Craft beers continue to rage in popularity nationally and now seemingly even abroad, but do you really know what makes a craft beer?
Perhaps the best place to start is the Brewers Association, which defines an American craft brewery as one:
- That has an annual production of less than 6 million barrels.
- That is independent, meaning 25 percent or less is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
- That has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers.
- That flavors its beers with traditional or innovative brewing ingredients.
The Brewer’s Association may use these parameters to identify a craft brewer, but what truly makes a brewery “craft” may be more subtle and can be rather subjective and based on personal experience. It can’t be based on the way it tastes or its style. There are more than 150 styles of craft beer recognized by the Brewers Association, and many brewers stray from these styles entirely.
Innovation is a hallmark
Craft brewers put unique twists on historic beer styles, or they may develop new styles of beers entirely. A brewer might incorporate flavor profiles or ingredients you’ve never experienced before. Craft brewers don’t tend to produce large quantities and usually aren’t shipped too far and wide like the big brands. So, when you’re perusing the beer aisle, look for those brewed close to home, or at least in your geographic region.
Craft brewers also tend to be quite involved in their local communities. They don’t shy away from donations, philanthropic giving, volunteerism and sponsorships. You may see their banners hung at community fundraisers or events.
If you’re still unclear about what is truly a craft beer, use the Craft Check app to determine if a brew is indeed produced by an authentic craft brewery or is “a mass-market imitation.”
Regardless, whether a brew or a brewery meets the Brewer’s Association definition of “craft” shouldn’t matter when it comes to taste. Drink what you like, regardless of the size of the company that brewed it. After all, good beer is good beer, regardless of its lineage.