise taxes in half on the first 60,000 barrels produced annually by small breweries.
The bill would also change the tax code definition for what constitutes a small brewer. Right now, only brewers producing 2 million barrels of beer or less per year qualify; the Small BREW Act would push that limit up to 6 million barrels annually. The Brewers Association already defines a small brewer with a cutoff of 6 million barrels, allowing fairly large companies like the Boston Beer Co. (maker of Sam Adams), Sierra Nevada, and the Brooklyn Brewery to be members.
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According to The Hill:
The Beer Institute said the bill amounts to a “giveaway” for a handful of profitable brewers.
“We can’t support a policy that amounts to a giveaway to a handful of brewers that each are worth more than a billion dollars,” [Beer Institute vice president of communications Chris] Thorne said.