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home Home > Subscribe to Ratebeer.com Weekly RateBeer Archives > Craft Beer Introduction

What Is Craft Beer?

A brief introduction to craft brewing for beginners
Craft Beer Introduction April 15, 2004      
Written by joet

Santa Rosa, CALIFORNIA -

Beer is a food product made in its purest form from yeast, barley,
hops and water. And as with other foods, the processes for
producing beer significantly affect the quality of the final product. Just as you can get a ground up steak as a hamburger from McDonald’s (akin to a macrobrew), you can also have it prepared in a fine restaurant by a master chef (this is craft beer).

Masters At Work

Craft beer is primarily characterized by a brewer’s attention to recipes and ingredients that maximize the flavor, appearance and aroma of your beer. The craft brewer almost always personally oversees the selection of ingredients and the entire brewing process and constantly monitors flavor and quality. And unlike mass market beers, craft beer isn’t “contract brewed” in multiple facilities. The brewer is the one who both writes and follows the recipe. This isn’t just a quality measure -- it also ensures that you, the consumer, end up with a beer that’s more like a signed print in the art world and not just a poster.

Craft Beer versus Mass Produced Beer
<table border=1 cellspacing=0 cellpadding=5>
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFCC66>
<p >Craft Beer
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#CCCCCC>
<p >Mass Produced Beer
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC >
<p >Brewed in any number of more than 60 beer styles
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Stylistically very limited, almost always light lagers
<tr >
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC>
<p >Drunk from the proper glassware
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Intended to be drunk from the can or bottle
<tr >
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC>
<p >Typically purchased as
single bottles or by the sealed case for cellaring
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Often sold by the 12-pack and 24-unit case
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC>
<p >Brewed for flavor, appearance and aroma
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Intended to appeal to the mass market
<tr >
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC>
<p >Tend to be drunk by the single bottle with food or on
special occasions
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Every day beers, convenient to buy and consume
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC>
<p >Made for flavor and aroma appreciation
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Meant to be served at a temperature so cold that the
aromas and flavors are subdued
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#FFFFCC>
<p >Ingredient selection is an important part of the craft brewing process as is the purity of yeasts or other cultures
<td width=295 valign=top class=beer bgcolor=#d7d7d7>
<p >Made with more common ingredients and may contain rice or corn, artificial color, artificial flavors, thickeners or extracts

Craft beer at its finest is a highly creative endeavor that
involves great training and skill. Craft brewers range from talented former home
brewers to many who’ve have had training at internationally
recognized brewing institutes and/or have apprenticed at world class breweries.
Their creativity and skill can be evidenced in the
range of styles and ingredients they employ. The mass produced industrial beer
products are typically all light lagers, while a craft brewer might specialize
in a single uncommon style like the Belgian brewery, Fantome,
does with the <em>saison</em>, or produce many different
styles at a world class level as does Victory Brewing from Downingtown,

A craft brewer also has a broad range of high quality ingredients
available to him or her and typically avoids fillers, thickeners and artificial
flavorings. A craft brewer might use coriander, grains of paradise, honey,
lavender, blueberries, orange peel, ginger, wood smoked malts or bourbon barrel
aging to impart a broad variety of aromas and flavors. Imagination is a significant
ingredient in craft brewing.

Appreciating Craft Beer

The marketing and sales of craft beers are often very different
than the slick TV ads and ubiquitous presence of
your typical macro. Craft beers are rarely marketed
with anything more than local advertising campaigns. The beers, not always
with the grandest labels, speak for themselves. Craft beer
while sometimes available in 12 oz bottles, is often packaged in 22
ounce bottles called “bombers” or in champagne-cork finished “magnums” or
“double magnums”. Most shy away from twelve packs and 24-unit cases. After
all, it’s about quality not quantity.

In order to appreciate craft beer, one should use
appropriate glassware so that the appearance, aromas and flavors can be appreciated. A brandy snifter or other bowl shaped
glass is often used for tasting. The cupped area above
the liquid or foam layer in the glass contains the beer’s aroma. I personally don’t care for the American pint glass. It’s
open angled top coupled with most servers’ tendency to fill to the rim usually means
you can’t appreciate any aroma until you’re well into your beer.

<strong>Craft Beer Doesn’t Spell Doom For Budweiser

Will craft beer ever replace mass produced beers? Of course not! Julia Child was known to eat fast food on occasion
and there are some craft beer enthusiasts that aren’t
any different. Some enjoy a cheap lager while they’re
out cutting the lawn or keep one around for cooking. Mass
market beers and craft beers are not the same thing and people enjoy
them differently. It’s like comparing a Twinkie to
Alice Water’s Comice Pear Crisp. They have two different markets and two
different purposes. The existence of fine dining opportunities where one can
have an amazing food experience (at a premium price) does not threaten the
existence of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Craft beer makers deliver full-flavored beers often packaged as single containers and never in 24-packs. These are full strength beers that are deeply satisfying, so you don’t need to reach for another anyway. The most lauded craft beers are not "session beers", or beers meant to be drunk one after the other. Furthermore, with some six-packs costing over $40, the price of craft beer also encourages moderation.

Final Questions

Are all craft beers good beers?

Of course not. But there are many master craft brewers around the world that make few mistakes. We encourage you to find the best craft beers in your area

Are mass produced beers all bad tasting?

Not at all! Mass produced does not always mean bad tasting. In fact, the largest brewers are unsurpassed in their ability to deliver a consistent product around the clock, around the world. Let’s put it his way, macros wouldn’t be dominating the beer world if they were all bad.

What’s a microbrewery or brewpub? Is this craft beer?

We define craft beer by the intention and skill of the brewer. A microbrewery is defined by the limited number of barrels it produces per year. A brewpub is a pub or restaurant that brews their beer on premise. These small breweries may or may not make craft beer -- that is, they are not necessarily run by skilled brewers looking to make beers of distinction.



spiritsbeerman says:


86 months ago

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start quote Will craft beer ever replace mass produced beers? Of course not! end quote

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