The term craft beer is widely used and has come over from America. At the end of the 1970s, the first craft beer brewers started experimenting there. The beer landscape back then was very dull and dominated by huge lager/lager breweries such as Budweiser and Coors.
In the early 1980s, Ken Grossman started brewing beer in his garage. He brewed a Pale Ale with a good hop character, something he missed in the boring beer landscape at the time. His garage brewery grew over the next twenty years into America's leading brewery, the Sierra Nevada brewery.
This story shows what the term "craft beer" actually stands for! Brewing with passion and wanting to create a beer or beer style that actually isn't there yet! Ken brewed a hoppy beer, something no one was brewing or even tasting at the time.
I started as a brewer at Brouwerij De Raaf in Heumen in 1989. The term craft beer did not yet exist in the Netherlands. We called it special beer and the brewery was called a special beer brewery. De Raaf was one of the first specialty beer breweries in NL and started brewing the first White Beer in the Netherlands. In Belgium you had Hoegaarden then, which was still a small brand compared to how big they have become now. In the beginning, our wheat beer was very difficult to sell because people did not yet know and did not understand a cloudy beer. We also had all sorts of problems with the quality, a white beer is very sensitive to infections with all kinds of bacteria, etc. We persisted, however, and our white beer became a household name in the Dutch catering industry in the 1990s.
As a craft brewer you have to be passionate about going against the grain and brewing something different from what the other breweries are doing. Passion, courage, creativity and perseverance are important to achieve your goal!
In America, these craft breweries have become so big that there are now requirements to be able to call your brewery "Craft Brewer" or to give your beer "Craft Beer". The following requirements are set for craft beer:
- The brewery must be independent. Less than 25% of the brewery may be owned by another brewery that is not a craft beer brewery.
- A Craft Beer Brewery should be small, max production 6 million US barrels per year.
-A characteristic of a craft brewer is that they give well-known styles a new look by adding unique ingredients. So, in addition to the traditional ingredients, non-traditional ingredients are also added. It is also possible to deviate from traditional brewing techniques to create something new.
- In short, it is about innovation, passion, creativity and showing character! You often also see brewers with a certain life philosophy who strongly interweave this in a product.
The term craft beer in Europe is much freer and actually has no requirements. For craft beer fans it remains important that a brewery is independent. Whether this is really justified is a question that cannot be answered immediately. Sometimes it can be an advantage if a larger brewery takes over a small brewery and invests in, for example, improving the quality of the beer.
As a Craft Beer brewer, it is good to think about what your beers can contribute to the beer landscape. Which beer can provide added value? The feeling at and around a beer brand is also important! What is your story behind the beers? How does your story contribute to a better beer world? What is your approach and addition to the beer experience of the consumer?