Even after the Brewers Association updated its craft brewer definition this year and allowed some new, notable entrants under its umbrella (notably, Yuengling), the breweries of the Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) remained on the other side of the “Big Beer” dividing line. The group has never much enjoyed that ruling and last week, Kurt and Robert Widmer, founders of Widmer Brothers Brewing, shared their thoughts on the matter with The Street.
If you’re just joining us: The CBA is not included under the BA’s definition of craft beer because Anheuser-Busch InBev has a 32 percent stake in the group, which exceeds the “25 percent ownership threshold” stipulation within the definition. Widmer Brothers joined the CBA in 2007.
The Street asked them their opinion on that criteria:
Kurt: It was a political decision. At the time, it shocked me and stung. I know who was on the board, and I know exactly how they voted. It was not public, but having good friends on the board, they told me “this is how it went down.”
We’ve kind of gotten over that, but we’ve made it pretty clear that even if they changed the definition, we wouldn’t want to be a part of that organization because it’s a political organization, and that’s not why we got into this.
Kurt: From my standpoint, it may be somewhat best that we are distanced from that organization. We just came back from the Craft Brewers’ Conference and it’s a continuation of a bad direction in which they purport to be promoting harmony, beer, good times and positive things, but then there are examples like creating dissent in the ranks by throwing us out. There were members who were not in support of that, but that was a board decision. While they’re saying one thing, they’re doing the opposite, and I’m not sure it’s great for Craft Brew Alliance to be affiliated with an organization that does that.
There’s no point in provoking the large breweries, which they do; there’s no point in provoking wholesalers unnecessarily, which they do.
If interested, head over to The Street for the full interview, including who Kurt and Rob believe spearheaded the definition wording.