What is ‘craft beer’? Four definitions from the brewing industry

Almost half of British drinkers now say they prefer craft beer to mainstream serves, according to new figures from pub group Brewhouse & Kitchen, but what does that mean in 2018?

The study, quizzed millions UK drinkers on their beer of choice. It found that when drinking at a pub, 34% of the public will try more alternative styles of beer than they would have ten years ago.

Londoners were most keen to try new beers, with 43% saying they would opt for an alternative style over a lager.

B&K co-founder Simon Bunn said the craft beer market is “fast becoming an important force driving growth in the hospitality sector, bringing with it a new wave of pubs and bars.”

“Despite this growth, it has always been difficult for brewers to rival the multi-national companies that have become staples in our homes, our restaurants and pubs and our supermarkets.”

Since 2013, Europe’s craft beer scene has experienced huge growth with new craft beer product launches more than doubling, experiencing growth of 178%, according to figures released by analyst Mintel last month.

There have been a number success stories in the craft beer market over the past decade. The survey results come just as Brewdog, which launched in Aberdeenshire in 2007, announced a blueprint for the business’ continued expansion over the next 12 months. The brewer, which announced its half-year trading update, showing total revenue at £78 million, up by 55% versus the same time last year, is planning to open yet more bars in the UK and oversees, including sites in Paris, Hamburg, Dublin, Toronto, Budapest and Brisbane.

But the lines between craft and mainstream are blurred, with big firms like AB InBev and Heineken buying up independent brewers, or releasing craft-style beers of their own.

Nearly half of Spanish beer drinkers (45%) say it’s not clear what makes a beer craft and less than a fifth (17%) of German beer consumers say it would impact their purchase decision if a craft brand was owned by a large company. This points towards an uphill challenge for true craft manufacturers. But there is reason for optimism as over two in five (44%) beer drinkers in the UK would like to see a system of certification of craft beer.

“The term ‘craft’ lacks a formal definition which has enabled larger beer companies to capitalise on the craft boom, either by launching their own craft-style products or acquiring craft breweries, challenging what ‘craft’ really means for this industry,” said Jonny Forsyth at Minetl.

B&K’s research focused on beer “styles,” i.e. lager vs ales, rather than the brands themselves. While adventurous styles have risen in popularity, there is still room for debate on what defines a “craft” beer, and who should do the defining.

We’ve gathered definitions from members of the industry to find out what “craft beer” means to them.

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