The Meaning of Craft Beer

THE VAS BLOG – INSIGHTS ON THE ART OF DRINKING

  I’ve been writing posts for a while now, and have been referencing plenty of craft brews, but I’ve never actually bothered to explain what a craft brew is, or why this is even a big deal.  While I can probably take it for granted that most of you are into beer enough to know anyway, I don’t want to ignore anyone that doesn’t.  Since the more you understand about beer, the more you’ll want to try it, I consider any opportunity to educate and expose people to beer to be a good thing. 

To begin with some perspective: prior to the 1920’s in theUnited States, there were many small breweries throughout the country.  With the passage of Prohibition, many went out of business because they were unable to sustain themselves.  As a result, the 1930s-1970s were predominated by breweries such as Budweiser and Miller, who’s ubiquitous Pilsner became synonymous with American Beer. 

Fast forward thirty years, and there has been a virtual explosion of breweries throughout the U.S.producing a variety of beers in different styles.  A term that gained a lot of traction starting in the 1990’s was “microbrewery”, and this still gets tossed around a lot in conjunction with craft beers.  This is not entirely accurate.  While a microbrew is a craft beer, a craft beer can be a larger operation than a microbrew.  A microbrewery is defined as producing less than 15,000 barrels a year, while the American Brewers Association, produces and defines a craft brewery as one who has “Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less…Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.”  (http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/craft-brewer-defined

What this is saying is that a craft brewer must be small (relative to Macrobreweries) and fundamentally independent.  This probably counts for most brewers that are out there, producing relatively small quantities.  Craft breweries run the gamut through, with some small breweries producing a handful to large ones like Boston Beer Co. that put out almost 2,000,000 barrels a year.

That’s a brief technical explanation of a craft beer.  On a more personal level, I’d like to define these beers in a way that is not quantitative.  I’ll leave that to people above my pay grade to parse out in terms of volumes, or percentages owned.  To me, a craft beer is an artisinal product.  It is made with respect for the process of brewing, and, undeniably, a passion for beer.  I think that this is a transparent passion, and it is infectious to many of the people who have been won over by these brews.  This is beer that has moved past getting “slammed” or “shotgunned”, in the same way you don’t swallow down a Filet Mignon like you would a Big Mac. 

I’ll leave it at this point.  If you enjoy these beers even a fraction as much as I do, then you know what I am talking about.  If you are just discovering them, you are in store for a great surprise. 

Have a great weekend, everyone.   As always, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written, or even general questions about anything else, please feel free to email me at george@vasforemost.com, tweet us: @vasforemost, or give us a call at (773) 278-9420.

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