It could be said that beer, which used to be the default go to alcoholic beverage for the working class, is becoming the drink of the connoisseur. It seems that many people are experimenting at home and have started to brew their own amber nectar whilst others are shunning the well known beer labels for something relatively unknown.
Micro-breweries seem to be springing up in random places: industrial estates, converted barns and the like. They pride themselves on brewing a more interesting and refined beer in more commercial quantities than brewing at home but in small enough quantities to define it as a craft beer.
Many beer drinkers are starting to treat beer more like a wine drinker treats wine. They do not stick to one brand, they want to try lots of varieties and discuss the difference between them. In essence, whereas beer was just something to drink whilst conversing with others, now the beer itself has become well considered and is part of the conversation.
With so many micro-breweries popping up, in the U.S.A it is estimated that there are 8,000 registered, what makes a craft beer, a great beer?
Obviously, the most important element is taste. By distilling in smaller quantities, it is easier for the brewer to experiment and produce small batches of different kinds of beers. Whether they be a variety of ale: brown, blonde, Indian, pale or sour or lager, stout, porter, pilsner or wheat. On top of this they can tweak the brewing process or add special ingredients to enhance the taste. This is something that is more of a challenge for a large brewery who need to make sure that their beer is commercially viable on a much larger scale.
By producing different tastes, they can appeal to different people’s preferences. They also allow the drinker to experiment with their range and create a talking point. Obviously, brewing a variety of beers and on a much smaller scale, makes this a premium product which allows it to sell for more but also makes it more sought after by food and drink connoisseurs. This creates a new set of clientele for an old drink.
The other uniqueness is that the drinker is also possibly buying into the story behind the beer. Being an independent brewery, they may have a unique history or story behind their brewing.
One of the more interesting stories is that of Bira Malka beer. Israel is not known for its beer brewing. A Tel Aviv pub owner by the name of Assaf Lavi, decided to leave the big city, move to the tranquil north of the country and start brewing beer. His intention was to create a more interesting beer and thereby reinvigorate beer culture in Israel. He found many willing tasters and personally sold them to pubs in Tel Aviv from the back of his pick-up. When he knew he had brewed a great beer he moved to Kibbutz Yehiam in the Western Galilee overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Overwhelmed by success he then moved within the north to his current larger brewery.
Crafting a great craft beer involves a great deal of experimenting, a great story, great raw ingredients and most importantly great people with great tastebuds who will enjoy a great craft beer.