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What Is Craft Beer?

Nothing soothes the soul like a chilled fizzy mug of beer. In fact, humans have been brewing fermented beverages for about 5,000 years.

In the mid-1980s, microbreweries started proliferating in America and challenging beer giants like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors for refrigerator space in consumer grocery stores. At the same time, homebreweries were experimenting with ingredients, pushing boundaries of style and creating a new generation of beer drinkers. During this time the term “craft beer” was first coined by Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Vince Cottone, and by the late 1990s it had become widely used in industry trade publications.

Craft breweries use high-quality, often local, ingredients to create unique and flavorful beers. They also employ brewing techniques that allow for creativity and experimentation with traditional and innovative flavors, which differentiates them from mass-produced macro beer.

Macro breweries produce large volumes of beers for profit, and that often takes precedence over quality and tradition. They may use cheaper ingredients and additives to maintain consistency in larger batches, and they often use corn or rice instead of traditional hops as a cost-saving measure.

The Brewers Association established the craft beer category to promote and protect small and independent American breweries and their beers. Their definition states that a brewery is considered craft if it meets three criteria: small, independent and traditional. This is a malleable definition that changes from time to time – for example, the BA has changed the minimum barrel volume to 6 million in order to include Boston Beer Co. But in the end, as long as a brewer is producing quality beer and people are enjoying it, who’s really complaining?

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