Monday, September 10, 2012

What is craft beer?

A question you see in every beer magazine and scattered across the interwebs is, "What is craft beer?"  Often times this discussion is framed by the Brewer's Association ("BA") as it struggles with who is allowed to call themselves "Craft Brewers."  In January of last year the BA amended its previous definition of craft brewer, in what I refer to as the "Sam Adams compromise", to include all small independent breweries producing 6 million barrel of beer a year or less.  To a guy who brews maybe 60 gallons of beer a year, 6 million barrels sounds pretty darn large, but I am not a for-profit entity so I digress.  I understand that the BA is an industry group who derives much of its funding from its members, so it doesn't make sense to kick out your biggest due-paying members because of some arbitrary size qualification.  I mean its basic economics, folks.

There are lots of definitions of craft beer, so I won't pretend this is a unique post, but I thought I'd give it a whirl.  I think that we can easily agree on the second word, beer.  Beer has been defined for hundreds of years, as a fermented malt beverage consisting of malted cereal grains, water, hops, and yeast.  Additionally, I'd add that beer also may contain other food products such as fruit or spices for flavoring.  I doubt that definition would rouse much debate.  Therefore, the controversial part of the definition is the word "craft."

To me, "craft" connotes a passion for the product produced.  Sure a brewery has to make money to keep the lights on and pay the bills, and the brewers and owners like money just as much as any red-blooded capitalist.  My American heart appreciates this fact.  That being said, when a decision has to be made regarding how to use the limited resources controlled by that brewery, a craft-oriented passionate brewer will invest in the quality of the product above other expenditures like marketing or distribution.  The thing that frustrates beer geeks like myself the most about macro brewers like Anheuser Busch is that they spend millions of dollars on marketing when they could instead spend that money on making the actual beer taste better.

Support your local breweries,

No comments: