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Craft Beer – Cracking the Code of Unique Brewing

Nov 2023 | Last modified: November 29, 2023 | 6 min read | By Rick Weninger

Craft beer is a big world with lots of different beers to try. You might hear terms like “Farm brewed” or “Nano brewery” related to it, which can be confusing.

But what is craft beer really all about?

Assorted craft beers in various glasses

Let’s break it down and find out together in this article!

What Is Craft Beer?

Craft beer is any beer that comes from a small, independent brewer.

Here is the craft brewer’s definition:

The Brewers Association of America states that an independent brewer must produce less than 6 million barrels of their combined beer inventory per year to fit the classification.

There are sub-categories, like “microbrewery.” An annual production run of less than 15k barrels per year (with most beer sold at outlets and not at the brewery itself) puts you into the microbrewery category. Scale it back even more, and you are now a “nano-brewery.” Brew on a farm, and it is called “Farm brew.”

The list goes on, but I am sure you get the picture. Breweries are proud to carefully make craft beer in small batches equal to craft beer brands.

Is “Craft” a Type of Beer?

The short answer is no. “Craft beer” refers to a category, not a specific type. It is a massive category with a rich history, too.

There is one significant similarity that all craft beer share, and that is the marketing strategy. Instead of trying to appeal to a large audience using mass marketing or low prices, a craft brewery attracts its customers with a focus on quality, uniqueness, and craftsmanship.

A beer doesn’t have to come from formal breweries to be considered a craft beer. Many small local brewers (and experienced home brewers) create excellent craft beers.

What Is Craft Beer Made Of?

Craft beer is mainly made of four key ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and hops. Purists adhere to the Bavarian purity laws (Reinheitsgebot purity laws), which dictate that these elements should be the sole components of craft beer.

However, craft breweries may take different approaches to brewing. Some may focus on innovation and creativity with hops and other ingredients, while others may adhere to proud traditional methods.

Regardless of the approach, craft beer brewing is driven by a commitment to innovation or dedication to time-honored traditions.

What Is Craft Beer vs. Beer?

Regular beer is produced in huge brewery batches to keep the cost of the product low and the profits high. On the other hand, the goal in brewing a craft beer is the craftsmanship, hence the name, and not the profit margin.

Smaller breweries have the ability to experiment with new styles and innovative ways of brewing craft beer that the big brewers are not able to do. Craft beer can be found packaged in bottles, kegs, or cans, but it’s all craft beer.

The craft brewing definition serves to identify craft beer, and if it does not meet the definition, then it is not craft beer – draft or not. Our website offers good resources for tracking craft beers or creating your own batches.

Is Draft Beer a Craft Beer?

Your craft beer is quite often served to you straight from the keg. So, is a regular draft beer the same as a craft beer? Nope.

Apples to oranges, the experts say. A glass of regular beer in “draft” form is still just that same regular old beer, just packaged in a keg instead of a bottle or can. Fine, if that is what you’re interested in, but being served as a draft beer does not make it a craft beer.

Where Did Craft Breweries Come From?

The growing trend of craft brewing might seem new, but there is a long history of the organization of craft brewers. In the USA, this history began around 1840, when the settler John Wagner set up a craft brewery in Philadelphia using hops carried over from his native Bavaria.

The 1920s saw beer lovers and craft breweries handcuffed (literally and figuratively) by Prohibition, and it was not until 1978 that home brewing was formally legalized. Once small-batch brewing was officially legal again, it was only a matter of time until beer lovers demanded a higher-caliber beer.

Independent breweries started popping up, launching the craft beer market. According to their website, the organization of the Craft Brewers Association happened in 1983. A formalized craft brewer definition was released in 2005.

Examples of Craft Beer

It would be an impossible task to compile a list to satisfy all the different beer lovers. From lagers to potent IPAs, a wide range of beer styles is under the craft beer label. Craft breweries also exist around the world, with many sold in either cans or bottles for shipping.

To get you started, here is a list of favorite brands from the experts.

Green Torch Lime Lager, Half Acre Brewing, Chicago, USA

It offers a delightful combination of crispness, lightness, and refreshment. A modest 4.5% ABV makes it the perfect choice for a zesty and easy-drinking experience.

Irish Stout, Lone Pine Brewing Company

It has traditional chocolate notes and a rich roasted grain bill, letting this beer demonstrate the rich history of Irish Stouts. With a moderate 5.1% ABV, it’s a classic choice for those seeking the authentic taste of Ireland in every sip.

West Coast Pale Ale, Made West Brewing, Ventura, California

An intriguing blend of Simcoe, Mosaic, and Ekuanot hops makes this a great beer to start your journey into some of the top-hop craft beers in 2023, with a 5.6% ABV.

Murphy Double IPA, Parish Brewing, Louisiana, USA

Parish Brewing developed a unique blend of Citra, Strata, and Idaho-7 hops, giving an extra-hoppy punch. Perfect for hop lovers, as it boasts a 7.6% ABV.

Kilted Harley Scottish Ale, Salt Flats Brewing, Salt Lake City, Utah

Gold Medal winner in 2023. It has caramel notes, bitter taste, and earthy hop flavors, all with a 9% ABV.

Final Say

Craft beer from a small independent brewery is no longer a rare drink to find, and the craft beer market has never been more diverse or exciting. From its early beginnings, the range of craft beer being developed has grown into a booming industry.

This craft beer revolution means that no matter where you live in the world, chances are a great craft brewery isn’t far away to find. And no matter what beer styles you’re interested in, you’ll find it being crafted somewhere.

Many will have a website to identify themselves, and good resources like the Brewers Association offer tools for tracking brands down. Craft breweries continue to develop amazing brands, making it an ideal time to explore a new favorite craft beer to drink.

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