The Rise of Craft Beer
From a consumer standpoint, it is relatively easy to differentiate between the mass-produced lagers of big commercial breweries and the small, independent microbrews that have surged in popularity. However, determining what makes a beer a craft beer is a murkier (and frothier) business. The Brewers Association defines craft beer as a product made by a small, independently owned brewery. The association uses a number of factors to define a small brewery, including brewing method and ingredients, but the most widely accepted criteria is the number of barrels produced each year.
The rise of Craft Beer reflects several important social and economic changes. The counterculture of the 1970s gave birth to a do-it-yourself aesthetic that spilled over into food and drink, fueled by growing dissatisfaction with big business and the stifling effects of government regulation. This restless mood was exacerbated by weak economic performance that reduced confidence in both businesses and governments.
The emergence of craft breweries offered an alternative to corporate beer that focused on promoting a variety of flavors, hops profiles, and regionality. These breweries were often founded by people who had grown up drinking beer but had never had the opportunity to brew it themselves. As a result, they were able to create beers with unique characteristics that appealed to consumers who were tired of bland, flavorless beer. The rise of these breweries, along with the proliferation of books and magazines that promoted homebrewing, created a niche market for more flavorful beer.