The craft beer world has grown by leaps and bounds recently with new drinkers joining the party every day. Many of those new drinkers ask me what makes a beer craft. That is a really hard question which will be coming up more. The next question that usually follows is what is a local beer. Another really hard question, especially in Cincinnati*, and one that I think is going to be part of the next cycle of craft beer.
It’s happened in food recently where everyone wants to eat organic food fresh from a local farm. I foresee this mentality expanding to beer. I think this will coincide with a fracturing of regions of the country and defensiveness of those regions. For example, someone like myself would become passionate about anything in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky to the extent that I might stop drinking, or severely cut back, beers from Colorado or California.
Anyway, enough of what I think that’s not what I want to do here. I want to make you think; I don’t want you to quote me and say “this blog I read says that craft beer must be blah blah blah”. You need to make up your mind, debate it with your friends, talk to your brewers, and decide for yourself.
Here are some thoughts that could affect the whole craft/local situation. If you feel so inclined, perhaps you should grill your preferred brewer with these questions to see how “craft” or how “local” they are. If you do that, please let us know what they say!
- Ingredient sources?
- Brewing locally versus contract brewing?
- Meeting local demands before extending to outside markets?
- Fighting to change laws when needed?
- Activity within the local beer community?
Here are some definitions and quotes to give you more food for thought on the subject.
Brewer’s Association definition:
Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less.
Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.
Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.
Craft beer is one brewed with a focus on the result, using quality ingredients and (mostly) traditional processes. – Pud’n
Local is what is built and manufactured here. – friend
Something made produced and distributed out of a specific area. – other friend
My definition: Craft is something made with passion and risk. As far as “local” goes I don’t care if it’s brewed (Sam Adams) or born (Rivertown, Mt. Carmel, Blank Slate Brewing Company, 50 West and many more) here. If it’s got a tie to Cincinnati (or Dayton), I’m happy to support it.
Please feel free to leave comments below on what a local craft beer is to you!
*In case folks were unaware bottles of Moerlein you buy at a store are
contract brewed in PA [footnote]They stopped contract brewing in 2013[/footnote]brewed in OTR, Sam Adam’s main brewery is in OTR, and Miller has a massive plant in Trenton, which is about 30 some miles north/northwest of downtown Cinci. That’s why I say local is a complex issue in Cincinnati.