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Our Take On Indie Seal Adoption Rates

From The Iron Horse Brewery Blog

Our Take On Indie Seal Adoption Rates


The Brewers Association introduced its independent craft brewer seal about a year ago and recently Brewbound wrote an article about adoption rates in the U.S.

A bit of a recap here: The BA created the seal to help craft beer enthusiasts to easily differentiate between the independent brewers (like us) and beer produced by non-craft companies. Iron Horse Brewery quickly adopted the seal and also mocked the sellouts.

But back to the recent article on adoption rates because that’s really why we’re here. According to the Brewbound article WA state’s seal adoption was at 50%.

We asked our marketing team for their reactions to the adoption rate for WA state, and for their thoughts on the adoption overall.


Let’s start with Jared, son of judy, tweeter of neat stuff, random vague guy and director of marketing at iron horse brewery. What are your thoughts on the article?


Despite some initial controversy and design criticism, it is encouraging to see 3,600 breweries utilizing the seal in some form. The customers will benefit from its continued implementation as another distinction between craft and crafty. I do wish the BA Seal was a more even shape though because incorporating the rectangle can be a little tricky in certain formats.


I’m going to go on a quick tangent and talk about the measurements used.

The problem with using percentages as an indicator of success is the range between states is too wide, making the data almost meaningless.  I get why it was done, but I think the story is better told this way:

In North Dakota, 11 out of 12 Breweries adopted the seal, almost all of them.


In Massachusetts, 62 out of 129 Breweries adopted the seal, only half of them.

etc. You get the point.

The fun part about data, is that it can be manipulated to tell whatever narrative we want.

For example, if we created a chart showing total number of breweries by state that have adopted the seal, then Washington would be 3rd, vs 44th.

Boom, we’re the 3rd best at adopting a symbol for our own and perhaps consumer’s benefit.

Or, if we extrapolate the data to only show states where # of breweries is greater than a hundred, but still using the percentage model.

Shit. We ‘re the 14th best out of 17.  disregard, go back to the other one.

See what I mean?  The percentage number should be left to the total:  3606 out of 6289 or 57% of craft breweries are using the seal.


It would be interesting to see if there is any correlation between bbls of beer produced compared to adoption of the seal.  My instinct says the more beer a brewery produces, the more likely it is they have adopted the seal.

Adoption, I would think, is going to be harder for smaller producers that package beer because of the way the supply chain works.  For example, we have to purchase a truckload of cans at a time. That’s 25 pallets of 8,000 cans (200,000).

I imagine that smaller producers probably have to get through their inventory before rolling out a new design.  Plus, there are real costs associated with updating a design. I think it’s worth it, but those are strong factors that dictate when/if adoption takes place.



And now let’s hear from Adam, dog dad, producer of brewery swag, and fan of all two-wheeled modes of transportation. What are your thoughts on the article?

On a personal level, I’m happy to see 3,500+ breweries adopt the indie seal in one year.  I think that’s a great start and it’s awesome to see the seal gain traction. I know that I’m hesitant to buy anything without it – not because I’m a beer snob, but because I know that seal represents a small business with local jobs. With every purchase you make you’re voting with your dollars and telling a store that one product is earning its shelf space (or tap handle).
 There’s nothing wrong with drinking whatever beer you enjoy, but I try to be cognizant of every vote I’m placing. I hope that the indie seal continues to be adopted and becomes a stronger point of differentiation for consumers. Without it, we all may end up unknowingly misplacing votes and taking options away from ourselves.         


The biggest factor moving forward is that the days of big buyouts are gone. I would put money on no major buyouts happening this year. The biggest change we’re going to see is sell-out brands becoming more strategic with their actions on every level. Beyond tap rooms opening in target cities, you’re going to see more deals like this –  Chicago White Sox Strike Another Deal, Name Goose Island Club’s ‘Official Craft Beer’, and more events that are sell-out owned.  If you look around at events and festivals you’ll start to see AB beer plugged into demographics like: 10bbl = young & outdoorsy, Elysian = Middle aged, Goose Island = Urban. While I’m all for the free market and capitalism, these efforts are a concentrated push to own markets outright. I don’t know about you, but I like having options on what beer I’m drinking and where my money goes.            


The fact is that 78.5% of Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, and I’m sure you know which of your local breweries are independent. If our purchases don’t match the beer we want to keep seeing out in the market, indie beer might be exclusive to local tap rooms. Independence is important. After all, our founding fathers fought for that kind of thing.


We also discussed this topic on a recent episode of the Life Behind Beer podcast. Listen here.


What do you think? Do you look to see if a beer has the Independent Brewers Seal before purchasing?


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