“We are pioneers and disruptors of the old order and not surprisingly the old order has countered with an assault on craft brewer’s values with a deliberate effort to erase a differentiation that exists between small and independent craft brewers and global forces,” Pease said.
There have been nine acquisitions by large international brewers in recent years (equalling a reduction of 1.2m barrels in craft beer volumes in 2016) and there will be more in the future, BA chief economist, Bart Watson, said during an end of year update earlier this month.
Education and unity will preserve craft beer
Pease urged small and independent craft brewers to leverage their identity as pioneers and "disruptors" of the beer industry by continuing to operate their businesses based on consumer preferences instead of shareholder interests.
“We must resist the temptation to adopt the tactics and the business practices of others,” Pease said. “If craft brewers play that game, we will lose our identity, fracture our unity, and fall into disarray.”
Sharing a similar message, chair of the BA board of directors, Rob Tod, said that craft beer is in the midst of a “tectonic shift” and brewers must educate the public on independent vs. corporate breweries.
“We should be gravely concerned when we hear themes like ‘independence does not matter to the beer drinker,’” Tod said.
Tod urged craft brewers to constantly engage with their consumers by telling their brand story and emphasize the importance of independently-owned breweries.
“We have a responsibility to tell our story,” Tod said.
Craft beer: ‘The last bipartisan thing’
There are also a number of legislative hurdles that the craft beer industry is working to overcome to strengthen its position in the marketplace including federal funding for hops and barley research as well as lowering the federal excise tax for beer.
Introduced to US Senate and the House of Representatives in January 2017 as part of the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, the proposed barrel tax would reduce the federal excise tax to $3.50 per barrel (from $7) on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually. It would also reduce the amount paid for brewers producing over 60,000 barrels from $18 to $16 per barrel.
“We are going to get the graduated barrel tax done this year because craft beer is about the last bipartisan thing left in D.C.” US congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) said at the conference.