Craft beer in a nutshell? According to the Brewers Association, an American craft brewer “is small, independent and traditional.” Let’s break these three criteria down a bit . . .
To be small means that the craft brewer produces 6 million barrels (1 barrel = 31 gallons) of beer or less on an annual basis. To be independent means that less than 25% of the brewery is owned / operated by a non-craft-brewer who is in the alcoholic beverage industry. And lastly, to be traditional means that the brewer produces an all-malt flagship brew or produces at least 50% malt beers of its total volume.
One of the key factors that separates craft brewers from large breweries is a sense of innovation and creativity. A craft brewer will often fuse traditional brewing styles with unique ingredients, flavors, and production methods to produce a beer that is unique to that brewer.
Let’s take a step back in time to review the history of beer and how craft beer came to be . . .
No one knows for sure how far beer dates back, but it could have been as early at 8000 B.C. Then, thousands of years later, beer was becoming increasing popular, primarily being brewed in private homes.
Before the British colonized America, Native Americans were producing a corn beer. And by the early 1600s, the first brewery was established in America, influenced by European settlers. By the 1800s, breweries were growing by the hundreds, and by the late 1800s there were over 4,000 breweries in America. Sadly, the beer world took a turn for the worst when National Prohibition was enacted in 1920. It wasn’t until 1933 when Prohibition ended that beer started to make its comeback.
In the 1970s, Europe’s influence on American beer production began to diminish. Americans preferred the flavor of light lager beers, rather than the heavier European beers. Hence, light lagers began being produced by the leading American breweries. But for the American beer lovers who wanted to taste diverse beers, as opposed to just light lagers, they soon began home brewing their own beers, combining traditional European brewing techniques and flavors with their own creative spin. And thus, craft brewing was born.
Craft beer styles: Before 1980, beers produced in the US only used yeast, water, malt, and hops. It wasn’t until after 1980 that the craft brewing world really started to come alive, taking those four basic ingredients and adding their own non-traditional flavors, such as fruit, pumpkin, and medleys of spices and herbs (to name just a few).
Did you know?
- Today, there are more than 1800 craft brewers in the USA.
- It wasn’t until the 1980s that craft brewing—at the time referred to as microbrewing—started to take off. It began growing ever since!
- According to the Brewers Association, there are 142 defined beer styles, with the majority of these beers being all-malt based.
- You most likely live just a few miles from a brewery! According to Brewers Association, “the average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery.”
- Craft brewers are stimulating the US economy by providing over 103,000 jobs for citizens.
If you love craft brews and want to socialize with other beer lovers while tasting a variety of beers, then you don’t want to miss out on the SweetWater Craft Beer Cruise aboard Charleston Harbor Tours’ Carolina Queen, happening Friday, August 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm. Click here to purchase your tickets for this exclusive brew cruise or see more information.