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Craft beer: what to look for when buying and how not to run into a fake
Craft beer: what to look for when buying and how not to run into a fake

Life hacker found out which beer can rightfully be considered craft beer.

Craft beer: what to look for when buying and how not to run into a fake
Craft beer: what to look for when buying and how not to run into a fake

Where did craft beer come from?

The first small independent breweries appeared in the UK in the 1970s. They specialized in making traditional ales. And after 1978, when home brewing was legalized in some US states, this trend became popular there as well.

In Russia, the first independent brewery appeared in 2008, and more or less mass distribution of craft began in 2012.

What can be considered a real craft

Craft beer is beer that is brewed by an independent brewery according to the original recipe. It is sold in bottles or bottled in bars in special glasses.

The American Brewers Association gives quite strict requirements for an institution that can brew real craft:

  1. The brewery must produce no more than 6 million barrels per year (this is 3% of the annual volume of beer sales in the United States). One beer barrel equals 117.3 liters, so the brewery cannot exceed the annual volume of 703.8 million liters.
  2. The brewery must be independent. Less than 25% of its shares may be owned by third parties. This is due to the fact that with a larger number of investors, the brewer is deprived of the opportunity to create freely and introduce new flavors, not all of which can bring tangible commercial benefits.
  3. The brewery must not only use traditional ingredients (hops, yeast, malt), but also experiment with flavors. Small production volumes allow adding new ingredients without fear that the batch will not go to the consumer.

The clear definition of craft only applies to beer brewed in the USA. In Europe and Russia, there are no such strict frameworks, so the main sign may be the creative self-realization of the brewer and the search for new interesting tastes.

The main thing is the original recipes and the presence of some kind of concept. The big problem is that there is no definition of what craft beer is in Russia.

Denis Pavelchevsky owner of bars and contract independent brewery Northside Brew

Not everything is clear with Trappist beer, which has been brewed since the Middle Ages at the monasteries of Europe. Some consider it to be craft beer, others believe that, according to formal characteristics, this is a separate type of beer.

Craft Beer: Trappist Brewery
Craft Beer: Trappist Brewery

In English-speaking brewing, the term crafty is also found. It is used to define a beer that formally meets the criteria of the author's, but does not meet the fundamental requirements. For example, when an interesting author's taste begins to produce a brewing giant.

Where is craft beer brewed and how much is stored

In Russia, craft is brewed either in independent small breweries or in factories where you can order a small batch of beer according to your own recipe. Most of it is sold through bars and specialty shops selling alcohol.

The price for the consumer varies from 150 to 350 rubles per serving. The high cost is due to small production volumes and the use of natural ingredients.

Most craft brewers are enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. And the variety of varieties allows even those who think that they don't like beer to find something to their liking.

The expiration date of craft beer is always indicated on the packaging. Some varieties can be stored for up to 25 years, gradually maturing in the bottle, like wine. The average shelf life of craft beer is from six months to 5 years. Of course, we are talking about a closed container.

5 acronyms that accompany craft beer

  1. ABV (alcohol by volume) - the strength of the beer. To be more precise, this abbreviation shows what percentage of the volume is alcoholic. A detailed diagram can be found here. The strongest beer in the world is the Scottish Brewmeister Armageddon with 65% ABV. And this drink is still considered a beer!
  2. ABW (alcohol by weight) is a slightly rarer variant showing the strength of the beer, but in relation to its weight. To get ABV, multiply ABW by 1.25.
  3. IBU (international bitterness units) is a measure of beer bitterness, which depends on the hops used in the brewing process. You can see a table showing the intensity of the taste here. The record here belongs to the Canadian Flying Monkeys Alpha Fornication and is 2,500 IBU. For comparison: in a pale camp (Pale Lager, Light Lager) 8-12 IBU, in Indian pale ale (IPA) - 60-80 IBU, in double IPA (Double / Imperial IPA) - 100 IBU.
  4. SRM (standard reference method) is the color intensity of the beer.
  5. OG / FG (original gravity / final gravity) - the gravity of the unfermented / fermented wort. The higher the indicators, the richer and stronger the drink.

How to recognize a fake

Craft beer production is so new that a legislative framework has not yet been formed at the state level. Today, brewers can call any beer a little more original than lager and stout craft beer.

Real craft beer comes from small breweries. But it is very difficult to distinguish it by its appearance, so the only way out is to try and feel the difference.

Alexander Menfas head brewer at MANFAS Brewery

The most convenient way to try is in specialized bars. They will definitely be able to advise what you like, and they are unlikely to offer bad beer. According to the estimates of the Union of Russian Brewers, in every major city there are from one to five bars and specialty shops that specialize in craft beer.

No fake and genuine craft. Since there is no sensible definition of what it is, then it is unrealistic to fake it. There is good beer and there is bad beer. As there is a good brewery, and there is a bad one.

Denis Pavelchevsky owner of bars and contract independent brewery Northside Brew

The international service Untappd can help you make your choice. In it, consumers rate breweries and certain types of beer.

What does craft beer go with?

The main sign of real craft is the presence of an interesting taste, so dried fish or spicy snacks will not work with such beer. For the same reason, it is not recommended before you try crafting, smoking, or drinking coffee.

Different types of craft, like different wines, are combined with different products designed to set off the taste. Choose light snacks for light beer, sweet for malt varieties, spicy for tart ones. If you get lost in the variety of flavors and options, you can grab a versatile cheese or pizza that will work with most craft beers, with the exception of very heavy beers.

In a good establishment, you will always be given sensible advice on what goes best with a particular type of beer.

You can also follow the recommendations of the American Brewers Association. So, Pale Ale is advised to be supplemented with meat or pumpkin pie, burgers, English cheese (in the conditions of Russian realities - cheddar). India Pale Ale is paired with spicy curry food, sweet desserts like caramel apple pie or carrot gingerbread. An Imperial or Double IPA requires heavy meals like smoked brisket, grilled lamb, fried chicken, or very sweet desserts like caramel cheesecake or crème brulee.

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