What is Craft Beer?
When trying to define craft beer, each beer lover has a unique interpretation and story of discovery to share. To make a true craft beer definition even more difficult, each individual beer brand is one of a kind.
However, our parent organization, the Brewers Association, does define an American craft brewer. This definition allows the organization to provide statistics on the growing craft brewery segment which makes up the majority of all breweries in the U.S.
An American craft brewer is:
Annual production of six million barrels of beer or less.
Less than 25 percent 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.
A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50 percent of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.
Visit the Brewers Association for more information about the craft brewer definition and details on the four distinct craft beer market segments: brewpubs, microbreweries and regional craft breweries.
Why craft beer?
Craft beer has been described variously as 10 minutes of pleasure, pure happiness in a glass, authentic, archetypical, an intellectual beverage that is to be savored not swilled and much, much more. It is enjoyed for everyday celebrations and is viewed by many as one of the special things in life that makes the day taste and feel a little better.
Each glass displays the creativity and passion of its maker and the complexity of its ingredients. Craft beer is treasured by millions around the world who see it as not merely a fermented beverage, but something to be enjoyed in moderation (see Savor the Flavor), shared and revered. It is a versatile beverage that not only enhances food when paired, but is also often brought into the kitchen as a cooking ingredient.
Craft beer in the United States
Today is the best time in U.S. history to be a beer lover. The average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery. As a nation, the U.S. now has more beer styles and brands to choose from than any other market in the world. This has not always the case if you look at the History of Beer in the U.S. prior to 1980.
More than 2,500 breweries are responsible for the beer brands available in the U.S., with 97 percent fitting the Brewers Association’s small and independent craft brewer definition.
These craft breweries have had many successes and challenges, but they could not have developed their reputation as producers of the world’s best beer without the support of beer lovers globally. As of 2012, U.S. craft brewers represented a mere 10.2 percent of American overall beer sales, which seems like a small amount considering millions of adults enjoy and support their local breweries.
Challenges to craft brewers
Craft brewers face many challenges including access to market, cost of raw materials and ingredients and operation in a highly regulated and highly taxed industry. Remember, when you Support Your Local Brewery, you are supporting the community and culture of craft brewing in the U.S., which helps craft brewers provide jobs and support their local communities.