Brew­ers high­light in­de­pen­dent sta­tus

Up­side down bot­tle seal dif­fer­en­ti­ates lo­cal beer mak­ers

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Business - By Jordan Grice jordan.grice@hearst­medi­act. com

In an in­dus­try that has been ac­cused of lack­ing trans­parency in mar­ket­ing, small brew­ers are look­ing to show cus­tomers they are in­de­pen­dent of “Big Beer.”

“This is the best time ever to be a beer lover in the his­tory of our coun­try. How­ever, large global con­glom­er­ate brew­eries are hav­ing chal­lenges ... and many of those brands are no longer grow­ing,” said Ju­lia Herz, pro­gram di­rec­tor of the Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. That has led to larger com­pa­nies ei­ther buy­ing up lo­cal brew­ers that gain pop­u­lar­ity or start­ing their own “lo­cal” busi­nesses.

In re­sponse, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has de­vel­oped the In­de­pen­dent Craft Brewer Seal, meant to ver­ify a brewer’s au­then­tic­ity. Since its in­tro­duc­tion in June, brew­ers have been flock­ing to sign up for the cre­den­tial, in­clud­ing in a buzzing Con­necti­cut mar­ket that boasts more than 60 brew­eries statewide and count­ing.

More than 3,400 brew­eries have signed on for the seal na­tion­wide, ac­cord­ing to the Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion. Use of the seal is free for qual­i­fied brew­ers.

“The re­sponse has been in­cred­i­ble from brew­ers and the re­sponse has been in­cred­i­ble from beer lovers,” Herz said.

Il­lu­sion of choice

Amer­i­can craft beer and lo­cal brew­eries have a grow­ing foothold in the U.S. beer mar­ket, with well over 6,000 brew­eries na­tion­wide in what is roughly a $68 bil­lion in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to the Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Amid that growth, largescale com­pa­nies like An­heuser-Busch InBev and Heineken are tak­ing a hit.

“They are ac­tu­ally los­ing shares, so Big Beer is buy­ing their way into the craft space by ac­quir­ing in­de­pen­dent brew­eries and not putting their names on the beers they now own and pur­chased,” Herz said. “We call it il­lu­sion of choice, and it’s been re­ferred to as craft wash­ing.”

For brew­eries to be able to use the newly cre­ated seal, they must be small and in­de­pen­dent. Al­most the en­tire brew­ery in­dus­try has adopted the seal since it was started last year, with more ex­pected to fol­low.

“It’s a chance for beer lovers to have trans­parency and see and know that the beer that they are pur­chas­tion with that seal on it is an in­de­pen­dent brew­ery in the United States,” Herz said.

Con­necti­cut beer

A num­ber of Con­necti­cut brew­ers are on board with us­ing the seal, view­ing it as a driver to move their mar­ket for­ward.

“They are all small star­tups for the most part, un­en­cum­bered by cor­po­rate back­ing and Big Beer money, and that is re­ally what this is about,” said Peter Cowles, board mem­ber of Con­necti­cut’s Brewer’s Guild.

The craft beer scene has hit its stride in Con­necti­cut since state law opened its doors to brew­ers in 2012.

Cowles said small brew­ers pride them­selves on be­ing in­de­pen­dent and com­mu­nity-ori­ented, and the seal is one more way for them to show it.

Cowles, who is also founder and owner of Aspetuck Brew Labs in Bridge­port, quickly signed up for the brewer’s seal to sup­port the grow­ing in­de­pen­dent move­ment. It’s now fea­tured on his pack­ag­ing, front door and even the bumper of his car.

Once a brewer qual­i­fies, the up­side-down bot­tle logo can be dis­played any­where.

“I think the seal has been a re­ally great state­ment,” Cowles said. “The seal is about ed­u­ca­tion and about be­ing proud of be­ing in­de­pen­dent. There’s not a lot of trans­parency in this busi­ness.”

Danbury-based brewer Scott Val­lely sees the seal be­com­ing a pop­u­lar fea­ture among Con­necti­cut brew­ers, in­clud­ing his own Char­ter Oak Brew­ing Co.

He and his team have be­gun their process of ap­ply­ing for the seal and plan to add it to their re­designed pack­ag­ing and within their new space on Shel­ter Rock Road.

As more brew­ers sign up for the seal, he said one of the big­gest driv­ers will be added cred­i­bil­ity. “What that la­bel does is pretty much con­firms and en­dorses that in­deed you are in­de­pen­dent with­out jus­ti­fi­caing or ra­tio­nal­iza­tion,” he said.

Keep­ing it lo­cal

Whether beer lovers care where their fa­vorite brews are com­ing from is de­bat­able, but Kevin Fitzsim­mons of the Ham­den-based Eli’s Restau­rant Group said a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of craft beer en­thu­si­asts are lean­ing to­ward keep­ing things lo­cal.

“I’m a big beer guy,” he said. “I used to go to Ver­mont, Maine and Mas­sachusetts to go to brew­eries. Now peo­ple are ac­tu­ally com­ing to us from out of state.”

Fitzsim­mons and his part­ners own sev­eral beer bars that carry lo­cal brews, which has be­come com­mon for restau­rants and pack­age stores statewide.

The health of the state’s brew­ery mar­ket is com­ple­men­tary to other busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly bars, restau­rants and food trucks, which are of­ten sta­tioned out­side brew­eries. For some towns, brew­eries have be­come the lo­cal wa­ter­ing hole.

Fitzsim­mons said con­sumer pref­er­ences are geared to­ward lo­cal brew­ers rather than “Big Beer” brands, which has turned the na­tion’s beer mar­ket up­side-down, which in turn in­spired the seal’s de­sign.

“If you know some­one at the brew­ery, you’re go­ing to be drink­ing that beer,” he said. “That’s the way that lo­cal (busi­nesses) should work.”

Jordan Grice / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Beers and brew­eries with the up­side-down bot­tle logo, like th­ese from Aspetuck Brew Lab, are crafted by brew­ers that are in­de­pen­dently owned.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.