Beer Spotlight: Evolution of Craft Beers, Part 1

My nephew, Jonathan, who is a sophomore at Penn State, asked me to do a write-up on craft beers, specifically what defines a beer as 'craft or IPA' and what classifies a beer as being 'seasonal'. It doesn't surprise me that a college student wants to be equipped with all this knowledge. I always said that if you are going to be a drinker, please be an 'informed' drinker. Knowledge is power and very influential. I'm sure all his college buddies will appreciate it. I remember all the young people and parents who purchased my cocktail book when it first got published because they wanted the information.

This blog entry is part 1 of a two-part series on craft (IPA) beer because there is just too much information to convey in one blog entry. I will first describe what it is and what defines it and then discuss some facts about it. The seasonal beer discussion will follow.

The craft beer revolution is upon us (and has been for a while now) and is continuing to grow as new pubs and bars are competing with each other to have the best selection of craft beers. I don't possess a lot of knowledge on the subject so most of the information provided is directly from the craft breweries and the American Brewers' Association. 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.

First, an American craft brewer is defined as small, independent and traditional.

Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.

Independent: 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.

Traditional: 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% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

The following are some concepts related to craft beer and craft brewers:

  • Craft brewers are small brewers.
  • The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
  • Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
  • Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events.
  • Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
  • Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.
  • The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a craft brewer.

The craft beer industry is defined by four distinct markets: brewpubs, microbreweries, regional craft breweries, and contract brewing companies.

Microbrewery: A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year with 75% or more of its beer sold off-site. Microbreweries sell to the public by one or more of the following methods: the traditional three-tier system (brewer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer); the two-tier system (brewer acting as wholesaler to retailer to consumer); and, directly to the consumer through carryouts and/or on-site tap-room or restaurant sales.

Brewpub: A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery's storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer "to go" and /or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75%.

Contract Brewing Company: A business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer. The contract brewing company handles marketing, sales, and distribution of its beer, while generally leaving the brewing and packaging to its producer-brewery (which, confusingly, is also sometimes referred to as a contract brewery).

Regional Brewery: A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels.

Regional Craft Brewery: An independent regional brewery who has either an all malt flagship or has at least 50% of it's volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

Large Brewery: A brewery with an annual beer production over 6,000,000 barrels.

I tried to avoid using all this technical information, but it is essential to properly and correctly define craft beers

Source: American Brewers' Association

to be continued...Up next - Craft Beer, Part 2

 

Comments