What is Craft Beer: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you interested in craft beer? In recent years, craft beer has grown in popularity as more consumers look for distinctive and flavorful brews. But what is craft beer exactly?

assorted craft beers in a flight with peanuts and pretzels in the background

Small, independent breweries with an emphasis on quality and innovation often create craft beer. These brewers frequently produce distinctive and tasty beers using traditional brewing techniques and premium ingredients.

A small, independent brewer that produces fewer than 6 million barrels of beer annually and has less than 25% ownership from a non-craft brewer is considered an American craft brewer, according to the Brewers Association, a non-profit trade organization that supports small and independent U.S. brewers.

Due to the large range of types and flavors available, craft beer may be quite subjective and a personal experience.

Having so many choices makes it challenging to know where to begin. The definition of craft beer, its background, and the qualities that distinguish it from other types of beer will all be covered in this article.

What is Craft Beer?

Craft beer is a type of beer that has been made by craft breweries. These breweries produce smaller amounts of beer, typically less than large breweries, and are often independently owned.

Craft beer is brewed using traditional brewing methods, with an emphasis on enthusiasm, new flavors, and varied brewing techniques.

Tattooed caucasian barman pouring craft beer while standing in pub.

Craft Beer Definition

Craft beer is not just a type of beer, but also a movement. People often use the term ‘craft beer’ to refer to a beer brewed in a traditional and independent brewery with low production. Such a brew is crafted, not manufactured.

The Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade group that protects and promotes small and independent U.S. brewers, defines an American craft brewer as a small, independent brewer that produces less than 6 million barrels of beer per year and has less than 25% ownership by a non-craft brewer.

Craft Beer vs. Macro Beer

Craft beer differs from macro beer, which is produced by large corporations with a focus on mass production and consistent flavor. Macro beer is often brewed with cheaper ingredients and additives to maintain a consistent taste profile across large batches.

Craft beer, on the other hand, is brewed in smaller batches with high-quality ingredients, often locally sourced, to create unique and varied flavors.

Craft beer also offers a wider range of beer styles than macro beer. While macro beer typically offers a few standard styles, such as lagers and pilsners, craft beer offers a wide variety of styles, including IPAs, stouts, and sour beers.

This variety allows for experimentation and creativity in brewing, resulting in unique and distinct flavors.

The Craft Beer Industry

Craft beer has become a popular and growing industry over the years. In this section, we will explore the history of craft beer, the current craft beer market, and the role of the Craft Brewers Association.

History of Craft Beer

Craft beer has been around for centuries, with the earliest records of beer dating back to ancient civilizations. However, the modern craft beer movement began in the United States in the 1970s.

beer barrels with glass of craft Beer

This movement was a response to the mass-produced, flavorless beer that dominated the market at the time. Craft breweries emerged, producing small batches of beer with unique flavors and ingredients.

Craft Beer Market

Today, the craft beer market continues to grow. According to Statista, the craft beer industry in the United States generated over $29 billion in revenue in 2020.

The industry has seen a steady increase in sales over the years, with craft beer now accounting for over 25% of the total beer market.

Craft beer sales have also had a positive impact on the economy. The Brewers Association reports that in 2019, craft breweries produced over 26 million barrels of beer, generating over $82 billion in economic impact and providing over 580,000 jobs.

Craft Brewers Association

The Craft Brewers Association (CBA) is a non-profit trade group that protects and promotes small and independent U.S. brewers.

The CBA defines an American craft brewer as a small, independent brewer that produces no more than 6 million barrels of beer per year and is less than 25% owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

The CBA also created the Independent Craft Brewer Seal, which allows consumers to easily identify beers produced by independent craft brewers. As of 2020, over 5,300 breweries have adopted the seal.

Craft brewers have also been at the forefront of innovation in the beer industry. They have experimented with new flavors, ingredients, and brewing techniques, leading to a diverse range of beer styles and tastes.

Craft Beer Brewing

Craft beer brewing is a process that involves a combination of traditional methods and modern techniques to create unique and flavorful beers.

In this section, we will discuss the ingredients, brewing process, and beer styles that are commonly found in craft beer.


Craft beer is made using a variety of ingredients, including malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. These ingredients are carefully selected and combined to create a specific flavor profile for each beer.

Some craft breweries also use other ingredients such as fruits, spices, and herbs to add unique flavors to their beers.

Brewing Process

The brewing process for craft beer involves several steps, including mashing, boiling, fermentation, and packaging. During the mashing process, the malted barley is mixed with hot water to create a sweet liquid called wort.

brewery master tasting craft beer in production facility

The wort is then boiled with hops to add bitterness and flavor to the beer. After boiling, the wort is cooled and yeast is added to begin the fermentation process. Finally, the beer is packaged in bottles, cans, or kegs and sent to market.

Beer Styles

Craft beer comes in a variety of styles, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics. Some popular craft beer styles include IPAs, stouts, porters, lagers, and ales. IPAs, or India Pale Ales, are known for their hoppy flavor and are a favorite among craft beer enthusiasts.

Stouts and porters are darker beers that are often brewed with roasted malt to give them a rich, chocolatey flavor. Lagers and ales are two of the most common types of beer and are brewed using different types of yeast.

Craft beer brewing has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more than six million barrels of craft beer produced annually in the United States alone.

According to, the Boston Beer Co., which produces Samuel Adams beer, is the largest craft brewery in the United States, accounting for 25 percent of all craft beer sales.

Despite the growth of large craft breweries, microbreweries and homebrewing remain popular among Americans, with many people brewing their own beer within 10 miles of their homes.

Craft beer brewing provides a small business growth incentive and has been a driving force behind the craft beer revolution.

With a focus on handcrafted, real ale brewed using traditional methods, craft breweries have become an important part of local communities and resources for beer enthusiasts.

The independent U.S. brewers have also been able to compete with large corporations like AB InBev, which produces more than two million barrels of beer annually.

Craft beer brewing is a unique and complex process that requires skill and attention to detail. With a focus on quality ingredients, traditional methods, and unique beer styles, craft breweries have become an important part of the beer production industry and a favorite among beer enthusiasts.

Craft Beer Community

Craft beer has established a vibrant and passionate community that has grown over the years. This community is made up of beer enthusiasts, industry professionals, and small independent breweries.

This section will explore the different aspects of the craft beer community, including events, customers, and beer brands.


Craft beer events are a great way for beer enthusiasts to meet and connect with like-minded individuals. These events range from small local festivals to large international events like the Great American Beer Festival.

These events give attendees the opportunity to sample different beers and learn more about the brewing process.

Group of friends toasting beers and cocktails at a beer festival


Craft beer customers are a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about beer. They are looking for unique flavors and quality ingredients that are not found in mass-produced beer.

Craft beer customers are willing to pay a premium price for a high-quality product and are often loyal to their favorite breweries.

Beer Brands

Craft beer brands are often small independent breweries that focus on quality and innovation. They are not bound by the restrictions of mass production and can experiment with different ingredients and brewing techniques.

Some of the most well-known craft beer brands include Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, who have been instrumental in the growth of the craft beer industry.

Craft beer communities also have resources like databases, beer schools, newsletters, and statistics that help enthusiasts and professionals stay up-to-date with the latest trends and information.

The Brewer’s Association is a non-profit organization that protects and promotes small independent breweries in the United States. They provide resources and support to breweries and advocate for changes in the federal tax code that benefit small breweries.

Craft beer has come a long way since the days of prohibition, and today there are over 8,000 independent breweries in the United States.

These breweries are making unique and flavorful beers that are not found in mass-produced beer. Craft beer is a community-driven industry that is passionate about quality, innovation, and independence.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

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