beer business

IBA goes a new way

Just under two weeks ago the Craft Beer Industry Association changed its name.

And may have kicked out a few members at the same time (gratuitous plug – I wrote about the lead-up here).

They’re now called the Independent Brewers Association. And I’m so glad they chose “association” rather than “union”, because they’ve avoided the IBU acronym. Punny names aren’t a good idea for a serious organisation.

As the name suggests, the IBA is now made up of independently owned breweries, thanks to a member vote of 134-2 (I’m going to take a punt that Chuck Hahn and someone from Little Creatures were the two nay voters).

The new rule is that anyone more than 20 per cent owned by a big brewer is out on their arse. They can’t be a part of the IBA.

I’m all for the change in membership. While it won’t really affect me in terms of being a consumer, the old membership measure (which seemed to be “hey, you can ALL join”) offended my sense of order.

It was clear to me that a big fish like James Squire is going to have very different concerns than say, the breweries run by two people and a cattle dog. So the IBA really had to pick which side of the fence they were on.

And they’ve picked the side of the fence that needs more help. As if James Squire – or any other big brewer for that matter – needs the slightest bit of help in getting their beer out there. “Tap contracts? Nope, we’re sorted – got heaps of those.”

At the end of the day, the IBA needed to pick some sort of metric to govern who can and can’t walk through the door. For mine, ownership is the best option because it’s the least able to be fudged. The IBA does also have a limit on the volume of beer members can make – 40 million litres. I’m not a fan of those volume measures, because I think they punish independent breweries from growing. And it’s easy to get into the habit of changing them over time, as the US Brewers Association seems to do anytime Sierra Nevada or Boston Beer Company look like overtaking them. Really, what’s the point of having a measure if you’re going change it any time a member gets close to the line? Doesn’t that mean the measure is wrong?

The big test for the IBA is what happens when a member passes either the 20 per cent ownership figure or the 40 million litre mark. To show that the IBA stands for something, they’ll have to ask the brewery in question for their membership card and say “sayonara”.

Otherwise the membership criteria would be pointless.


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