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Small Craft Brewers Get Bigger as the Brewers Association Changes Their Bylaws

As the formidable Harry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of BeerNet, reported last week, the Brewers Association Board recently approved a change to the definition of “small” in their bylaws as it applies to craft brewers.

The Brewers Association was formed in 2005, after a merger of two longstanding organizations, The Association of Brewers and Brewers’ Association of America. Its mission is to, “promote and protect small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.” Currently, their membership includes over 1,000 U.S. brewers. The definition of “small” was changed in their bylaws from those brewing a maximum of 2 million barrels to those brewing a maximum of 6 million barrels. The definition is relevant for both classes of the Brewers Association’s membership, Professional Packaging Brewers and Associates. The change allows brewers that were nearing the 2 million barrel mark to remain a part of the Brewers Association. Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams and a public company with a current market cap of $1.21 billion, was poised to pass the 2 million barrel mark, but the recent change allows them to remain a member.

Regarding the change, Nick Matt, chairman of the Board of Directors, stated, “A lot has changed since 1976. The largest brewer in the U.S. has grown from 45 million barrels to 300 million barrels of global beer production. The craft brewer definition and bylaws now more accurately reflect and align with our governmental affairs efforts.”

In 2010, the Brewers Association supported H.R. 4278/S. 3339, which aims to expand a reduced excise tax for certain small brewers. The excise tax for small brewers was established in 1976 and currently applies to those producing 2 million barrels per year or less. The proposed bills would both increase the production allowances for “small brewers” to 6 million barrels per year, and decrease the excise tax for such brewers. In the House, the bill was last referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, while in the Senate, an identical bill remains in the Committee on Finance.

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