Defining Craft Beer at SIBA

Defining Craft Beer at SIBA

Over the course of two previous blog posts (here and here) we have discussed our proposal for a definition of craft beer with online communities around the world. On 13th March, we will take this debate to the next level as we will be formally discussing the proposal at the SIBA AGM.

We believe that to earn its title a European Craft Brewery must be:
1) Authentic
a) brews all their beers at original gravity
b) does not use any adjuncts to lessen flavour and reduce costs.
2) Honest
a) All ingredients are clearly listed on the label of all of their beers.
b) The place where the beer is brewed is clearly listed on all of their beers.
c) All their beer is brewed at craft breweries.
3) Independent
Is not more than 20% owned by a brewing company which operates any brewery which is not a craft brewery.
4) Committed
If the brewer has an estate, at least 90% of the beer they sell must be craft beer.


We firmly believe we must defend our right to call our beer ‘craft’ and oppose those attempting to piggyback off our community’s hard work. Providing a legal definition is commonplace when it comes to artisanal producers, just look at Champagne, whisky, bourbon, even cheddar cheese! These are all shining examples of the sort of protection we will seek next week.
If you think this is important let us know.  If you think there are other points we should add, drop a note in the comments below.  Together, we are hopeful that as a community of brewers and craft beer lovers we can come together to protect all our industry have worked incredibly hard to achieve.

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Billy Bigarms 13.03.2014 @ 1:25pm
Tosh, the AGM was on the 12th.
Alex, Derby 13.03.2014 @ 9:46am
I agree with this concept. As a drinker I want to know that the beer Im drinking is from a reputable, craft beer brewery, not some massive multi national conglomerate pumping shit into my beer and calling it something that its not.Here here.
Gdog 13.03.2014 @ 9:45am
There is so much danger of big breweries encroaching on what guys like you are working so hard to achieve, this makes perfect sense.
craftbeercrusader 12.03.2014 @ 9:58pm
Those debating 2c, the craft brewery definition is explained within the other points! I.e the brewing of a recipe cant be contracted out to a large commercial brewer, but must be done by one that meets the required criteria in the other points. I think that its a great point, as it helps prevent large global corporations from waving cash under the noses of talented brewers to create recipes for them to cash in on the craft beer label. That may be a bit elitist but so what?! The people they aim their beer at probably wouldnt appreciate a decent beer over their crappy filtered rice piss water anyway. It would be like a Karl Pilkington anecdote i remember hearing, when a large global electronics firm gave a newly discovered tribe a laptop and they used it as a chopping board. If people havent got the intelligence and curiosity to find out about it without having it waved under their noses then they dont deserve it.
finlay.macrae 12.03.2014 @ 6:47pm
Agree definition must be split. Define craft brewery as point 4. I think question of ownership criteria in point 3 will come up. Say inbev buys Stone and runs it independent of core brands. Stone ceases to be craft brewery? Point on raised on champagne and cheese protection is that they are region and process specific. Think craft brew definition is going to be difficult to define as a process and impossible to define regionally. On using defined process, one aspect of what is considered good craft brewing is innovation. Hop torpedoes or hop cannons? Awesome but are they craft? What about pelletized hops? Do craft brews need whole cone fresh hops? points 1 and 2 are good along those lines with exception of 2c. Point 1b needs subjectivity removed. If classes of adjunct are permitted or banned try to define them. Things like maltodextrin probably need excluding but loganberry allowed.
NickF 12.03.2014 @ 3:11pm
AleBeHonest, CAMRA are still stuck in the 1970s and regard all keg beer as evil regardless of the quality.
AleBeHonest 12.03.2014 @ 12:17pm
Can someone please tell me how Craft Beer and Real Ale compare? Is all Real Ale Craft Beer, by the definition already set by CAMRA? In this instance, how does a brewer like Brains split its business, where the majority of what it produces is Real Ale, but has a Craft Beer sideline which have turned out some nice beer. They might not want to call all they brew Craft, but because of the 90% rule, would they have to call all their Real Ale Craft Beer and blue the lines between its operations?
rdoyle 12.03.2014 @ 10:25am
I agree with the concept but theres too many circular arguments. For a start there is no definition of craft beer there! I think Ste hit the nail on the head. To be a craft brewery you have to brew craft beer. To be craft beer it has to be brewed at a craft brewery. This is not definitive! Also....1b - subjective. A brewery might argue that the ingredients they use help define the flavours. A load of rubbish but still.2a - are all the ingredients listed on Brewdog labels? I might be wrong but I dont think so!
HG, Stuttgart 12.03.2014 @ 10:07am
I think in principle I agree with this, it seems to tick a lot of boxes and will go some way to defending the rights and processes employed by some of our most talented brewers, blocking anyone trying to piggyback off their hardwork.
Dj Danny 11.03.2014 @ 9:46pm
Yeah, not sure about 1b. Some people might argue that adding cloudberries or some of the other nonstandard stuff you guys use lessens the flavour. Sure, youre aiming at soft drinks like Budweiser putting rice in, but the subjective nature of this point might come back to bite you.
Elizabeer 11.03.2014 @ 8:21pm
100% agree with the concept. We need to see small brewers (and yes Im including brewdog in this - their brewery, while bigger than it was, isnt exactly enormous) get together and protect what we have worked to achieve. I for one dont want to see Carling Craft beer on a shelf, ever, and this is the only way to ensure that doesnt happen.
Scott Marshall 11.03.2014 @ 8:17pm
Have just come off the mashtag blog and spotted this. I think the fact that you are allowing people the chance to choose how a beer is made is a great exmaple of craft, and though you cant include it in your definition its things like this that can be used as evidence theres a difference between craft and giant breweries.
garth 11.03.2014 @ 8:15pm
I dont think we need to see craft beer stamps on beer labels but something to stop big brew conglomerates from just calling their beer craft with no actual legit meaning can only be a good thing. Good luck!
Ron H 11.03.2014 @ 8:13pm
I think whats most important is to protect small breweries & brewers, think you are right to propose a definition and even if it means tweaking later its good to see somebody making the effort.
dearl 11.03.2014 @ 7:10pm
The comment re Batemans; given that theyve been a family owned brewery since 1874, actively fighting off attempts to buy them out, I think they can say that theyre craft brewers.
BrewDogRob 11.03.2014 @ 6:07pm
@suzieIts not a friendly industry for the small breweries who put time, care and effort into a product, only for big lazy companies to steal the term that defines the very essence of what they do. We want a definition to make it better for start up breweries, and harder for those jumping on the bandwagon and exploiting a meaningful term to increase their market share without putting any extra effort into producing their beer.
suzie 11.03.2014 @ 5:30pm
How can you say brewers in big (regional) breweries are without passion? What they do is still crafted albeit on a larger escale. Why cant all beer be craft? Why create divisions in what used to be a friendly industry?
BBIW 11.03.2014 @ 2:58pm
Youre proposing defining craft beer but the points listed all define a craft brewery. Could do with clearing up. Makes point 2.c. somewhat paradoxical as well! I do agree that this needs to be done and this statement is a great starting point but it needs refined.
NickF 11.03.2014 @ 1:50pm
A good starting point, though I suspect points 3 and 4 might cause interesting discussions.
Leeds_Maverick 11.03.2014 @ 1:48pm
Where is the definition of Craft Breweries as mentioned in 2C ?
BrewTom 11.03.2014 @ 1:30pm
Id have liked to see a clause on being passionate about brewing great beer. I know its subjective but if its not all about the passion then why else?I also see that all references to the scale of production have been removed - surely the artisanal nature of Craft Beer means that is has to be done on a (relatively) small scale basis?
fatbaldingoldgit 11.03.2014 @ 1:21pm
Definitions should include only those terms that can be measured. If you include any subjectivity it can and will be subverted by the non-craft breweries. It seems to me you need to decide whether you are defining craft beer or craft breweries..Get that straight and everything else will follow. You need to decide if it is possible any brewery to brew craft beers. Is everything a craft brewery brews defined as a craft beer? Can a non-craft brewery brew craft beers..etc...
Pete H., Nottm 11.03.2014 @ 1:13pm
I agree with Lupuloopy.Last week I saw a Batemans (Lincolnshire) beer mat that claimed they having been brewing craft beer for generations.However, it would be be excellent if a definition could be agreed by SIBA.Good luck.
ale_x_brew 11.03.2014 @ 1:05pm
How can you define craft without mentioning either pva or needlework; its ludicrous.
Cooky 11.03.2014 @ 1:04pm
1b) far far too vague. Who could decide?3 & 4) Whilst I appreciate you are a business, both these proposals are tailored specifically to your model. Just because you can get away with selling 90%+ craft beer doesnt help anyone else.5) What you should have added, brews no more than X amount. After all, craft implies a certain amount of skill and worksmanship which doesnt exist in an automated brewery where a child could run it with a single push of a button.
ste 11.03.2014 @ 12:57pm
so a craft beer is brewed by a craft brewery and a craft brewery is one that brews craft beer -- doooh
OyvindGG 11.03.2014 @ 12:24pm
Craft beer needs to stand out, and putting an approved craft beer-badge based on these criteria would be very useful. I think 1b will work as long as 2a is used. Then the drinker can decide for himself the reason for using the adjunct. Hopefully this definition will be used all over Europe, not just the UK.
H 11.03.2014 @ 11:55am
This needs to happen.
A 11.03.2014 @ 11:33am
I dont think 1b is workable - adjuncts are an important part of the brewers toolkit, and the wording of the clause to lessen flavour and reduce costs is subjective. For example, SirenCigar CityGrassroots Neither uses a proportion of corn in the bill... does that mean all of the talented brewers involved in putting that collab together are not craft brewers? I think this particular clause needs some further work.
Lupuloopy 11.03.2014 @ 11:27am
To be honest I cant see the large breweries giving a flying fig about definitions. Theyll try to hijack the bandwagon no matter what. Theyll use their giant marketing budgets to decide what craft means to the uninformed and uninterested consumer.
Danny, London brewer. 11.03.2014 @ 10:52am
Interesting manifesto there, will be keen to see the reaction