Last weekend during the Superbowl, a friend of mine picked up a bottle of Driftwood Ale I had just poured from, read the label, and asked “What is craft beer?”. I know I just wrote a “what is” post, but craft beer is something that all beer drinkers should know about.
I don’t think there is an official definition of craft beer, at least not one that I could find, but I would say there are some things that are generally true about craft brewing:
- Craft brewers consider brewing an art requiring special skill (hence the word craft).
- Craft brewers stick to the four main brewing ingredients (water, barley, hops, yeast), save adjuncts for special brews, but definitely no preservatives.
- Craft brewers are small microbreweries, brewpubs, or home brewers.
- Craft brewers brew beer for taste and quality, not mass appeal and shelf life.
- Craft brewers respect tradition and are independently owned.
- Craft beer tastes better (most important to me).
There are always exceptions, note that I believe the above list to be only generally true. Please comment if you have a different definition of craft beer or feel that more or less should be added or removed from my list. In my web searching I found a really interesting article about the definition of craft beer where the author asked prominent brewing figures for their own definition. I particularly enjoyed the response by the Anheuser-Busch employee, but recommend reading the entire article. Beertown.org also has a good writeup on the subject.
Lately I’ve noticed that the words “craft beer” have become more of marketing catch phrase. Okanagan Spring have rebranded themselves as a craft brewer, you may have noticed the new labels, packaging and commercials. While I enjoy Okanagan Spring’s beer much more than most macrobrew, I’m inclined to think that their usage of the moniker has more to do with market segmentation and Sapporo‘s global brand strategy than beer artisanship. I will point out that Okanagan Spring is not a member of the BC Craft Brewing Association.
I don’t really think that labels and terms matter. I will always drink what tastes best (as long as it won’t kill me) and will only ever advocate that others do the same. I do think that craft beer tastes better in general and I do suggest that beer drinkers give their local non-macro brewers a try. A positive sign to me are the reports I’ve recently noticed that show craft beer sales on the rise, but I wonder how they define craft beer?