Craft Beer Revolution: Navigating the World of Microbrews and Artisanal Brews

Craft Beer Revolution: Navigating the World of Microbrews and Artisanal Brews

Craft Beer Revolution: Navigating the World of Microbrews and Artisanal Brews banner

If there’s one thing that can always be counted on, it’s that people love good beer. Over the course of the last couple of decades, the craft beer movement has taken the United States by storm, and today, it’s a key player in the overall food and beverage market. According to the Brewers Association for Small & Independent Craft Brewers, retail sales of craft beer reached more than $28.4 billion in 2022, accounting for nearly 25 percent of sales across the entire U.S. beer market.

With the market share expected to continue to grow, now is an excellent time to begin exploring the power of the craft beer industry.

What Is Craft Beer?

What is craft beer exactly? Defining craft beer can be challenging, as there are a wide variety of types of craft beers and an individual’s perception of craft beer may vary significantly. However, craft beer is generally considered to be beer brewed in small batches at an independent brewing company.

The Brewers Association for Small & Independent Craft Brewers reports craft brewers typically produce less than 6 million barrels of beer per year, and they are not primarily controlled by a large, corporate beverage maker. A craft brewer is going to rely on tried-and-true beer recipes while still incorporating their own innovative twists and distinct flavors. The goal is to produce a beer that is distinctive, flavorful and refreshing.

Craft Beer vs. Commercial Beer

There are some distinct differences to consider between craft and commercial beer. Per Zipps Liquor, these are some noteworthy differences to consider:

  • Craft beers are more complex and known for being more flavorful and distinctive.
  • Craft beers tend to have a higher alcohol content than commercial beers.
  • Commercial beers are produced at a higher volume, which means that they are often priced lower than craft beers.

Types of Craft Beer Producers

Craft brewers can be broken down into four categories:

  • MicrobreweriesMicrobreweries are craft breweries that operate on a much smaller scale. Although some microbreweries will offer restaurants on-site, roughly 75% of their beer is actually sold off-site.
  • NanobreweriesNanobreweries operate on a smaller scale than microbreweries and are often used as start-up endeavors. They produce less than 2,000 barrels of beer annually.
  • Craft breweriesCraft breweries are small, independent breweries defined by producing less than 6 million barrels of beer each year. Many craft breweries have taprooms on site, and they may also serve food to complement their brews.
  • Farm breweriesA farm brewery is a beer facility that grows hops and other ingredients onsite that are needed to brew their beers. Farm breweries also have agricultural products on site that may be necessary for the production of their beer.

Popular Styles in Craft Beer

Some craft breweries make a wide range of beer styles, while others specialize in particular types of beers. These are some of the most popular craft beer styles that you will find at breweries around the country:

  • India Pale Ale (IPA)The India Pale Ale, or IPA, beer is one of the most beloved beer styles in the craft beer industry. Known for their hoppy, crisp flavors, IPAs typically have a higher alcohol content than most other craft beers.
  • StoutKnown for their dark coloring and warm flavors, stouts are a long-standing member of the craft beer family. Having been brewed since the early 18th century, stouts are known for being thick, hearty and fulfilling. Both malt and smoked barley are used in the brewing process, and flavors of chocolate and cocoa often infiltrate the beer.
  • SourBrewed with acidity in mind, sour beers have a distinct sour flavor that sets them apart from traditional ales and lagers.
  • BelgianDrawing their flavor from the yeast used in the recipe, Belgian beers are some of the most popular beers on the craft beer market. Known for their higher alcohol volume, they often have a hint of fruit or spice in their flavor.
  • Pale AlePale ales are some of the most well-known and well-liked craft beers, thanks to their universal flavor and easy drinkability. The type of hops used within a pale ale will define its flavor and determine its alcohol content.

Art of Beer Selection and Pairing

Much like wine and hard liquor, craft beer can be paired with specific types of foods to enhance the flavor and improve the overall experience. Craft brewers often must design a craft beer program that focuses on a few specific types of craft beers that will pair well with their menu, their overall ambiance and the preferences of their customers.

Some popular pairings include:

  • Wheat beers and spicy meals
  • Dark lagers and a mouthwatering burger
  • Porters with some fresh seafood
  • Stouts with a piece of chocolate cake

Creating a Craft Beer Program

To put it simply, craft beer lovers can be selective. Americans are infatuated with craft beers, and there’s a sense of superiority that comes along with sipping a frothy brew locally produced at a microbrewery run by neighbors and friends. Fortunately, as an entrepreneur, you can capitalize on this desire and design a craft beer program that appeals to elitists, enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

Building Your Craft Beer List

The key to building your craft beer list is to offer a balanced selection so that you appeal to a wide range of guests. You should offer a few selections within each category of beer while always prioritizing local preferences in your community. has created a 16-tap template for brewers looking to build a list. The template recommends that you choose:

  • 3 crisp beers
  • 3 hop-centric beers
  • 1 beer with a high ABV
  • 1 sour
  • 3 dark beers
  • 3 nutty beers
  • 1 fruit beer
  • 1 cider

This variety allows you to appeal to craft beer drinkers of all preferences, creating a balanced and welcoming selection.

Training Staff on Craft Beer

Once you have developed your menu and perfected your brews, you will need to train your staff on the specific beers that you offer. Many of your customers will be asking your staff for recommendations based on their own preferences or based on the meal that they are ordering, so it’s important that your staff can provide reliable, informative answers that convince customers to try out your beers.

Leading Craft Beer Companies in the U.S.

The craft beer industry is growing exponentially in the United States. In fact, there were 9,552 craft breweries in the country in 2022, which was the highest number of craft breweries ever operating at one time.

These are some of the most successful and well-established craft beer companies in the United States:

Boston Beer Company

Established in 1984, Boston Beer Company broke onto the scene at the dawn of the craft beer era. To date, this brewery has produced 111 million cases of beer, and attracted more than 1.9 million customers to its taprooms. Some of the most well-known beers produced by the Boston Beer Company include Samuel Adams and Dogfish Head. In addition, this company also produces other alcoholic beverages, including the ever-popular seltzer Truly and the sweet blend Twisted Tea.

New Belgium Brewing Company

Two friends took a biking trip through Belgium in the late 1980s, and they came home with the inspiration to launch their own Belgian-inspired craft beer business. What started out as a small, all-encompassing, independent operation has grown into one of the most successful craft beer companies of our time. Specializing in pale ales and IPAs, some of New Belgium Brewing Company’s most popular brews include Fat Tire Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.  is one of the original players in the craft beer industry in the United States. Today, this company offers more than 30 different beers, with some of its most popular brews including Pale Ale, Torpedo and Hazy Little Thing. While those are year-round favorites, this company also produces seasonal selections throughout the year as well.

Lagunitas Brewing Company

What started as a home kitchen brewery in the early 1990s has transformed into one of the most well-known and well-loved breweries of this era. Lagunitas Brewing Company is considered the father of the modern-day IPA. Today, some of its best performing beers include the Lagunitas IPA, Daytime and A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.

Craft Beer Across the Globe

The United States has long been considered one of the top beer producers across the globe, but the demand for craft beer is heating up around the world. China leads the world beer market with $125 billion in revenue in 2023. The beer market is also growing in Latin America, where the demand for distinctive craft beer is on the rise.

Revolution of the Beverage Industry

At one time, the beer industry was dominated by a few key players who produced the same types of basic beer. The goal was to create cheap beer for a specific demographic, and that approach did not vary until the emergence of the craft beer market. Today, the global beverage industry is rapidly adjusting to meet the dynamic demands of today’s sophisticated consumers. People are looking for new, innovative and fresh flavors, and they are willing to pay more to try something authentic and memorable.

Learn More About the Food & Beverage Industry With JWU

At Johnson & Wales University, we offer an entrepreneurial food and beverage program that allows you to study a mix of food and beverage courses alongside business and entrepreneurial classes. Learn the skills necessary to be an innovator in the food and beverage industry with our online Bachelor of Science in Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship or explore the many other online degree programs we offer to find the perfect match for your professional goals.

For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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