Do We Need a Craft Beer Definition?

Worlds collided this weekend as I finally made it out to Chicago to join forces with Drew forming a megazord of unbelievable drinking capacity. Beer was drank, food was eaten, and sports were watched. A perfect Nobler Experiment weekend.

After hearing about the great craft beer scene out in the midwest through Drew over the last few months, I was particularly excited to try out whatever he had picked up. Turns out living in Chicago is a phenomenal idea if you like good beer as it’s the largest distribution site nearby to many of the smaller scale craft brewers, and the love for good beer is palpable everywhere. One of my favorites of the trip were the New Glarus Moon Man which is an exceptional version, maybe the best I’ve ever had, of the session beers being re-popularized across the nation. I now have visiting New Glarus and eating cheese curds across Wisconsin as a top requirement for my future happiness. Anyone want to join?

Despite our love for “craft” at the Nobler, I do have to admit the lines have been a bit blurred over the years. What’s actually small scale, local, and craft are questions that are really quite open to interpretation. I’m not sure I care a ton as long as the beer I’m drinking is delicious, but I guess there is a slight annoyance that brews (see what I did there) when beer pretends to be special despite it’s commercially mass-production DNA. Not surprisingly, we’re not the only ones thinking about this and the Brewer’s Association from Colorado actually went so far as creating a workable definition (below is an excerpt from the Huffington Post)

Craft Beer Must be Small, Independent, and Traditional:

  • “Small” means the brewery distributes no more than six million barrels of beer a year.
  • “Independent” means that less than 25 percent of the brewery is owned by a non-craft beer brewery (like Anheuser-Busch InBev).
  • “Traditional” means that the majority of the brewery’s output consists of “beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.”

While interesting as a definition, I think it’s up to you the drinker to decide how much you care. Truthfully, I think we are all pretty aware of the large distinctions (Bud Light Platinum vs Blue Moon vs a New Glarus) and I think at the end of the day there isn’t a whole lot of “false advertising” out there. At some point smallish producers have to make the decision to grow and most likely become less “craft” or to stay small, experimental, and niche. So what do you all think? Do we need a craft beer definition?


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4 thoughts on “Do We Need a Craft Beer Definition?

  1. The New Glarus trip is definitely worth it– there’s an awesome local pub near the brewery to sample excellent cheese and local delicacies. I’ve got lost of suggestions and can maybe hook you up with a local guide. You should also check out the Captial Brewery and Ale Asylum in Madison while you’re there!

    1. Local guide sounds perfect. Not sure when I’ll make it happen but I will definitely let you know. I was so impressed with their beer and the town sounds great!

  2. I guess I’d like to know when small guys are purchased by the big guys but it probably won’t change my purchasing habits. I agree with you. If it’s good beer, that’s all that matters. Most times I think small guys simply get added to the big guys distribution network. Doesn’t necessarily mean the actual production process has changed.

    1. Agreed. I boycotted Goose Island once I knew they were bought out by InBev but then realized they haven’t changed their recipes and their IPA is still one of the more solid ones out there.

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