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What is Craft Beer?

The term Craft Beer has become a fixture in bars, restaurants and bottle shops. It’s part of a few books and countless magazine titles; it’s used in dozens of beer weeks and breweries’ names. But what does it mean? How did it become so popular, and what does the future hold for it?

The word craft refers to an art or trade that requires a high degree of skill. It’s also used to describe a style of beer that uses traditional ingredients like malted barley but adds interesting or nontraditional ones for flavor and color. Craft brewers are also known for their community involvement through product donations and volunteerism.

But the term’s real significance has less to do with a specific beer than it does with the revolution that has been underway in American drinking culture. Craft brewers tapped into mainstream drinkers’ thirst for new flavors and innovative, high-quality beverages. They also infused their products with a sense of artisanal pride, reviving old beer traditions and rejecting the swill that once dominated the market.

The result was a wave of growth in the craft industry, a boom that has only intensified as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of many large breweries and has driven beer prices up as barley and hops supply tightens. And, in what might be the most telling sign of craft’s power, it has spurred a skirmish over what defines a craft brewery: What’s the difference between an independent craft brewery and one that has been bought by a macro brewing conglomerate?

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