Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What is a “Craft Beer”?

Fire Island Lighthouse Ale is a “craft beer,” but what exactly does that mean?

According to the Brewers Association a craft beer is traditionally a malted beverage produced by a brewery with an annual production of less than 2 million barrels. To differentiate between smaller labels own by larger beer manufacturers, less than 25% of the craft brewery can be owned or controlled by an industry member who isn’t a craft brewer. The relatively small output of craft breweries means that they can spend more time and attention to the flavor and unique quality of their brews.

However, don’t be fooled by their relatively small size, because they still brew a lot of beer! In 2008 alone the craft brewing industry produced nearly 8.6 million barrels of craft beer. That’s over 2.1 billion pints for thirsty beer fans!

And even in the current economy, the craft brewing industry is not showing any signs of slowing down, growing by 10.1% in 2008. In fact, a wide variety of craft beers currently occupy the marketplace, ranging from lighter offerings like Fire Island Lighthouse Ale to darker beers like porters.

Craft breweries have long been known for their attention to detail in formulating just the right blend of flavors for innovative new tastes unmatched by many larger domestic breweries. Fire Island Lighthouse Ale, Fire Island Beer Company’s flagship offering, has a soft carbonation and a light caramel finish for a smooth, clean taste, and the toasty round body of a classic American Ale to give it real substance. These flavors were carefully formulated over years of summer taste tests at “The Shack,” a small general store located on Fire Island. It’s this same attention in craft beers like Fire Island that’s often lacking in larger breweries today.

People frequently mistake “home brews” with “craft brews.” While many craft brews have their roots in home brewing, the production and distribution of craft beers is much larger in scope. Fire Island Lighthouse Ale actually started as a small scale homebrew created by brothers Tom and Bert and their cousin Jeff. However, like many good beers, once the word was out about this tasty brew, they expanded their production and distribution to share their beer with other craft beer lovers across New York and beyond.

In addition to making great beer, craft brewers have a reputation for being active participants in their communities. For instance, Fire Island Beer has sponsored fundraisers for Columbia University Soccer, and the environmental group EcoFabulous. Because of community involvement like this and their smaller personal approach to beer production, craft breweries are frequently seen as a more positive and sustainable business model for the brewing industry.

Which really brings us to one of the core values of craft brews: giving people a quality beer with flavor and innovation beer fans everywhere really want. So if you haven’t already checked out a craft brew like Fire Island Lighthouse Ale, you really owe it to yourself to venture out from the boring big three major breweries and try something new. Because real beer fans know: big beer flavor often comes from small microbreweries.

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