Earlier this month, nearly 14,000 beer industry professionals traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual Craft Brewers Conference, hosted by trade group the Brewers Association.
The BA used the gathering to further draw a line between the companies it represents — small and independent U.S. breweries — and those brands owned by larger, international beer conglomerates.
“The many faux craft, crafty, captive, capitulated and acquired brands are weapons in the arsenal of the big breweries and used to control as much of the market as possible,” Left Hand Brewing co-founder and BA board chair Eric Wallace told thousands of industry professionals attending the event’s first general session.
Wallace — who pointed to a lack of ownership disclosure on acquired craft breweries’ labels, “monopolistic practices” that he claimed prevented small breweries from accessing raw materials and distribution channels, and “rampant violations of trade practices,” among other accusations – made an impassioned plea for greater adoption of an independent craft brewers seal unveiled by the BA last June.
That badge, an upside down beer bottle with the words “independent craft,” helps “clear the smogginess in the air created by the lack of transparency and obfuscations by the large multinational breweries,” he argued.
“These guys are out to eat our collective lunch and take your kids’ lunch money as well,” he said.
In many respects, the 2018 Craft Brewers Conference served as the BA’s biggest opportunity to promote the indie seal to more than 6,300 breweries that compete within the broader U.S. beer marketplace.
“If you package your beer, please think long and hard about adding the seal to your packaging,” Bob Pease, the CEO of the BA, said during his general session remarks. “We know that is not an easy ask, but it’s important.”
In addition to pitching it from the main stage, the BA plastered images of the seal throughout the Music City Center, where the event was held, and named the WiFi network “Independence Matters.” To get online, users had to use the password “SeaktheSeal.”
In his remarks on the first day of the conference, Pease – who noted that more than 3,300 BA-defined craft brewers had already adopted the seal, placing it on labels, marketing materials or in their taprooms — argued that the seal is a sign of unity among BA members, and that it helps smaller companies differentiate their brands from those acquired by large brewers such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.
According to Pease, those companies “seek to blur the lines of independence and confuse the beer drinker.”
Relive CBC and Brew Talks
If you couldn’t make it to Music City and you’re wondering what you missed, or if you want to look back at the largest annual gathering of craft brewing industry professionals, check out our video recaps (above and below).
You can also revisit our coverage of the 2018 CBC using the following links:
- Video: CBC Attendees Discuss the Risks of Growing Via Taprooms
- CBC Attendees Answer the Age-Old Question: What Keeps You Up at Night?
- Video: CBC Attendees Agree, Sessionable Lagers Are a Trend to Watch
- Video: CBC Attendees Share Key Takeaways From 2018 Meeting
- Video: Marketing Strategies Discussed at Brew Talks CBC
- Sam Calagione Warns Brewers Not to Get Caught in the ‘Jaws of Death’ at Brew Talks CBC
- CBC: Brewers Association Tackles Independence, ‘Big Beer’ on Day 1
- Brewers Association to New Brewers: Set ‘Realistic’ Growth Expectations
- New BA Diversity Ambassador Addresses CBC Crowd in Nashville