Craft beer is an individually-brewed batch of beer. That means beer from smaller-scale, usually independent breweries, rather than big corporates with huge industrial production lines.
The world of craft beer is thriving, with a growing global thirst for these tasty and flavoursome brews helped by a creative, experimental and innovative army of new breweries and brands.
There’s an official definition of craft beer from the Brewers’ Association:
“Craft beer must come from a brewery that brews no more than 6 million barrels of beer per year, has under a quarter of the brewery owned or controlled by the alcoholic beverage industry, and has at least half of its volume in all malt beers.”
So there you go – it’s all about the quantity. But what does it mean to us, the drinker? Well, craft beer is pretty much guaranteed to be interesting – with distinct flavours, unique properties and local varieties.
The smaller batches involved means there’s the opportunity for experimentation and versatility in different brews. Smaller breweries might only make a few kegs of a new variety, which they can do without investing in expensive equipment or big batches of ingredients. They can then test to see whether they (and their customers) like it enough to make it permanent.
You might see some delicious concoctions like ‘orange & fennel stout’, ‘limoncello IPA’, or our own Sling It Out Stout – a chocolate stout brewed using upcycled Kellogg’s Coco Pops.
Some craft brewers have interestingly alternative business models, too. They can be run as workers’ cooperatives, or use crowdfunding to raise funds for new beers, breweries or drinking venues. This isn’t something you’d see with the larger corporates.
And when it comes to marketing, you’ll likely see some puntastic brew names (Rhubarbra Streisand, anyone?) and highly colourful, artistic can designs – ranging from minimal, mysterious and confident stylings, to all out sparkly disco graffiti psychedelia.
As for the history of the craft beer movement, it’s been going on longer than you might think. While the explosion of independent breweries has been really noticeable in the UK in the last five years or so, it’s been brewing (sorry) for much longer. Back in the 1980s, after brewing was deregulated in the US, things really kicked off, with amateur enthusiasts planting their flag in a landscape dominated by corporate mega-brands.
Since then, craft beer has been on an upward trajectory. Throughout the 2000s, demand skyrocketed and the number of breweries grew, from 500 at the turn of the millennium to over 2,000 now.
The future is bright indeed for craft beer. It’s a vibrant, ever-changing scene, and the creativity that constantly bubbles up keeps us on our toes. There are new breweries opening up constantly, some fizzling out fast, some growing steady, and others being eaten up by international brewing conglomerates. Interesting times.
So it’s no longer just for the beer nerds – although they are very much welcome to join us in the brewhouse. ‘Real ale’ aficionados helped the growth of craft beer subculture throughout the UK – we’re all friends in this industry. Cheers!