The Essence of Craft Beer
Besides the technical definition, what makes a craft beer craft? Is there an essence to craft beers that remains the same even if a craft brewery has been bought over by one of the big guys? Let’s explore the difference between a micro beer (craft) and a macro beer. What makes a micro beer stand out?
By Shira Kogut on Nov. 10, 2016
In Just Beer University there is an article called What is Craft Beer Exactly? The article has the technical definition of Craft Beer which is important because it distinguishes between microbeers and macrobeers, but what happens when the lines are blurred. For example as demonstrated in the Booze Reviews article about Mill St. Brewpub. Can a craft beer company that was bought by one of the big boys in the industry still have their product be considered a craft beer?
According to the technical definition no, it cannot. But I’d like to put forward the argument that craft beer has an essence to it (The definition of essence is “
The ideology/features/essence behind craft beer is that it is local, made from fresh ingredients, has a social conscious and is brewed with creativity and passion. Let’s break these down.
Why is it important that a craft beer be local? The drink local movement and buy local movements are cut from the same cloth, a need to support small businesses and industries. This brings jobs to the area, gives a boost to local agriculturalists and creates a community which thrives in an interwoven, interdependent economic network.
Using fresh ingredients not only makes the beer taste better, but it links back to the local aspect. The further ingredients have to go the less fresh they become, so if you want the freshest you have to buy it local.
Many microbreweries are proud to support causes and especially local causes. When Fort McMurray, Alberta was devastated by fires, it was amazing to see how many of the local brewers rallied together offering discounts to those who were displaced, having fund raisers and collecting much needed supplies. They understood that as institutions in the community they played an important part in helping the community that supports them. Rallying around social causes, sponsoring cultural events these are pillars of a microbrewery because they represent the cycle of community. I buy your beer which gives you money, you use this money for yourself and your family and any extra goes back into the community to benefit the customers who bought the beer. The customers are happy and buy more beer again helping the community. When that cycle is broken, say by buying a macrobeer, that money leaves the community and only the big guys benefit because any causes they support are usually global rather than local.
Creativity & Passion
The big guys make a product and while there are people who benefit from those jobs in their community the product is generic. It is made by machines and not by people. You know the old saying “the secret ingredient is love” well there is truth to it. A local brewer brings passion and creativity to the table, something a recipe plugged into a machine just can’t do. As a brewer works on their product they invest hours of their time to make sure that it is exactly perfect. The local brewery knows their clientele usually personally. They understand the community, its likes and dislikes, so they would never want to produce something that the community doesn’t like.
Creating a great craft beer is like giving a gift to the community. You want to get a person something they will LOVE, so you put lots of thought and energy into it. Yes, sometimes buying the name brand gift as opposed to the generic one is a little more expensive, but in this case the name brand is much better quality and will be enjoyed much more.
In our modern economy it is really hard to survive against the big guys. When a local company gets bought over usually the same people are still at the helm, so we have to judge a craft beer not necessarily by its owner, but the spirit in which it is made. I think if a brewery still has the above 4 features then its product while technically cannot be considered a craft beer, in spirit it still can.
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