Introduction to craft beer
At this point you might be wondering exactly what makes craft beer craft beer. What specifically does it take to earn this designation?
In order for a beer to be considered “craft,” it must meet three criteria:
- Limited production - Annual output of 6 million barrels or less. Small craft brewers care about their customers and communities, and put flavor and quality above profits.
- Independence - Less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage producer that is not itself a craft brewer.
- Traditional ingredients - A majority of the brewer’s total beverage alcohol volume derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.
Good economics, great taste
When you drink craft beer, you support local artisans, and contribute to a culture based on local production, self-sufficiency and community values. What makes it even better though is that these artisanal brews taste great.
There are many reasons why craft beer tastes better than its mass-produced counterparts. For one thing, while industrial breweries sometimes use additives like rice and corn to reduce production costs, craft beers generally avoid these cheaper (and less flavorful) ingredients. It’s no coincidence that advertisements for mainstream beers often focus on gimmicks like “coldness indicators,” instead of talking about what the beers actually taste like.
All good craft beers are built on a solid foundation of malt, yeast, hops, and water. That’s just the beginning though, since many brewers create unique flavor combinations by incorporating such enhancements as fruit, chocolate, plants, and vegetables. But the basic idea is pretty simple: higher-quality ingredients and more of them. You won’t have any trouble tasting the difference.
The brewer’s signature
But it’s not only the ingredients that set craft beer apart from its mass-produced counterparts. Individual brewers also put their unique spin on their breweries’ products, and this “signature” is apparent in their styles.
Just as a Picasso is recognizable as a Picasso whether it’s a still life, a portrait or a landscape, so beers from specific brewers reflect their stylistic particularities. (And while famous painters tend to be reclusive, there’s a good chance you can even meet your local beer artists and express your appreciation in person.)
By the way, it’s also good for you
Not only does craft beer have better taste and higher quality, it is also healthy. No, really. For example, craft beer contains high levels of silica, which is known to protect against osteoporosis. Studies have shown that those who enjoy craft beer (in moderation, of course) have higher bone density than non-craft beer drinkers. Craft beer also has higher levels of antioxidants and vitamin B than mainstream beer, or even red wine.
So, whether you prefer your health drink in the form of a light lager with subtle citrus undertones, or a decadent porter with coffee aromatics, craft beer will help you to thrive and flourish.