You’ve heard the term and have perhaps enjoyed a micro-brew yourself, but what does the term “Craft Beer” even mean? The short answer is that craft beers are made in small batches using time-honored methods. They produce a full-bodied taste and aroma that is truly unique to their brew.
Across the globe, there are many varying definitions of what makes a true craft brewer. However the Brewers Association has come up with a definition of an American craft brewer which allows them to provide statistics on the growing craft brewery market.
An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.
Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
But how does a craft beer differ from the major beers we know and love?
The biggest difference between the two is in the market. A craft brew is made to be consumed locally and has no need for extensive steps to prolong shelf life. This removes the need for pasteurization and filtration techniques that can remove the natural flavors and aromas of the brew. In addition, a “big brewer” will often attempt to speed up the fermentation process with enzymes. While it gives them the ability to produce beer at a much faster rate, it also means that water will need to be added. Have you ever had a “watery beer”?
A craft brew also differs in how it is enjoyed. Much like wine, you can pair your favorite local beer with complimenting food, making the entire meal and beverage more enjoyable. Each beer contains its own complexities which serve to create an overall experience. Using craft beer in the kitchen as a cooking ingredient can also yield uniquely delicious results.
Why choose a craft brew?
In addition to the distinct taste and aroma, you are supporting independent, local business. According to the Brewers Association, the majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer. These brewers strive for quality over quantity and take pride in delivering the very best to their customers. Beer making is a time-honored tradition and while we love those “big brewer” Super-Bowl commercials, it’s very clear that Americans are beginning to understand the superior quality of a well-made craft brew.