The lure of craft beer holds strong across demographics and regions. Need quantification? It’s readily available. The total beer volume sales plummeted by 2%, but craft brew sales upped by 4% to occupy 13.6% of the beer market by volume in the US in 2019. Taprooms experienced the most significant surge in craft consumption. About 6% upsurge was recorded in craft beer retail dollar sales, accounting for over 25% of the $116.0 billion beer market in the US in the same year.
While the numbers speak for themselves, the question remains – what is a craft beer and why is it such a rage. Well, the latter part is easy to answer, but there’s an issue with the first part. The industry is yet to coin an authoritative definition of craft beer, as the topic is too subjective. Plus, the mainstream serves, and craft brews have a lot of overlap. The only option is to put up a definition that’s tentative yet widely accepted by the industry and beer geeks.
Defining Craft Beer:
Craft beer is crafted, not mass brewed. The brewery brewing should be small, independent and traditional, employing conventional and inventive brewing techniques, practices and ingredients. A certain level of freedom can be exercised to cultivate distinct aromas and flavors.
What does small, independent, and traditional stand for? Brewers Association (BA) puts it as:
- Small: The craft brewery’s annual production capacity should 6 million barrels or less. As an additional measure applicable since 2014, the brewery is allowed to produce 3% of the market, meaning the brewery’s capacity and market output can grow side-by-side.
- Independent: 25% of the craft brewery’s economic interests should rest with someone who can be a member of the beverage industry but not directly involved in brewing.
- Traditional: BA redefined this parameter in 2014. Unlike pre-2014, the beer’s flavor can be derived from conventional or inventive brewing ingredients during fermentation.
The three key parameters aside, there’s a consensus on the applicability of certain other concepts to craft brews and craft breweries. Let’s walk you through a few of the most profound ones.
- The craft brewing techniques can be passed from generation to generation, a gift of the brew master’s whims, or a blend of the two. The traditional styles are usually tweaked to develop a novel style with no precedent. That’s one reason why craft beer is popular.
- Like any beer, craft brews have water, grain, yeast, and herbs as primary ingredients. But brewmaster often experiments with new, non-traditional ingredients for distinctiveness.
- Craft breweries take quality focus to another level. Every aspect of the value chain is catered to, ensuring a perfect blend of aroma, flavor, and overall quality.
- Craft breweries connect with beer geeks individualistically, and champion community causes with time and money. Customers and communities are central to them.
Why is it a rage?
The popularity of craft brews cannot be nailed down to a single factor. They include:
- Higher ABV: Craft brews are characterized by higher alcohol by volume (ABV) vis-à-vis mainstream serves, up to 20% in certain cases, subject to the brewmasters’ discretion.
- An overwhelming variety: Think Pale Ale, IPA, Brown Ale, Belgian Pale, Stouts, Porters, and more, the craft brews rival their bottled counterparts in variety to support all tastes.
- Integrity in brewing: craft brews are a result of an elaborate, well-defined fermentation process to guarantee effervescent, delectable taste apt for a beer connoisseur.
- Exclusivity: The exclusivity factor runs deep in a craft beer with each craft brewery producing distinctive flavors, unlike the cookie-cutter flavors of mass brewed serves.
Double fermentation: Craft beers are double fermented. The first loss of CO2 in the first fermentation is compensated with yeast in the second one. Contrarily, the bottled serves are provided CO2 artificially – a strong reason why craft beer is popular.