What is Craft Beer?

Craft Beer

Craft Beer is a phrase that has really taken off.  It has helped the Real Ale Market so dramatically that as a result other drink markets have followed suit.  The definition of Craft Beer in the Oxford dictionary is consistent to the general perception of a Craft Beer  “a beer made in a traditional way by a small brewery”.   Within the UK the pub company and brewery ‘Greene King’ created a whole new brewery called Belhaven Brewery.  This new brewery is located within their own Westgate Brewery based in Bury St Edmunds.  They did this to create a Craft Brewery and to please and satisfy their customer’s definition of ‘Craft Beer’.

No Law Requirements

Currently there are no law requirements to restrict or define ‘Craft Beer’.  As a result of there this there are lots of different interpretations. BrewDog’s website interpretation is that the brewery should produce less than 500,000 hectolitres.  Or less than 1.22 million firkins or 87.98 million imperial pints.  Another criteria is that they only use traditional methods and ingredients.  These are clearly stated on the label of the beer. Full traceability and the location of where the beer was brewed must also be known. Finally BrewDog believes that the brewery should be a registered as an independent.  Meaning that 20% or more of the brewery isn’t owned by a brewing company or a business running another craft brewery.


Craft Beer has seen a  massive upsurge in sales over the last 10 years.  This is now starting to have a damaging affect on the sales in 2017. The Guardian wrote an article on the 3rd October 2016 stating that the number of Craft Breweries has risen to 1,700.  This means that as a result the competition is fierce. As a consequence of this many breweries are struggling to survive.

This makes it even more rewarding if the brewery is successful, the popularity of Cask Ale is increasing world wide. However in the US, Craft Beer only accounts for 12.3% of the overall beer trade. As a result this shows there is a long way to go.  Information is from brewersassociation.org.  According to the craftbeer.com website, craft beer in America has doubled its market percentage in 4 years. In 2011 it had 5.7% of the whole market percentage.  However in 2015 it had a 12.2% of the market. However on a negative note from 2015 to 2016 it only grew another 0.1% which is still growth but a lot more flat lined than previous years.


In recent years the world largest breweries such as AB InBev and Molson Coors have bought smaller craft brewers in the US and Europe. For example when Molson Coors purchased Sharp’s Brewery in 2012, Doombar sales rose considerably.  This makes it one of the most popular choices in the UK.  There are many different examples of  large breweries purchasing smaller craft ones to gain different market shares.  As a consequence this has enabled them to use their cash injection to push the brewery to new heights.  An example of this is Caledonian Brewery which was purchased by Heineken. Caledonian Brewery has a strong Edinburgh heritage dating back over 150 years. Even though the brewery was purchased by Heineken it still operates very successfully as a separate business.

So What is Craft Beer?

There are no distinct characteristics that define this only peoples opinions. Personally,  I think it should be a small independent brewery which prides itself on the quality of the ingredients used. However we have to acknowledge the larger breweries. Without being able to use the Craft Beer slogan countless smaller brewers would almost certainly be lost. Consequently they they have now been given  the opportunity to thrive.

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