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What is craft beer?

Learn all you need to know about craft beer.

by: Martin Tucker | 12 Oct 2012
craft beer

In my line of work, I often get asked the same three questions:

1. Is beer fattening?

2. What’s the best beer?

3. What is craft beer?

Is beer fattening?

The first is easy to answer. Beer has a certain amount of residual sugar in it, anything with alcohol does. There is less residual sugar in beer than in white wine, so wine is actually more fattening. Who knew?

What’s the best beer?

The second question is harder to answer. If you taste different beers often, you start to appreciate the different styles and flavour profiles.

At the moment, the beers I’m probably drinking the most often are Darling Slow Beer lager, the Devils Peak Woodhead Amber Ale and one of my oldest friends, Castle.

What is craft beer?

The third question is the hardest to answer, not just for me, but for publishers of beer books, beer experts, brewers and even legal minds.

As the saying goes, opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one. Everyone’s opinion on what makes a craft beer and how they arrived at it, is justified in their eyes, but no subject is as divisive in the beer world.

To highlight my point, here are a few widely read definitions:

'A craft brewer is small, independent and traditional, according to the American Brewers Association. Small, being less than six million barrels. Independent, meaning less than 25% is owned/controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Traditional, indicating a brewer who has an all malt flagship beer or at least 50% of their volume is all malt, or beers that use adjuncts (extras added to beers) to enhance, rather than lighten flavour.

Craft beer is a beer not brewed by a mega brewery or alcoholic beverage corporation.' - Wikipedia.

And from Appellation Beer of New Zealand:'If you can identify exactly where it was brewed, name the brewer and it has good aromas and good strong flavours (and perhaps a silly name), it’s probably a craft beer.'

Every one of these definitions is effectively an opinion.

What makes six million barrels the magic number? In China that’s miniscule, in SA that’s massive.

What if the ex CEO of a massive global brewer is a 26% shareholder? He loves beer, lives and breathes it, yet isn’t good enough to own a craft brewery?

What if a local brewer ships pallets of beer to massive chains of stores and doesn’t sell to their local pub or bottle store? Are they still craft?

All of these definitions basically exclude the massive brewers like SAB and Heineken, does this mean they are bad brewers or not as good as a craft beer?

Nowhere do any of the above state that the beer must be good, must be brewed to certain standards, a certain philosophy or using certain equipment.

If I were to classify a craft beer, it would have to meet the following criteria:
Good ingredients, good brewing standards, good packaging and pricing and made in small batches and not always freely available.

What’s your definition?

Martin started the Cape Town Festival of Beer in 2009. 23-25th Nov 2012 for the 3rd time., twitter @CTFestofBeer and Facebook CTFOB.

He is also an owner of Keg King, a beer distribution and portable draught dispensing company. Keg King also delivers The Beer Box, an 18 bottle case of mixed local craft or international beers., twitter @kegkingsa and Keg King on Facebook.



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