The next time you pick up a six-pack of your favorite craft beer, it’s possible you’ll notice a new seal on the carrier or bottle.
The Independent Craft Brewer Seal was announced in June of 2017 by the Brewers Association as a way for craft breweries who have remained independent to easily display their freedom from Big Beer corporations.
Breweries, small and large, (including the well-known Dogfish Head) were quick to adopt the seal. Since then, over 3,000 independent breweries have signed up to start using the seal according to the Brewers Association.
So, why use a seal to proclaim independence anyway? Because the likes of ABInBev (owner of Budweiser, Cerveza Corona, and Stella Artois) along with Molson Coors (owner of Coors, Blue Moon, and Keystone) have made a habit of buying successful craft breweries to capitalize on the trend.
Smaller breweries need help with finances to boost production and reach nation or international markets, and often times being bought out is the most effective way to get to that point.
But the problem remains that when a locally owned craft brewery is bought out for that “localness,” the new conglomerates don’t broadcast or want to tell beer drinkers that they aren’t so local.
For example, Breckenridge Brewery was bought by ABInBev at the end of 2015, but from its marketing and packaging you wouldn’t know it unless you keep tabs on industry news.
Now, Breckenridge beer is everywhere. In grocery stores, at the state fair, and cheaper than ever. Not necessarily a bad thing if you’re a big fan of a brewery with new overlords.
However, the rub is when instead of supporting someone who is local with each bomber or sixer you pick up, you’re supporting a mega-corporation with a history of less than appealing practices. Jobs are cut or moved overseas, smaller breweries are pushed off shelf space, and prices can’t be matched.
The seal, in part, is supposed to help reassure craft beer drinkers they are buying a sudsy beverage from an independent brewery. In order to use the seal, breweries have to fall within a specific set of craft brewery guidelines from the Brewers Association.
If you’re ever in doubt about a breweries independence and you can’t find the seal anywhere on packaging, there’s a handy website that curates breweries.
Point your phone or computer to IsItBigBeer.com and enter a breweries name. Entering Wicked Weed, for example, will show it’s owned by ABInBev. However, searching for Odd13 will return nothing — which is good news!
On Tap: Speaking of Odd13, the local (and, yes, independent) brewery is known for a myriad of New England IPAs. Also called hazy IPAs or juicy IPAs, NEIPAS typically have a lower level of bitterness, can be a tad sweet, but still have a ridiculous number of hops. Odd13, Epic Brewing, and New Belgium each have their own hazy IPAs on shelves throughout town. Even if you aren’t a big fan of hoppy beers, give a NEIPA a try. You may find a new appreciation for hops.