Beer Q&A: What defines 'craft beer'?

Q: You’re always yammering about “craft beer.” What the heck is that?

A: The Brewers Association, a national trade group, uses three criteria to define “craft beer.” This beer comes from breweries that are independent, with no more than 25 percent of the company owned by outside parties; traditional, using time-honored ingredients (primarily water hops, yeast and malted barley) in more than half of their alcoholic products; and small, producing fewer than 6 million barrels a year.

“Small” isn’t what it used to be. Originally, the craft designation only applied to breweries making fewer than 2 million barrels. But when Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams and an industry powerhouse, blew past that barrier, “small” became larger.

How much larger? 6 million barrels equals 330 million six-packs.

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