Jester King Craft Brewery

Jester King to Adopt Brewers Association Independent Craft Brewer Seal

After consideration amongst our leadership here at Jester King, we have decided to adopt the Brewers Association (BA) Independent Craft Brewer Seal. These are obviously turbulent times in the beer world. It seems like not a month goes by without an acquisition of a craft brewer by a multinational conglomerate. We believe that independence matters, perhaps now more than ever, and that beer drinkers should have as much information as possible when making buying decisions. We see the BA seal as one of several ways small brewers can fight back against big beer’s effort to obfuscate the beer market, and we’re glad to support the initiative.

We’re not going to use this post as an opportunity to say why independence matters in beer. Others have already done so much more eloquently than us. For instance, this piece by Jim Vorel of Paste Magazine does a pretty amazing job of explaining it. What we are going to do is use this post as a chance to explain, as openly and honestly as we can, what led to this decision.

In the weeks since its unveiling, we’ve seen plenty of debate on how effective or impactful the seal actually will be. Do people care? Will it make any difference at all? We honestly have no idea. But what fuels our decision to support the initiative is a desire to take some action — any action — against big beer’s effort to muddy the waters when it comes to consumer choice. When I walk into my local grocery store and stare at the shelves in the beer aisle, I’m met with a dazzling display of colors and what appears to be a nearly endless array of unique choices. But nowadays, if you really break down what’s staring back at you, it’s easy to see the ugliness of the illusion of choice. A startling number of the options send your dollars funneling back to the same three or four giant beer conglomerates.

If there’s one thing we try be at Jester King, it’s authentic. We’re not a perfect brewery and we don’t always make perfect beer, but at least we’re honest about what we do, how we do it, and why it matters to us. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s inauthenticity. And sadly, that’s what big beer is doing by gobbling up small breweries at an alarming rate and displaying them side by side at bars and on retail shelves. It’s this inauthenticity and illusion of locality and independence that bothers us, and we’re onboard with a coordinated effort to push back against what we see as an unethical business practice.

With that said, we do have a few contrarian things to say. The people who know us well won’t be surprised. It’s kinda been our M.O. over the years. If we were setting the criteria to use the seal, we’d make 100% independence a requirement. As it stands, a brewery only needs to be over 75% independent to qualify. We personally find it odd that a brewery could be just under a quarter owned by a multi-national conglomerate and still be considered “independent”. We think the Texas Craft Brewers Guild gets it right by requiring a Texas brewery to be 100% independently owned in order to be a voting member in the guild.

Secondly, we’d count majority ownership by private equity firms as disqualifying. We have no insider knowledge, and are far from well-versed in the field of venture capital, but it’s our understanding that it’s only a matter of time until VC firms flip their brewery holdings for a profit. What bothers us is a VC firm using independent cred to build up value in a brewery before selling it to a multinational.

Thirdly, independence is great, but how helpful is it in states like Texas where independent breweries ally themselves with distributors who actively oppose their interests? This has been a recurring refrain from us throughout the years. Our greatest political opponent in Texas are the big distributors. There’s a reason why you can buy wine to go from a winery and spirits to go from a distillery in Texas, but not beer to go from a production brewery. It’s because the distributors say “no”. All the independence in the world isn’t going to change that, so long as the distributors hold all the cards, and we as craft brewers continue to give them our business without banding together to demand change.

Finally, to be perfectly transparent, we have some aesthetic concerns about using the seal. Our artist Joshua Cockrell is a hugely-valued, highly respected part of our brewery, and we take his opinions very seriously. We owe a great deal of our professional success to him. Joshua highly values both form and function, and his artwork is much more of a creative, passionate endeavor than a functional beer label. In deference to Joshua, his professional livelihood, and artistic creation, we won’t be incorporating the seal into our label art. Rather, we will apply it to our case cartons, bottle carriers, website, and tasting room decor.

We appreciate the BA taking initiative in these wild times to stand up for independence, and we’re glad to join the ranks of what is now thousands of brewers who have gotten onboard.


Jeffrey Stuffings
Founder, Jester King