Over the last year or so there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the definition of “Craft Beer”.
The Brewers Association offers one definition, for “Craft Beer”, Wikipedia offers their definition of “Craft Beer”, and journalists find themselves at a loss to define “Craft Beer” especially if they may not be tuned to the nuances of brewers jargon.
The question was put to the readers of BeerBasics.com and the following was the result of that query. The responses are listed in the order that arrived in the BeerBasics.com email folder.
The credentials for each responder are included. If there are no credentials listed then the responder can be understood to be a good friend of beer nevertheless.
What is your definition of “Craft Beer”?
“To me, it’s a beer that is inherently local, something that intentionally ties itself to a community, such that at some level, that community is reflected in the brew. At a more commercial level, there is a size issue — generally, “craft” beers are what is not produced by a huge mega-corp.”
“As we all know in the beginning it was a term to notate the fact that this was not factory beer but hand made by artisans and crafted for flavor. As anything that gets too many chefs into the kitchen it can change that. Like the mid-90’s guys that just thought it would be cool to own a brewery with their extra money and were not trying to start a revolution. To the new bread of them now that do not want a real job, they want to brew beer and have fun. We have faux craft being made by the factories, and our contract brewer friends trying hard to reinvent themselves. Craft to be is almost like saying beer then having to go to ale or lager then on to the next level. I am not a fan of the BA terms either like micro or regional. Do not get me wrong I like the term craft but maybe that is because in my rose colored glasses I will always see it as the call to arms in the early days to brew beer to create a palate revolution for the nations toques.”
Sales & Marketing Director
16 Mile Brewery
“A beer skillfully made by people who should know better than to then ruin it with C02.”
“To me, craft beer is beer brewed from the heart, well conceived (formulated) and well intentioned. I believe that all the regional/larger breweries have grown out of this premise. Nobody these days can build a beer without the intention of affecting their patrons. “We brew the beer we like to drink” is not what generated the movement. There are still those brewers out there who will push the envelope just to do it but Dogfish heads credo of “off centered beers for off centered people” was not intended to push away customers. Most brewers are doing what the think we generate more satisfied customers. Happy customers consume more beer!”
Tributary Brewing Co.
“Good question, Problem is giant produced beers like Blue moon & Sam lager are not excluded in people’s minds as a craft beer. The term micro brewery years ago defined size better. Craft beer is a term loosely used, in general terms these days just means “good beer” which is highly debatable. A good example is Sierra Nevada who makes great craft beer and may sell more than say lonestar or michelob so is the difference ingredients ? Size of brewery & production ? Marketing? Opinion of the consumer?”
“The term has become watered down- “
Sunset Grill and Tap,
“Oh, Peter. I think you’ve asked the $64,000 question! I remember once hearing Garrett Oliver say that a beer is a craft beer if you know who made it (i.e. the name of the brewer her/himself). I thought that was brilliant, and much more authentic to me than the BA’s well-intentioned raising of the bar every time one of the pioneers adds another 100K bbl to their output.”
“The problem in my mind is – do we punish success? As “craft beer” is very much an American idea, how can we justify stripping the label from a brewery simply because it became commercially successful or – even more problematic – gets purchased and swallowed up by the big two (which are a hodgepodge of other consolidations that also include true – e.g. Goose Island; NOT Shock Top – craft beers)?”
“I have heard rumblings that some in the industry would like to stop using the whole “craft beer” label, in particular with regards to great foreign beers that are not even given a designation (would we seriously argue that there’s no difference between Hitachino and Kirin or between de Molen and Heineken?). And as Samuel Adams, Matts, and Sierra Nevada continue to push against the ceiling of the BA’s definition, the fluidity of what is craft beer becomes less of a standard than a marketing term.”
“And I guess that would be my closing thought: It’s not what craft beer is, but what it isn’t. “Craft beer” should be a designation, not a marketing device. Much like sparkling wine cannot be called Champagne unless it is from that specific region in France, craft beer should not be used on any beer that is being created solely to capitalize as opposed to beer being made as a craft (i.e. with artistry and love), money be damned (but certainly appreciated and not punishable by stripping the “craft beer” title from a beer).”
“Brooklyn Beer Bitch”
“Great question and you just might have opened Pandora’s box.”
“My def is a non-production beer or common beer ( pale ale , pils, stout and so on) So, a beer that is tweaked with local ingredients or made with different types things.”
“Or just some home brewer turned pro. I just don’t want to dive to deep into this. A craft brewer today is a production guy next year.”
“Or any macro brewer defined as 20 barrel system or less.”
“I think in its basic form, craft beer-for the drinker, is beer drunk for the taste, or a ‘sipping’ beer to be enjoyed for the pure flavor. Whereas ‘non-craft’ beer is for gulping and thirst quenching. There is overlap, so even the big guys can make ‘craft’ beer. I am curious what a brewer would define it as. I have heard in the industry that micro, craft etc can be based on volume…”
“I see craft as at the middle part of the spectrum with science, having all variables controlled and formulaic reproducibilty at one end and art, with complete whim, whimsey and abandon at the other.”
Michael ‘Mick’ Deering
“There is no such thing as A craft beer,
There are craft brewers – defined by something in their heart.
Alternatively, it is the opposite of industrial beer.”
Beer writer & publisher
1. Less to 500K bbls per year total production
2. Allows their brewers to create new formulas and produce resultant “test” beers
3. Can’t afford to sponsor a professional team
4. Isn’t a candidate for acquisition by InBev (sorry… low hanging fruit)
5. Can only be found at 1 or 2 (at most) kiosks at a professional sports venue
6. A “limited production” beer means less that 1000 bbls
7. flagship beer does not use adjuncts”
“Craft beer ideally should be a brew with regional, artisanal roots that maintains that heritage even if grows a national footprint, like offerings from Sierra Nevada, New Belgium.”
Business Writer, Editor
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Brent T. Frei
“Peter, I believe “craft beer” has always been defined by small production and limited geographic distribution. Particularly in recent years and even more so in the near future, however, I believe “craft” and “artisan” to describe any product must also include a deep, unwavering commitment to (1) sustainability in terms of sourcing and harvesting ingredients, environmental stewardship and human- and animal-resources management, and (2) embracing newer, solution-providing technologies that continue to rely in some meaningful way on the age-old foundations of traditional production, to preserve and honor history.”
“Thanks for including me in your outreach, and have a great weekend.”
Brent T. Frei
Frei & Associates
“First, I’ll tell you what I think it’s not: it’s not something that can be quantified with numbers.”
“The definition of craft beer is very fluid; it’s a combination of brewery size, ingredient quality, variety of beer styles and, most importantly, the passion of the brewers themselves.”
“Good luck measuring that.”
“Craft beer is homebrew beer for profit.”
Sep 19 (3 days ago)
“You are right – simple…… Or, not so much.
In my opinion, a craft beer is:
A commercial product.
Limited in batch size (which also restricts distribution).
Produced using quality ingredients.”
“Beer not made by Annheuser Busch, or Corona.”
The final word…
Finally, I offer the following posting sent in from a “brewing industry source”. This person has been in the brewing industry as a professional for as long as I have been covering the beat. His observations are respected by both brewing professionals and members of the media that cover the commercial brewing industry. Why won’t I identify him? I will not name any source if they aske me not to. To those of you who may use this to question my journalistic ethics I will politely suggest that you “bugger off”. (Apologies to my British, and Canadian readers for the strong language but I could think of no more polite response.)
I could not improve on the following…
“A beer made by deploying a traditional protocols by a genuinely independent, small brewery that has no ownership stake from large-scale brewing organizations. Craft breweries and other breweries are differentiated by the independence of the former. Ideally, “craft” should refer to the spirit of a beer which is full-flavored and made in relatively small batches. Large breweries have excellent examples of such beers made under their purview, or within their walls, or at former craft breweries of which they have subsequently bought significant shares. And a less-confusing word that describes all these beers is Jim Koch’s ‘better beers’ expression, or more romantically yet, “passionately-brewed beers”….Jim Koch really offers the most robust verbiage that marries the two worlds, even though he was attempting to bridge imported beers with his own beers under the better beer umbrella.”
“Widmer, Goose Island, Kona, Leinenkugel: passionately brewed beers (though the latter does have mainstream beers I might personally exclude). Shiner, Yuengling…well it’s long been craft beer from regional specialty breweries. However is Yuengling Premium or Light, or even Shiner Light Blonde, a passionately-brewed beer? Hard to “allow” that, isn’t it? Yet step back and who could deny that they ALL represent ‘better beer’?”
“The ugly side of our word Craft Beer is that any real definition excludes the work of deeply passionate brewers. It divides us. Jim Koch’s vision is stronger because I trust consumer to not be duped. Blue Moon may be passionately-brewed beer, it clearly is Better Beer, yet the consumer will decide on his or her own. But it is not Craft Beer. Steve Hindy was right in sharing his thoughts….I would expect that anyone affiliated with MillerCoors and A-BInBev and Flrodia Beer & Ice would disagree with me. ‘Craft Beer’ excludes some exceptional breweries….and ‘better beer’ unites us all.”