Craft beer, craft breweries, and microbreweries have all become quite popular in the last decade. While they aren’t new, they were overshadowed by the prevalence of a few large domestic beer companies for many years. Today it’s just as easy to walk into a bar and order a Budweiser, Coors Light, or Michelob as it is to find a Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite. Yet now, you’ll find a bevy of other choices with exciting names, unique ingredients, and local charm. If you’re wondering how craft beer is different from domestic beer, here’s a simple explanation to help you understand your choices.
What is domestic beer?
The first step in understanding the difference is to start with an explanation of domestic beer. Domestic beers are mass-produced beverages designed for distribution across the country. Some of the most popular examples are Budweiser, Busch, Corona, Coors, and Miller. If you visit one of these breweries, you’ll find yourself in an enormous facility with vats bigger than your first apartment and bottling machinery that seems to go for miles.
Because domestic beer is designed for mass production and wide distribution, a few elements take priority in their recipes.
- The flavor needs to be consistent. People who enjoy a PBR want their beer to taste like it has for the past 25 years. It’s important to have recipes that can be duplicated year after year without noticeable changes to the beverage’s flavor, color, or quality.
- The blend must be profitable. Domestic beer will typically include cheaper ingredients because production requires a significant quality of them, and there are other costs to offset around bottling, sales, advertising, and distribution. Those Budweiser Super Bowl ads aren’t inexpensive.
- The beer must appeal to the masses. Because their beers are produced for sale in every region of the United States (and beyond), manufacturers use recipes that broad groups of beer drinkers enjoy. Flavors are likely to be more neutral with less alcohol content (lower ABV).
What is craft beer?
Take a walk down the beer aisle at your local supermarket or visit one of The Growler Guys taphouse locations, and you’ll find a spectrum of craft beers. No two are exactly alike, and many are only available for a limited time. The variety of styles and flavors results from the production techniques used for craft beer. The following are just a few reasons you find various styles, from dessert-like milkshake blends to dark stouts aged in bourbon barrels from craft breweries.
- Craft beer usually uses local ingredients. All beer is made from a combination of yeast, grains, malts, and hops. Craft brewers add other unique, non-traditional ingredients to the mix for flavoring purposes. Often these are called “adjuncts.” Depending on the kind of adjunct, the beer will have a different color, flavor, ABV, or mouthfeel.
- Craft breweries are small. They are limited to producing 6 million barrels (2 million gallons) of beer. This allows them to get more creative and produce styles of beer with a broader range of flavors, textures, and alcohol content.
- Craft brewers are independent. The majority ownership in a business belongs to the craft brewer, not an outside financial investor. Decisions are made with a focus on quality, creativity, and love of beer rather than a hard-nosed desire to improve the bottom line.
Is one better than the other?
Not necessarily. What a person enjoys in a beverage is all about personal preference. Some consumers are so loyal to a domestic beer brand that they refuse to order anything other than their “tried and true” drink of choice. However, we encourage everyone to try different styles and to learn about how the various selections are made. By doing so, you’ll develop a broader palette and be able to decide what other beers you may enjoy just from reading their contents and learning a little about the breweries.
Ready to experience how craft beer is different from domestic selections?
Explore the growing variety of beers in one taproom, The Growler Guys. Each location carries the best local varieties, from the palest ales to the darkest stouts, along with ciders and kombucha. Our friendly staff is happy to walk you through the characteristics of every style to help you discover your personal favorites. Take home the beers you love best in a growler to share with family and friends. View our online tap list to learn about the available selections at a location near you.