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Beer and Craft Beer: The differences explained

   July 28, 2010

I was thinking about beer tonight, and thinking about what beer is, beyond the standard dictionary definition, which usually reads something like this:

an alcoholic beverage usually made from malted cereal grain (as barley), flavored with hops, and brewed by slow fermentation

Thanks, Free Merriam-Webster dictionary!  That’s a good generic definition of beer.

But then I started thinking, what’s the difference between beer and craft beer?  Oh, I know, usually craft breweries are usually defined as small, traditional, independent breweries, but I thought a better way to define craft beer is to examine the differences between beer and craft beer.  If you have more contrasts to offer, please leave them in the comments section. I’d love to hear them!  I hope you enjoy…

Beer is made by large corporations named Anheuser-Busch, InBev and South African Breweries (SAB).  Craft beer is brewed by people, like Sam Calagione, Linus Hall, Douglas Booth and Daniel Kahn, craftsmen who now run successful breweries because they loved beer and wanted to share it with others.

Beer tastes like….well, beer.  Craft beer tastes, at various times, like chocolate, coffee, oak, caramel, molasses, grass, floral hops, dark fruit, smoke, grapefruit, oranges, lemon, coriander, pumpkin, hazelnut, and any number of other ingredients.

Beer is usually served ice cold from the can or bottle (to numb the tastebuds and make it palatable) and in massive quantities, in the hopes of getting drunk.  Craft beer is lovingly poured into a special glass, at just the right temperature, and given the chance to warm and release its flavors as the color and thickness of the head, the color and clarity and the nose of the beer are all examined, analyzed and appreciated, before the beer itself is savored on the palate and the various flavors are allowed to arise and intermingle.

Beer is marketed, on television and in print, by making you think you’ll be cool or get the girl with their product.   Craft beer is marketed, mostly not on television, on its merits as a beer, with emphasis on flavor and the ingredients that went into making the product.

Beer is usually yellow or brown.  Craft beer can be anything from a hazy golden straw color to a coppery orange to a ruby brown to an inky black and everything in between.

Beer is made with cheap ingredients and adjuncts such as rice, to make the beer more bland and inexpensive, with the end result being a beer that makes you feel bloated and full.  Craft beer is brewed using hand selected ingredients, specifically picked with certain flavor characteristics in mind and brewed with the end goal of flavorful, quality beer.  It is more expensive but a much better value for the money.

Beer is sometimes “shotgunned” or used for a keg stand.  Craft beer is sometimes selected and served as an integral accompaniment to a fine meal.

As you can see, I have an obvious bias towards craft beer.  I hope the contrasts I have pointed out help you understand what craft beer is, and I hope it inspires you to leave Bud, Coors and Miller behind in favor of better beer, such as Dogfish Head, Yazoo, Buckbean and so much more.

Cheers!
The Beer Snob

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12 comments

  1. Very well said and very different than what we wrote over a Beer and Whiskey Brothers. The main difference for me is that craft beer is a joy, while regular beer is a commodity.

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  2. Glad to hear you say it’s very different. I was very happy with the post, then I came across yours (maybe for the second time?) and felt like I had to add the little note at the bottom. Thanks for the kind words. Joy vs. commodity is a very good way to put it. I guess beer is designed to take the consumer’s money. Craft beer is designed to make the consumer happy.

    The Beer Snob

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  3. Hooray for the Linus Hall/Yazoo mention!

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  4. Have to promote the local craft beer folks :D

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  5. Its all about purpose…

    Beer is designed to be fast, efficient, and consistent. It is created so that no matter where its made or bought it is always the same. It has been constructed to last a long time on the shelf, and it has been fashioned to that no individual flavors stand out – which could potentially warding off customers who don’t like that flavor…

    Real beer, or craft beer has been brewed with passion and love so that it will have distinct flavors, rich character, and exciting traits. Craft beer is designed to be delicious and exciting, all other considerations are secondary.

    Beer to craft beer is as frozen microwave steak is to fresh butcher fillet mignon.

    http://definitiveale.wordpress.com/real-beer/

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  6. Excellent addition to the post…thanks! I wish I had thought of that one :)

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  7. Nice article pal. I’m a big fun of craft beers. I always looking for that kind of beers. Here in Greece there some good micros that they made good, fresh, crafted beer.

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  8. You do an excellent job differentiating between beer and craft beer. If you’re ever in Tampa, you’ll have to try out Cigar City Brewing Co.’s Cubano Espresso, a very new and very good addition to the world of American craft beers.

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  9. Thanks John….Cigar City Brewing Co. contacted me to post a link to their blog back when they started working on the brewery and blogging about it and I added them to my blogroll, but I haven’t managed to try any of their beer yet.

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  10. I just found this post from a random google search… but I so agree! I might add that “beer” as defined by this post is technically “pale lager” and brewed to much greater affect by micro breweries under the labels “Bock,” “Double Bock” and “Pilsner.” :-) Also, craft beers definitely lean towards the “ale” category… Styles like IPA, Imperial Stout, Belgian Quadruple, Grand Cru, Rye Ale, Wheat Ale, ETC. are all dominated by the independent breweries. Die Coors! hehe

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  11. Good points, Jared!

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  12. I disagree with most of this post. I will try to explain to the best of my ability. By your definition of a craft brewery(small), then almost all breweries pre – 1970′s were craft breweries yet they were brewing the same recepies they are now. I do understand that todays macro beers have a bad rep because of the tasteless Light beer scene. But i think people forget that most of the original beers these brewers brewed were 200 year old recepies from german imigrants. I think becouse of the craft beer scene, with all the crazy flavors and extreme hopping, people forget that that is not what REAL beer taste like. No one knows beer better than the germans and they only use three ingrediants or they can not call it beer. I hate to see beer reveiwers compare a “Traditional Beer” to a “Craft Beer”. I also see people calling a traditional beer a craft beer just becouse it is a Porter or a Bock or a Wheat, these beers have been brewed since beer was created. Most craft brewers lean towards ales because they are much easier to brew. Plus the strong hop in ales can hide the impure flavors of the beer. I brewed many a beer and i could crap in a bucket, and hop it up, ferment it and call it an craft ale and people would think it is good. Yet i could get grab one of the best pilsners from Germany and tell people it was an American lager and they would say it sucked. Long story short, just becouse it is not a Craft Beer, does not mean it sucks. One example is Yuengling Lager, people reveiw this very good “Tradional Amber Lager” and compare it to Full Sail Session Lager. Two differant animals, One is brewed to a 200 year BEER recipe, the other is brewed with spices and flavours that would not have been acceptable 200 years ago. There is nothing wrong with beer that taste like beer. FYI, I do love the craft beer scene.

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