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What is Craft Beer?

Craft beer is a term we have heard for decades in pub, breweries and supermarkets, but what actually is a ‘craft’ beer? The term craft beer most commonly refers to a beer which is brewed by a smaller, independent brewery or micro-brewery producing a small batch of beers. Generally, when you see a beer label which says ‘craft’ it is not made by a large organisation but a small team or even a one-man band from his back garden, where craftmanship is key.

However, large breweries know how popular craft beers are in the market appealing to the hip youngsters and some have started labelling their beers as ‘craft’, but is the beer still considered a craft beer? We don’t think so!

A craft beer is an artisanal product and the term artisan means “a person or company that produces something in limited quantities often using traditional methods”. A large brewery will be using large mass market produced beer, where as a craft beer brewer will be using a more traditional and manual method of a limited quantity.

craft beer festival drinkers

What makes a craft beer a craft beer?

  • Small breweries – producing less than 5 million litres of beer (equivalent to 30,000 barrels) which do not have access to the mass production and quantities of larger brewers.
  • Independence – Often started in the back garden with a few friends who have a passion for beer, 75% of craft breweries are independently owned.
  • Authenticity – using no shortcuts and sticking with traditional methods of brewing which takes time patience and care
  • Innovation – it is all about getting inventive with flavours when it comes to craft beers putting new spins on old recipes to wow your audience
  • Community – often using locally sourced ingredients and selling beers within the local community. Craft brewers often share their speciality ingredients which makes their beers unique
  • Creativity – creating show stopping craft beer labels will add the finishing touch to any beer can or bottle with cool artworks and eye-catching colours

Craft Beer Flavours

Using premium ingredients, creativity, inventive flavours and a big passion for beer results in the best craft brewers. Often seen as the hip cousin to real ale, craft brewers embrace experimentation to discover new beer flavours with their own style to reach their cool target audiences. This involves lots of test drinking, much to the brewers delight, to create unique flavours from locally sourced ingredients and a lot of patience.

The options are endless when it comes to creating a craft beer flavour with sweet jam pale ales, tongue tingling ginger beer, zesty lime lagers, tropical IPA’s and rhubarb brew.

Craft Beer Labels

Styling a Craft Beer

Another point which will make a craft beer stand out is the way the beer can or beer bottle is styled. You will notice many bright, funky, retro looking beer label designs which are ideal for a craft beer. As a craft beer is generally targeted towards a younger audience, often sold at concerts, markets and beer festivals, the vibrant graffiti label designs seem a popular choice for breweries.

Check out a few of our favourite cool beer label designs below which jump out with their creative artworks and bright and bold colours to attract their punters.

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A lot of craft brewers are adding a rough almost sandpaper textured finish to their beer labels for a matt look and a reason for punters to pick and feel the label. Another cool addition for breweries to use is a metallic material to create a shiny foiled effect to all or part of their label design. At Labelnet, the team are experienced to help brewers design the ultimate beer labels with unique finishes.

Craft brewery

How Craft Beer Is Made

There is nothing quite like a cold, crisp craft beer on a warm summers afternoon, but how is it actually made? The traditional method of brewing beer is used and has to go through a lot of processes to create the final mouth watering drink. The four basic ingredients used to make beer has been the same for centuries – malt, water, hops and yeast. Whilst a craft beer will be made with these ingredients, the brewers need to vary the combinations of grains, yeast, hops and various extracts to create their unique flavours. The ingredients used within a craft beer are generally of a higher quality to a mass made brew with cheaper, bulk ingredients.

Step One - Malting

The first step is to harvest the grain which are run through a malting process to create starch enzymes which will be used later to create fermented sugars added in the yeast and turned to alcohol.

Step Two - Mashing

After malting, it is steeped in hot water which is known as mashing, to activate the starch enzymes and releasing the sugar (described above). Once drained a thick syrupy substance is left, known as ‘wort’.

Step Three - Boiling

The wort is boiled and hops are now added gradually to balance the sugars. Hops are a small fruit which provide bitterness to the liquid. With over 150 varieties of hops offering slightly different flavours, this is where the creativity and fun begins with craft brewing depending on the level of bitterness wanted and using 3 or 4 varieties to create unique flavours.

Whilst starting to cool this is a good stage to add various weird and wonderful flavours to really bring the craft beer to life.

Step Four - Fermentation

Once boiled the liquid is added to a fermenting vessel with the yeast. This is left for a few weeks for the yeast to break down the sugars which creates the alcohol. Once fermentation is complete the beer is ready for bottling!

So there we have it, now you know when choosing a craft beer what makes it ‘craft’ and the work that goes into creating the yummy flavours which we all enjoy.