What Is Craft Beer?
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.