What is Independent Beer?
In May 2017 the Australian Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) decided to rebrand and become the Independent Brewers Association (IBA) removing the Corporate Craft Beer Breweries owned by larger companies from its membership.
In doing so, they signalled a move away from focussing on craft beer to focussing on “independent beer”
What is Independent Beer?
According to the IBA, independent beer is brewed by an independent brewer(y);
- That sells less than 40 million litres of beer a year
- That doesn’t have more than 20% of it owned by another brewery that sells more than 40 million litres of beer.
- That doesn’t own more than 20% of another brewery that sells more than 40 million litres a year
This narrow definition closely mirrors that used by the US Brewers Association who define a “craft brewer” based on production: less than around 950 million litres of beer a year, and ownership: less than 25% is owned or controlled by a non-craft brewer.
These definitions take no account of the quality of the beer, the quality or range of the ingredients, or the production process.
It is purely based on the volume of production, and ownership by and of other breweries.
Independent Beer Seal
In May 2018, the IBA launched its Independent Beer Seal. This is a logo designed to be used on packaging, and in promotion, to show that a brewery is an independent brewery. It can now be seen on packaging and in breweries.
The use of the “Independent Seal” can only be used by breweries that:
- Have a full membership with the Independent Brewers Association
- Sign an Intellectual Property Licensing Agreement
Does all Australian Craft Beer use the Independent Beer Seal?
No. Far from it.
To use the Independent Beer Seal, a craft beer brewery has to meet the IBA’s production volume and ownership criteria, become a member of the IBA by paying the annual membership fee that ranges from $550 to $11,000 a year, and sign an agreement to use the logo.
Our Brewery List currently has 659 breweries listed. The IBA website indicates that 239 of those are members of the IBA. A membership rate of 36%. That means almost 2 in every 3 breweries in the country are not members of the IBA and therefore cannot use the IBA Seal.
Added to this, the IBA say that “58% of our brewery members display the seal on their beer and artwork” which means that around 450 breweries of the 659 craft beer breweries do NOT use the Independent Seal.
This means that almost 70% of Australian craft beer breweries are NOT using the Independent Beer Seal.
Is a brewery “Independent” if it is not a member of the IBA or use the IBA Seal?
More than likely.
Over 60% of the craft beer breweries in the country are not members of the IBA, and therefore cannot use the Seal. They still meet the sales volume, and ownership criteria but have chosen not to be members of the IBA. And over 40% of the breweries that are members of the IBA are not using the Seal.
The lack of the IBA Seal on beer packaging is not an indication that the brewery isn’t “independent”, it is merely an indication that the brewery is not a member of the IBA and has also chosen to use the Seal.
The best way to know if a brewery is an Australian Craft Beer Brewery is to check our Brewery List and our Corporate Craft Beer Breweries page to known where the brewery is based and whether it is owned by a large international corporate business.
Does it matter?
As the 2018 Beer Cartel Craft Beer Survey said “83% of consumers (who completed the survey) aware of the seal said it was likely to have a medium to large impact on their beer purchases” indicating that the presence of the IBA Seal has huge potential to dramatically change the beers consumers buy.
With the IBA increasing awareness of its IBA Seal, and running its Indie Beer Day on 26 October 2019, it is important to be aware that beers that use the IBA Seal are not the only craft beers that can be classified as brewed by independent breweries.
Almost 70% of Australian craft beer breweries are NOT using the Independent Seal.
Most importantly, the Independent Beer Seal is not an indicator of quality, it is only an indication that the brewery is a member of the IBA, pays its annual membership fee and has chosen to use the Seal on its packaging.