Craft beer has been on the rise for quite some time now. Microbreweries are becoming more and more prominent, especially in the Midwest. Since craft beer is a growing phenomenon, what makes it so unique?
What is Craft Beer?
Craft Beer comes from microbreweries, whereas industrial beer is made from macro breweries. For a beer to be called craft beer, it has to be made from real malts. Craft beer also tends to be unfiltered and unpasteurized, while industrial beer may have preservatives and chemicals.
Flavor & Craftmanship
There are several styles of beer, from India Pale Ales to Lagers, Pilsners, and Stouts. And craft beer often times excels at the flavor of the style. The main reason for this is that they are not mass-produced industrial beers. If given both an industrial beer and a craft beer, the craft beer is usually more distinguishable due to its unique color, body, and flavors, a product of the malt and other special ingredients.
Craft beer is usually made in smaller batches where ‘craftmanship’ is fundamental in the brewing process. It also allows for more complexity and variety of flavors in the beer since there is more of a human factor in brewing, which usually involves implementing traditional methods of brewing while also experimenting with new methods.
For example, a peanut butter stout would be a more complex flavor than a beer that is mass-produced like a Guinness, which is also a stout beer. And people that would enjoy something like a peanut butter stout are a niche demographic. Craft beer is geared toward satisfying niche consumer bases rather than catering to general consumers. Because of craft beer’s nature, research shows that craft beer tends to have more nutrients than industrial beer.
There are four main ingredients to beer: malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. Craft beer expands on how those ingredients are used in the brewing process. For the malt, barley is soaked in water and then sprouts. Then heat is applied to the sprouts to stop germination. And the malt can be roasted, which gives the beer its flavor. Hops tend to be associated with India Pale Ales, or IPAs for short. Hops give off a bitter flavor, which can also add to the notes of tropical fruit or other bitter flavors. Yeast is needed to ferment the beer. This is why beer has an expiration date, unlike other alcoholic beverages. The more complex the beer is, the faster it will go bad. High-quality water is used as it can affect the final product. Brewers will make sure the water that is used is purified and filtered. Other high-quality ingredients can be used as well since brewing craft beer is not a simple process.
Craft beer’s uniqueness allows for more varieties of beer, such as a peanut butter stout. A microbrewery can also have many different flavors of each type, like an IPA that is made with brown sugar and an IPA that is made with citrus fruits. Because of this, someone can find a beer that they absolutely love when it has a flavor they really enjoy. Like wine, beer can sometimes age in a unique barrel. Take Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing Company, for example. Dragon’s Milk is aged in bourbon barrels, which adds character to the beer.
Fermentation is a crucial element in brewing craft beer. The fermentation process produces natural gas, which is made by yeast. It incorporates into the beer’s body better than CO2, which is artificially injected into beer.
There are tons of microbreweries not just in the Midwest but all over. What these microbreweries often do is celebrate their location, culture, and heritage with their craft beer. Let’s take Upper Hand Brewery from Escanaba, Michigan, for example. Their logo is of the Upper Peninsula, where Escanaba is located, taking pride in where they are. Their flagship beer is the Upper Peninsula Ale, which is a traditional American pale ale. Microbreweries celebrate and take pride in who they are, where they are, and contribute to their community.
Craft beer is unique because of its complex nature and brewing process. Though it is brewed by traditional methods and in smaller batches, so much more goes into craft beer than its industrial counterpart, as microbreweries often get creative. It is made with high-quality ingredients and passion, giving it more flavor and body. And last, they often pay homage to their respective community.