We aren’t shy about our fanaticism for craft beer. We love to geek out about everything from the differences between IPAs and brown ales to the definitions of
hops and ABV. And of course, we can go on and on about what beers you should pair with your favorite foods.
But let’s take a step back from all that for a minute and ask a few important questions: What exactly is craft beer? How do we define craft brewing? What makes a craft brewer different than a regular one? These terms get thrown around a lot, but there’s often still confusion over what they mean.
Defining the Craft Brewer
The Brewers Association, the organization that is designed to “promote and protect” independent brewers, defines an American craft brewer as having three characteristics: it is small, independent and traditional.
A craft brewer maintains a relatively modest production: no more than 6 million barrels of beer per year.
No more than 25% of a craft brewery can be owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not also a craft brewer. In other words, a giant brewery wouldn’t be able to own 40% of a craft brewery and still be labeled “craft.”
A craft brewer devotes the majority of its total beverage alcohol volume to beers with flavors originating from “traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.” Flavored malt beverages (such as fruity wine coolers) don’t count.
Types of Craft Brewers
The Brewers Association also identifies four different categories:
brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries and contract brewing companies.
• Brewpubs: Restaurant-breweries selling 25% or more of their beer on site
• Microbreweries: Breweries producing less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, with 75% or more sold off site
• Regional craft breweries: independent regional breweries with a majority of volume in traditional or innovative beers
• Contract companies: businesses that hire other breweries to produce their beer
Fun Craft Brewing Facts
• Craft brewers blend new and classic ingredients, often resulting in distinctive, interesting flavor combinations
• Craft brewers are able to stay creative and independent, without the influence of a non-craft brewer
• Most Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer