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What Is Craft Beer?

Photo of kegs at Pure Project Brewery

After visiting 120 “craft beer” breweries in southern California over the past 18 months to taste beers where they were made, I have learned a lot. Before I travel to anymore, however, I figure it is time to revisit the definition of “craft beer” to remind myself of what the term means.

Here is a set of notes I made myself for quick reference after perusing the Brewers Association website. Perhaps these notes will help you, too.

Question: What is a craft beer?

Answer: A beer made by a craft brewery.

Question: What is a craft brewery?

Answer: A small, independent, and traditional brewery.

Small means the beer is made by a brewery that distributes no more than six million barrels (a barrel is 31 gallons) of beer per year.

Independent means less than 25% of the brewery is owned by a “non-craft” brewery.

Traditional means the majority of the brewery output is beer whose flavor comes from traditional (e.g., malted barley) or innovative brewing ingredients (i.e., interesting and/or non-traditional ingredients, such as coffee, vanilla, citrus pulp or zest), and their fermentation.

After reflecting on this correct definition of “craft beer”, I am here to report that all the breweries I have visited meet the above criteria. In addition to drinking some wonderful beers during my travels, I also have noticed another key to being a craft brewery from the Brewers Association perspective: craft brewers get involved with their communities and give back through donations, sponsorships, and volunteerism.


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