Effective the first day of the New Year, Craft Beer Cellar, a small chain of craft-centric retailers headquartered in Massachusetts, will no longer exclude beers from its shelves based solely on who owns the brand.
Since its inception in 2010, the company, which operates 13 stores in seven states, has sold only beer that fits the Brewers Association’s (BA) definition of craft beer, which states, in part, that a brewery must be less than 25 percent owned “by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer” to be considered craft.
Citing large external investments in a burgeoning number of breweries, Craft Beer Cellar (CBC) said the new policy is a better reflection of its founding principles.
The announcement comes, not so coincidentally, two days after Founders Brewing announced it had sold a minority interest to Mahou San Miguel, Spain’s largest brewer, in a deal that could have possibly meant the brand’s removal from CBC shelves.
“Looking at what Founders did, we realized this isn’t the way we can continue defining beer,” said Kelsey Roth, head of programming and training at the retailer. “Are we going to define beer by its ingredients and quality or by who owns it?”
Roth added, however, the decision wasn’t made with “levity” and discussions on the subject had been ongoing for a while; Founders would hardly have been the only brand impacted by the store’s policy after all.
The old policy meant products from Goose Island and Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), for instance, weren’t sold at the stores, due to Anheuser-Busch InBev’s whole or partial stake in each respective operation. Roth said the company would take a look at stocking some Goose and CBA brands going forward, but clarified the new rule is by no means a guarantee for any brand, independent or otherwise – they’ll all still be subjected to certain standards of quality, which Roth would not divulge.
“Just because it’s a Goose Island beer doesn’t mean it goes on our shelves,” he added.
This isn’t the first time the store has diverted from its reliance on the BA’s definition of craft when deciding what it will and will not sell.
In January of last year, the company called on the BA to amend its guidelines to include companies like Narragansett, which use (at the time prohibited) adjunct ingredients in the brewing process.
Now, the store has shifted its focus as outside investments have become more prominent in the craft beer space.
“There are some very strong emotions that go along with this decision and it’s not one that was made lightly,” added Roth. “The Founders deal kind of just put a stamp on the importance that this is something of an issue we need to address.”
A full press release describing the changes is included below.
Boston, MA — Craft Beer Cellar, a family of independently owned craft beer retail stores, had used definitions developed by the Brewers Association, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting American craft brewers, as a guideline for developing their own mission. As the craft beer industry continues to grow and breweries look to create financial stability through outside investment, cofounders Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker decided it was time to refine their own mission; one they feel is a better representation of their founding values. “After a few years, we’ve gotten a better understanding of what really matters to us and what we stand for,” said Schalow.
Effective January 1, 2015, Craft Beer Cellar will continue to focus on supporting great beers. The difference is that they will no longer exclude beers based solely on ownership. “What this means is that we are focusing on what Craft Beer Cellar has always been about; really good beer. Every beer will need to earn its place on our shelves regardless of who owns them. This will include an evaluation of the beers we currently carry to make sure we are staying true to our founding values,” said Schalow.
What does this mean for Craft Beer Cellar customers? “Nothing!,” said Schalow. “We will continue to push ourselves to provide the best beer possible. Any beer we add to our shelves will need to be of outstanding quality, which has always been our mission.” Craft Beer Cellar credits the Brewers Association for helping them define and develop their mission and looks forward to continuing a close working relationship.
Craft Beer Cellar Mission Statement: Craft Beer Cellar is committed to driving the growth and awareness of craft beer through hospitality, education, and support of exceptional beer.
Craft Beer Cellar was founded in 2010 by Certified Cicerones® Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker in Belmont, Massachusetts. Plans to franchise were announced in 2012 and the first franchise Craft Beer Cellar opened in Westford, MA in October of 2013. The family now includes 13 stores in 7 states with more stores in planning for 2015. Craft Beer Cellar won Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston award in 2013 and 2014.