What Is Craft Beer?
There aren’t many questions more polarizing in the beer world than “what is craft beer?” It can be difficult to pin down a definition that satisfies everyone. Some people argue that it’s simply a beer made by a smaller, independent brewer. Others take a more philosophical approach, emphasizing the quality of ingredients or focusing on the creativity of the brewing process itself. Still others, like the Brewer’s Association in Boulder, Colorado, offer a somewhat more concrete definition: “Beer that is created by a brewer who is independent of mega-brewery corporations.”
The nuances and variations within craft beers are endless. From the choice of malts and hops that define styles such as IPA, imperial stout, or pale ale, to the use of barrels to transform the taste of a beer, there is truly a kaleidoscope of flavors. And then there are the more creative choices, whether it’s adhering to the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law that limits the ingredients in a brew, or using a variety of brewing techniques to make a slightly sour ale.
But despite the vast options of craft beers and the proliferation of breweries, there is a growing sense of angst in the industry. The battle between independent breweries and those that have been acquired by macro breweries over the “Independent Craft Seal” is being framed as a fight for the soul of the industry.