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There's a Beer Battle A'Brewing

Why independence matters and transparency is crucial


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If you’re a beer lover, there’s no better place to live than Colorado.

Our breweries come in all sizes. Global beer company Molson Coors has headquarters in Denver. We’re also home to 343 independent craft brewers creating delicious beers across the state. These small brewers have a big impact hiring local workers in areas including hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture, distribution, retail and more. In fact, Colorado craft breweries were responsible for 22,220 full-time equivalent jobs in 2016. Craft breweries have created a culture that creates community while revitalizing neighborhoods where buildings have long stood vacant. As co-founder of a small independent craft brewery on the Front Range, I’m sharing why independence matters.

Four large global beer corporations dominate the industry, selling four-fifths of the volume in the U.S.  However, these big beer brands have been declining steadily and are trying to shore up their flagship brands.

At first, we saw these brands spend millions to undermine independent craft brewers in ads mocking our creative flavors and styles. More recently, we’ve seen brands including Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) purchase 10 formerly independent U.S. craft breweries, including Breckenridge Brewery right here in Colorado. These brands are trying to blur the lines between independent craft breweries and their own captive brands. Their deep pockets and distribution muscle allow them to get their brands on shelves at retailers while pushing small independent local brands off store shelves and off taps at bars and restaurants. This impacts beer lovers’ ability to find favorite craft brands when they shop and creates an illusion of choice. Big beer isn’t letting beer drinkers know which brands they acquire, and this lack of transparency is a problem.

But why?

The lack of clarity has made it increasingly difficult for beer drinkers to know which brands are truly independent. Yet, according to a Nielsen/Brewbound Harris Poll released in May, independence matters to beer drinkers. They vote with their dollars and want to support businesses that align with their values and support their communities. We, independent craft brewers, are your neighbors and give back to our communities in a big way. Independent breweries donate an estimated average of $20,000 annually per brewery to charities. Left Hand donated $805,000 to charities in 2016 through our foundation, local events, High Five Events, and sponsorship of Bike MS teams across the country.  

There’s good news for those who want to support small, independent brewers. The Brewers Association has developed a new seal indicating independent ownership.  It will soon be on packaging, menus, doors, tap handles and more. Similar to seals for Non-GMO ingredients and USDA Certified Organic used in the food industry, brewers now have a tool to communicate with beer drinkers at their point of purchase.

The seal features an iconic beer bottle shape flipped upside down to capture the spirit with which independent craft brewers have creatively turned the beer industry on its head over the years. More than 5,500 small and independent craft breweries are eligible to use the seal all over the U.S.  We run our businesses free of domineering influence from other alcohol beverage companies which are not themselves craft brewers. Our profits go to work in our communities rather than overseas to international headquarters.

Independent craft brewing is about passion for great beer, and about local American entrepreneurs and risk takers who strive to reinvest in and build culture and community.  We put people and principles ahead of profit. We hope beer drinkers will consider and value this when they choose which beers to enjoy, and we are happy to help them identify independent craft brewers with this seal.  Cheers to independent craft beer.

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