What is 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.
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
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
What’s your definition?
Martin started the Cape Town Festival of
Beer in 2009. 23-25th Nov 2012 for the 3rd
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. www.kegking.co.za, twitter @kegkingsa and
Keg King on Facebook.