Fact: Drinking craft beer is a lot less complicated than making laws about it.
Today, one of every 10 beers sold in the United States comes from an American craft brewer. While Americans are embracing craft brews with increasing fervor, Capitol Hill may be changing what exactly puts the “craft” in craft beer.
On June 11, Senator and Co-Chair of the Senate’s Bipartisan Small Brewers Caucus Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) proposed the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which proposes lowering the federal excise tax on beer sold by small- to mid-size craft brewers. It would also classify breweries under three categories—craft, mid-size and macro—based on a redefined tax structure, threatening the titles of big batch craft brewing companies.
Samuel Adams’ producer Boston Beer Co. is ranked second on the list of top U.S. craft brewing companies of 2014. However, if Wyden’s new bill becomes law, Samuel Adams’ brews wouldn’t make the craft beer cut. Neither would Yuengling. Goodbye craft, hello macro.
Right now, the Brewer’s Association loosely defines the American craft brewer as small, independent and traditional; setting restrictions on brewing practices, annual production, and ownership of the company. The group has been solely responsible for putting limitations on “craft” labeling by brewing companies.
The proposed legislation could, however, help small breweries that produce under two million barrels a year stay afloat, and offer a slight tax break for mid-size brewers producing under six million barrels. Once a brewing company reaches more than six million barrels a year, though, it isn’t offered a break.
It’s too soon to tell when the final vote will take place, but either way, it’s safe to assume that Americans will keep drinking plenty of beer whether it’s craft or not.