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Craft Beer: A Definition and the History That Made It So Popular

Craft Beer

Whether it’s an IPA or a barrel-aged beer, the craft beer movement has changed everything about the world of brewing. It’s fueled a new generation of taste-makers and inspired new innovations that have taken the industry forward and beyond.

Craft Beer: A Definition and the History That Made It So Popular

As American craft breweries grew in number, they began challenging large alcohol conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors for refrigerator space at grocery stores. And in the mid-1980s, Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Vince Cottone coined the term ’craft beer’ to describe their products.

That phrasing caught on, and the phrase was eventually incorporated into today’s dominant brewing industry trade group, the Brewers Association. The organization serves a variety of purposes for brewers, but one of its most important is defining the category of craft beer.

It’s a relatively simple process, but it also has some serious implications. For one, it puts a limit on the number of wholesale distributors who take on small breweries – only a few remain willing to accept them.

The result is a bottleneck that stymies growth in many parts of the country. In addition, state laws often prohibit breweries from selling their products outside of their local area.

Despite this, craft beer remains a vibrant market, with more than 6,000 breweries producing over 20,000 brands in the United States alone. The wide variety of flavors translates to operational challenges that brewers face as they try to keep up with demand. In addition, consumers in this sector often enjoy sampling a variety of beers, and this lack of loyalty can hurt sales in the long run.

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