What is Craft Beer? A Definition

Remember the good old days when we’d spend hours in the supermarket isles trying to decide whether to buy a 10 pack of generic lager or a 24 pack of equally generic lager?

Today, we’re blessed with a selection of ‘craft beers’ that range from hoppy IPAs to dark porters and fruity ales.

But are those ‘craft beers’ in the supermarket actually from a craft brewery?

As lovers of London’s finest craft beer, we are here to provide you with up to date, relevant information on all things craft.

And the only way to get to the bottom of this is a definition!

Craft beer is clearly defined as…

As a beer that is produced by a brewery that…


Well, the truth is, there is no single official definition.

If we say that a craft beer is a beer produced by a craft brewery, then we just need to work on defining a craft brewery.

Easy right? No quite.  But luckily we have a few definitions to work with.

The best and most widely used definitions of craft breweries have come from  regional or national organisations whose passion is craft, so let’s take a look at a few.

Definition of craft beer in the UK

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) currently provides a definition for what a craft brewery is in the UK.

  • Produces less than 20 million litres annually (0.12 million UK barrels or 0.4% of beer sales)
  • Is a truly independent brewer and not a subsidiary of a larger firm with other attendant or subsidiary brewing interests
  • Meets and abides by SIBA’s Food Safety and Quality standards

Definition of craft beer in the USA

The Brewers Association have provided guidelines for what makes a craft brewery ‘craft’ in the USA.

  • Their annual production should not exceed 704 million litres (4.3 million UK barrels or 3% of beer sales)
  • The majority of their beers should have flavours that derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation
  • Less than 25% of the brewery should be owned by an alcohol industry member who is not a “craft brewery”

Definition of craft beer in Australia

The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) guidelines are similar to that of the USA.

  • Annual production should be less than 40 million litres per annum (0.24 million UK barrels)
  • Less than 20% of the brewery can be owned by a large brewer
  • The craft brewery owns less than 20% of a large brewery

What do the craft beer definitions have in common?

After reading the definitions, it is clear that craft beer enthusiasts across the globe share two common requirements which craft breweries must meet.

They must be both small and independent!

With the rise in the popularity of craft beer, organisations such as SIBA, BA and IBA will play an increasingly important role in providing protection to both the producer and consumer – making sure that quality craft beer can be easily identified and served up to those who want to drink it.

You can find a map of all the SIBA approved craft breweries or look for their stamp of approval on bottles, cans and pumps.

Not all independent breweries in the UK will be SIBA approved – so read up on the breweries online or visit them if you aren’t sure.

Why do we care?

While bigger breweries can make great beer, the fact is that as a group they generally haven’t.

Restricting the definition to smaller, independent brewers helps to focus attention on those breweries which are primarily brewing for taste, where so much more of every pound you spend represents ingredients & production costs rather than marketing & management.

Love craft beer? Taste what London’s craft breweries freshest brews with our monthly craft beer boxes.

We love small, independent breweries and we’re here to make sure you get to taste the incredible craft beer they have to offer – delivered straight to your door!

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