Over the last few decades, craft beer has seen a steady rise in popularity across the country and world. With the emergence of microbreweries in the final years of the 20th Century, craft beer officially began an exponential boom.
But what, exactly, is craft beer?
Is it about the quality? The taste? Or is the “craft beer” label just another way for breweries and bars to shake down their customers for a few extra bucks?
It’s actually none of these things (okay, maybe sometimes it’s the last part), and instead has to do with the quantity produced each year, the ownership of the producers, and the method/ingredients. According to the Brewers Association, craft brewers must produce less than 6 million barrels per year, less than 25 percent of the company can be owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer, and the product produced must actually be beer. That means no ciders and no flavored malt beverages.
Although this seems pretty cut and dry, debates about craft beer qualifications still occur all the time. Before we look at one of these situations, here’s a history lesson. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a test; we know you’re probably drunk already.) Craft beer first became possible, from a legal standpoint, when President Jimmy Carter deregulated the beer market in 1979 by making it lawful to sell malt, hops, and yeast in the United States for the first time since Prohibition began. This meant hopeful homebrewers no longer needed to buy their beer-making materials in dimly-lit parking garages and back alleys from suspicious-looking dudes in trench coats. Thus, the craft industry went from basically non-existent to the some 3,500 brewers in existence today.
However, as American’s appetites for craft brews changed, so did the definition of the word. The original restrictions stated that a craft brewery needed to produce less than 2 million barrels per year, which meant Sam Adams (a.k.a. Boston Beer Co.), which prided itself in selling craft beer since 1984, fit the bill. However, when the BBC pushed past the 2 million mark in 2010, the ceiling was raised by the Brewers Association to 6 million barrels. This sounds like a lot compared to many smaller brew companies, but it’s still a long way from the big dogs.
But if Boston Beer Company and Yuengling are considered craft beers, what’s left? That would be Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, and Pabst. That’s it. This may make it seem as if almost every beer except Bud, Miller, Coors, and PBR are considered craft, but you must keep in mind that these companies own a lot of other smaller breweries too. (For instance, Third Shift and Blue Moon are both owned by MillerCoors.) Once acquired, these smaller brands lose their craft status.
So if you really want to know for sure whether or not your frosty brew is a craft beer, just Google the company name. If it’s not owned by Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, or Pabst, then you’re all good. If it is, throw it out. It’s a scientific fact that all non-craft beers all contain 10 percent urine (Editor’s Note: It’s not, and they don’t) so buying from big corporations and thus not helping out the little guy is positively un-American…even if your favorite beer company temporarily changed its name to “America” last summer.
This article was fueled by: Smuttynose Finestkind IPA – Hampton, NH – 6.9% ABV