This script is from the second season of Beer Notes, which you can listen to at beernotes.org.

Innovative and creative craft brewers in the U.S. alter the landscape of craft beer every day, and many of us follow the introduction of new beers with interest and the eagerness to sample.

Innovation is the hallmark of U.S. craft brewers, but what even is the real definition of craft beer?

Today on Beer Notes, we’re going to explore what a craft brewer is.

According to the Brewers Association, an American craft brewery is Small, Independent and Traditional.

  1. Small: Defined as having an annual production of six million barrels of beer or less. Interestingly, this definition of small has changed as the popularity and production of craft beer has increased. Initially, small meant any brewery that produced less than two million barrels of beer per year. In 2014, this limit increased to six million. Today, a craft brewery can only produce 3% of the market. This lets a brewery retain the “craft” designation even as their production of craft beer increases, if the market is also increasing.     
  2. Independent: Less than 25% of a craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  3. Traditional: Initially, the Brewers Association defined traditional as having an all-malt flagship or at least 50% of the breweries’ production volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten the flavor. In 2014, this definition broadened to allow for less stringent rules on malt and adjunct ingredients. This change allowed Yuengling to qualify as a craft brewery.

The reasons for the changes have to do with growth. Leaving the founding fathers of the U.S. craft beer movement behind as they grew their craft breweries, Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams, into large and successful companies seemed counterproductive to the advocacy of craft beer and brewing in the U.S.  

For Beer Notes, this is Ann McGinnis Hillyer.

Kristin Helf
Author: Kristin Helf

Kristin is a writer and picture-taker in Ocean City, Maryland. She likes puppies, pumpkin ales and watching movies for the Ocean City Film Festival in her spare time.

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