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Ask a Pro: What’s the deal with craft beer?

Q: What’s the difference between craft beer and “regular” beer?

A: Long ago, before Prohibition, there were as many breweries in North America as there are today! Almost all of these breweries made a wide variety of regional styles in all strengths and flavours. Unfortunately, only a small number of large, successful breweries were able to survive Prohibition. These breweries made a popular German style of lager and the strict laws that were in place after Prohibition made it very hard for smaller breweries to open. These Golden Lager styles dominated the U.S. beer market for decades and the companies grew so big that over time the average consumer didn’t even remember those old and varied styles of yesteryear. These are what we think of when we think of macro or big beer.

That is, until homebrewing was legalized in 1978. Large numbers of homebrewers started recreating these long lost styles from England, Belgium, and Germany. Effectively starting the craft beer “boom”.

So, what is craft beer? While the legal definition will talk about production numbers, I like to think of craft beer as a way to classify beer made in small batches-by hand, by humans, using the highest quality ingredients, and a focus on quality brewing techniques. Both styles of beer have their place in the world, and both produce a product with the same name, but the methods of getting there are vastly different.  

Do you have questions about wine, beer or spirits that you’d like us to answer? Send your questions to [email protected] to be featured in a future segment!

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