Corporate Craft Beer: Friend or Foe?

Are you a fan of craft beer? You may think that the trend towards craft beer is a good thing for the beer industry, but corporate breweries are increasingly introducing faux-craft brands, to the consternation of many beer connoisseurs. Is faux-craft a foe or is the "craft" movement strong enough to withstand the influx of corporate-made products? Read on to find out.

Is Faux-Craft a Foe?

As the American craft beer industry continues to expand, ever-more complicated interpretations of styles, ingredients, and techniques have taken the market by storm. But as uniquely crafted beers have risen to the top of the charts, the need for ever-more diverse options has only grown. In response to the American palate’s sweeping shift away from fizzy, lifeless beers, many corporate breweries have hastily embraced faux-craft brands.

What exactly is faux-craft beer? It’s a sort of not-quite-literal interpretation of what real craft breweries attempt to do. It’s usually easy to spot if you know what to look for, as the flavors and ingredients are often quite different from what’s found in a real craft beer. That’s not to say that a good faux-craft brewery doesn’t exist, but it’s important to be aware of the potential differences.

What are Faux-Craft Beers?

Simply put, faux-craft beers are mass-produced by corporate brewers who strive to mimic the taste and flavor of true craft beers. Although the definition of a “real craft beer” can vary (some include breweries as small as five barrels or 500 gallons of beer sold while others might include breweries that produce thousands of barrels yearly), most agree that something lower alcohol, more flavorful, and more interesting than the typical mass-market beers should fit the bill. In fact, the Brewers Association has established guidelines for craft beer that help to distinguish a true craft beer from a faux craft beer.

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What Makes Faux-Craft Beer Different?

Faux-craft beers can be touch to spot if you don’t know what to look for, but there’s one surefire way to determine whether a beer is craft or faux-craft: the ingredients. Nearly all faux-craft beers are made from proprietary recipes that are derived from industrialized, mass-produced ingredients. This means that while the taste of a faux-craft beer might ape that of a true craft beer, the ingredients have been stripped of the unique flavors that truly set a craft beer apart.

The flavor of a faux-craft beer will also be shallow and uninteresting when compared to its craft counterparts. The ingredients used in a craft beer are often carefully selected to bring out specific characteristics and flavors, while the ingredients in a faux-craft beer are often chosen because they’re cheap and easy to work with. This can lead to a flat, flavorless beer that won’t excite many craft beer drinkers.

How can I spot a Faux-Craft Beer?

Spotting a faux-craft beer can be challenging, but here are a few tips that can help:

  • The beer label will usually be missing certain information, such as the name of the brewery, the ingredients used, or the process for brewing the beer.
  • The beer will often be labeled as a “style” or a “variety” of beer, but no specific brewery name or location will be mentioned.
  • The ingredients list will often be missing or incomplete, as corporate breweries use their own proprietary ingredients.
  • The beer will often be much cheaper than its craft counterparts, so price can offer a clue as to whether a beer is craft or faux-craft.
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If all else fails, turning to trusted beer authorities or websites can help you determine whether a particular beer is craft or faux-craft. Most beer websites will clearly label the beers that are brewed “in-house.” This usually means that the beer was brewed on-site using the brewery’s own recipes, and therefore can be considered “craft.”

Are Faux-Craft Beers Any Good?

Despite the differences between faux-craft and true craft beer, some faux-craft beers deserve a chance. While it’s easy to write off all faux-craft beers as dull, flavorless affairs, there’s a possibility that you may stumble across a surprisingly good faux-craft beer. It’s important, however, to remember that faux-craft beers don’t live up to what real craft brewers are aiming for, at least in terms of flavor, ingredients, and character. If you’re looking for something truly special, you’ll

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