Defining Craft Beer: The (Questionable) Poll…

Charlie Papazian, founder of the Brewers Association, has a column and poll up asking readers to weigh in on the debate continuing over the definition of craft beer and craft brewer. I’m not going to wade into that whole mess again (read all of its links for my views) except to say, with regards to the present poll questions, that I have no idea what most of the selected definitions even mean. Take for example the presently leading definition:

Any special beer with real and elevated flavor profiles more distinct than typical light American or International lagers made by ANY BREWERY large or small.”

Special beer? Real flavor? Elevated flavor? I can’t say that this particular contribution is doing much to clarify the debate and discussion over the growing use of the term craft beer. I address the topic a bit in my upcoming book, Great American Craft Beer, one which, I might add, includes a couple excellent beers from brewers the Association would not classify as craft brewers.

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2 thoughts on “Defining Craft Beer: The (Questionable) Poll…

  1. Me, I like most anything that is more distinct. How many actual brands do Beer Association members brew? If there are over 1500 members and each have made, say, 10 brands on average through their brewing existence is each of them “special” and “more distinct”?

    But I found the poll weirdliest for its timing. After the flap about Sam Adams hitting the ceiling for small beer tax relief, Mr. P. came out and said the Brewers Association did not participate in the defining of the concept – bloggers apparently didn’t “get” it – even though they are the main lobby group and their description of scale just happens to be the scale the law recognizes. Now there is a poll on the application of the concept. Excellent messaging.

  2. You know Andy, I have to say that I personally can’t stand the definition of craft beer as simply something that taste good and complex. If Miller made something that was complex and tasted pretty good, would that now all of a sudden be considered “craft” beer?

    I don’t care how good they make the beer, for me the answer will always be HELL NO! It might be a good beer to enjoy, but it’s not a craft beer…

    What am I getting at here?


    For me there really isn’t a by the book “definition” for what craft beer truly is or what it’s truly supposed to me. Craft beer to me means beer brewed by people that have a serious passion that border lines or crosses into an obsession for their “craft” It’s not simply a product that they put out there to boost revenue or their stock price.

    Craft brewer’s brew beer because they’re passionate about their craft, the process, the tastes, the smells, BUT more importantly I think , is that they connect with the end “result” more than any one other factor. That end result is the the person who enjoys that beer.

    Look how many breweries starting working on their craft from nothing, decided to bring it to the people, very often from nothing, and build a brewery also from nothing. Look at the stories of so many craft breweries, and the tough times they had to endure balancing themselves on the edge of failure the entire time.

    They know it’s not an easy business, and they damn well know that it’s not exactly the billion dollar business model (that you get when you sell to the masses usually). There are so many easier things that they could be doing to make a living. Even if they loved oh so much there are still easier ways to make money. So I highly doubt that it’s money that drives these people, or simply “complex flavors”.

    I seriously believe that the majority of craft brewers would give up big chunks of change if that would mean better beer, and more people loving their beer.

    So in my opinion, the meaning of craft beer can’t really be defined. For I believe it’s so much more than just a good tasting beer with complex flavors. 🙂


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