What Is Craft Beer?

Beer lovers across the nation are no stranger to the term “craft beer”. And though we may have sipped it, savoured it, and suggested it to friends, today we want to answer the question, “what exactly is craft beer?”.

Craft Beer And Industry. Lager, Ale And Light, Dark, Unfiltered Beer In Glasses On Wooden Bar Counter

Though craft beer has soared in popularity over the past few decades, there has yet to be a formalized definition of the term.

If we break it down:

  • Beer (not really needing much clarity but we’ll provide it anyway) – as defined by Merriam Webster is: a carbonated, fermented alcoholic beverage that is usually made from malted cereal grain (especially barley), is flavored with hops
  • Craft – once again defined by the great Merriam Webster is: skill in planning, making, or executing

From this, we can derive a technical definition of craft beer as:
a carbonated, fermented alcoholic beverage that is skillfully planned and executed using a mixture of malted grains (barley) and flavored with hops

Yet, as passionate lovers of beer, this sounds a bit too mechanical to us. 

If we look to how the American Brewers Association defines craft beer, they pinpoint 3 main qualities to define craft beer:

This feels like we’re getting closer to a definition we can get behind, but again this doesn’t speak to some of the other key qualities that we feel encapsulate craft beer.

If we looks at some of the “concepts” related to craft beer, we know that:

Craft brewers are typically small breweries (point to the Brewer’s association for capturing this one)

Craft brewers, though rooted in historic and traditional beer styles and brewing methods, are deeply passionate about innovation and experimentation in creating new craft beer recipes

Beyond just malts and hops, craft beer ingredients can be vast and highly unique

Craft breweries are typically rooted and involved in their communities

Though craft brewers may differ in their approaches to brewing, interacting with customers, experimentation with ingredients, they share the freedom and independence to do so without being controlled by a larger non-craft brewer (in line with the Brewers association concept of independent)

So, the aforementioned definition of “small, independent, and traditional” is pretty good, but here’s how we, at the Craft Beer Guide, would venture to define craft beer. (Please, keep in mind this is our interpretation of the definition and is not a “formal description” of craft beer.)

Craft beer is brewed, typically in small batches, by an independently-owned brewery, locally owned and operated, that is passionate about crating beer using quality ingredients, traditional and unique, and broadening the beer industry through experimentation and innovation.

The Canadian Craft Brewers Association aligns with this definition as it “represents companies and employees that embody a culture shaped by a belief in authenticity, community and environmental responsibility. Craft brewing is not a job, it’s a passion for producing the best possible product for customers who appreciate quality, freshness and flavour. Craft breweries are independently owned and operated. They reinvest in their communities and in many cases revitalize them”. In Canada, there are currently over 1,000 craft breweries and over 10,000 employes.

What makes Craft Beer different from Commercial Beer?

Craft vs. commercial. This can be a heated debate amongst beer lovers.

So what really is the difference between the two? Beer is beer, right? Or is it?

Obviously, writing from the perspective of “Craft Beer Guide”, it’s not hard to guess that we are proponents of the craft beer side of the argument. But, that being said, we also recognize that just because a beer is considered “craft beer” doesn’t mean that it’s going to be good. And along those same lines, not all commercially manufactured beer is less quality.

Trust us when we say that we’ve had our fair share of questionable craft beer. Sometimes experimented brews are just not great. That’s the reality of craft beer! Sometimes the recipe is a huge hit, and sometimes it’s one not to be repeated again. And there lies the beauty, and the main difference, between craft beer and commercial beer.

Commercial beer is brewed to taste the same, every single time. It’s this consistency and reliability of the recipe that allows for mass production and global sales. Craft Beer, on the other hand, is crafted each and every batch. There may be differences in ingredients, flavours, alcohol levels, and though some recipes can be repeated to be near replicas, the freedom to create recipe variations is the beauty of craft beer.
So whether you’re a craft beer lover or are a loyal fan of a particular commercial beer, let’s agree to share respect for each other as beer enthusiasts, whether drinking a chocolate peanut butter porter or an age-old Guiness.


Why Craft Beer Guide:

We started Craft Beer Guide to share the love for all things craft beer. Part of that love, is sharing what craft beer is with those who haven’t dipped their toes into the glorious waters of craft beer.

But it’s also so much more than that! We can connect our fellow craft beer lovers with new craft beers, introduce them to new breweries, share craft beer associated events, and more!

We’re here to help you with all things craft beer. While you’re here, check out:

Beer Styles

Our “Beer Styles” pages with to learn all sorts of information about the different types of beer


Our “Explore” pages where we highlight some of our favorite beers and breweries across the country


Our “Brewery Listings” pages where you can find listings of all of the great craft Canadian craft breweries

Beer Blog

Our “Blog” (which you’re reading now!) to read articles about all things craft beer

We’re so excited to continue to share our love of craft beer with you and we hope you enjoyed this dive into what craft beer is. Now, time for a pint!