Regional craft beers are being brewed across the United States, but one company has paved the way: Samuel Adams brewer Boston Beer Co.
According to the Brewers Association, a trade organization, a craft beer must have an annual production volume of 6 million barrels or less. It can't be owned by a brewery that's 25 percent or more owned or controlled by an alcohol-related company that's not a craft brewer. It can't be produced with lightening ingredients like corn or rice.
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But just a few years ago, the volume part of that definition was 2 million barrels a year. When Sam Adams production tipped over that level, however, that requirement changed, noted IBISWorld analyst Hayden Shipp.
"The largest craft brewery and the one that sort of dictates how the industry is defined as far as volume is Sam Adams, or the larger company Boston Beer Co.," Shipp said. "And you also have Sierra Nevada bringing in No. 2 and these are breweries that have a presence throughout the United States as well as foreign markets and they're looking to expand further."
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Sam Adams went over the 2 million barrel mark and last year it sold more than 2.7 million barrels, according to a company financial statement. And if Boston Beer ends up producing more than 6 million barrels, the definition of craft beer is likely to change again, Shipp said.