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The new definition of craft beer

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2022-05-20      Origin: Site

After years of thinking about what craft beer is or isn’t; it seems fitting to start the year out with a new craft beer definition.

If you’re a craft beer fan then you probably routinely ask yourself, what is craft beer? While it should be a simple answer, the beer industry has become so complex and twisted that many of us struggle to provide a clear definition. It seems like redefining craft beer is a necessity. But where do we start?

What Is Faux Craft Beer?

The term craft beer probably means something slightly different to just about everyone. And for that reason, it becomes more of a personal opinion than a defined type of beverage. But we all use it so frequently that you’d think we would agree on it’s meaning.

The “official” definition of craft beer is the one provided by the Brewers Association. This definition has evolved to focus just as much on the “who” as it does on the “what” or “how”. Meaning, the definition is more dependent on brewery ownership than the type or quality of beer.

For those that aren’t obsessed with craft beer, this definition is hard to understand because it has very little to do with the actual beer. And that is confusing.

But confusion over what is craft beer isn’t a new issue. Most of us can easily recall a time when restaurants had two categories for beer – domestic and import.

Consumers were led to believe that anything that wasn’t an American Lager should be grouped into a single category. Imports, faux craft beer, American craft beer, etc were all given a small section of grocery stores and their own list at restaurants. This caused craft beer to be linked to the style more than any other factors.


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The Current Craft Beer Definition

As the craft beer movement gained steam, craft beer meant higher quality, stronger flavor, and a variety of styles. With the aid of the modern taproom, many also began connecting the idea of local as one way to define craft beer.

So regardless of the size of the brewery, if it was local then it had to be craft. But for larger brands, the definition was widely still tied to the type of beer they were making.

Being defined by style wasn’t such a bad thing. However, it meant large breweries could easily be looped into being craft by simply brewing (or acquiring) specific beers. So the Brewers Association continually altered their definition to focus more on the structure of the company.

The goal was to promote what they perceived as “real” craft. But for those closest to the industry, it was easy to see how the beer world was becoming increasingly more confusing.

Craft Beer Confusion

In 2011, AB-InBev (Budweiser) purchased Goose Island. Since then, there’s been a landslide of “craft” breweries selling to large corporations. These acquisitions created a continual debate about what craft beer is or isn’t.

Breweries once considered craft, are now owned by huge corporations. So the Brewers Association no longer viewed them as “craft”. Enthusiasts reacted and swore to never drink their beer, scrutinized the quality of their beer, and pointed out unethical ethics business practices.

While AB-InBev made most of the purchases, MillerCoors, Heineken and other brands also got involved.

As an aid to identify “real” craft beer, the Brewers Association released their Independent Craft Brewery Seal. This logo was only provided to breweries meeting their “craft” definition.

But amidst all of this, the average beer consumer didn’t seem to notice. They continued to drink beer they liked regardless of who made it. The style of the beer remained the most prominent way that consumers identified craft beer.

To make matters even more confusing, Ballast Point has gone from being independent to owned by Constellation (think Corona), and recently back to being independent. And in 2020, one of the most respected independent craft breweries, New Belgium, is being sold to a large corporation.

We are just waiting the next acquisition that will shake up the beer world.

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