Declaration of (brewing) independence

In the course of human events, it became self-evident to Bob Pease that the pursuit of life, liberty and good beer required a declaration of brewing independence.

On Tuesday, the Brewers Association unveiled a way to identify beer from small and independent breweries: a seal that can be slapped on bottles, cans, six-pack holders and other beer-related merchandise.

"What inspired us was hearing the consistent drumbeat from our members," said Pease, president and CEO of the Colorado-based Brewers Association.

Members worried that recent acquisitions of craft breweries by multi-national corporations - Pease cited Anheuser-Busch InBev's purchase of North Carolina's Wicked Weed - are confusing consumers. Is this beer from an independent company with local roots?

If that's not important to you, Pease wishes you well.

"All beer is good," Pease said. "We want to differentiate, not denigrate."

The label is available, free of charge, to breweries that meet the association's definition of "craft" - annually producing less than 6 million barrels of beer, and with no more than 25 percent of ownership in outside hands.

That definition embraces more than 5,300 breweries. Many of them, it seems, are eager to proclaim their independence - within 90 minutes of the program's announcement, more than 200 breweries had downloaded the labels.

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