Fermented with local microflora, has a delicate mouth feel, aged for a year in French oak barrels, ends with a dry finish: nowadays, the tasting notes for beer read like those for wine. But then again, it’s not just beer: it’s craft beer.

But what is craft beer exactly? That’s the million-dollar question. In the US, the definition of craft beer is pretty straightforward: the Brewers’ Association defines a craft brewer as one that is independent, small and traditional. In the UK, there is no definition of craft beer and in the rest of Europe, one definition contrasts with the other.

This lack of definition means that no one is certain at which rate the interest in craft beer is growing. In the UK, for instance, some say craft beer accounts for two per cent of the market while others claim that it is as high as 20 per cent. It all depends on which definition of craft beer you use.

However, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: craft beer is getting big. And probably, this lack of definition, and the resulting free rein in creativity, is fuelling its growth. Because craft brewers are not interested in the format. For instance, while real ale has to be live, cask-conditioned British beer or its bottled equivalent, craft beer can be made and served in various formats: it can be canned, bottled or keg. What craft brewers are interested in is flavour.

From hints of coffee grounds, fruit, oysters and brambles to big hop flavours, wild yeasts and malts, craft beer is bursting with flavour

In fact, flavour is what defines craft beer. From hints of coffee grounds, fruit, oysters and brambles to big hop flavours, wild yeasts and malts, craft beer is bursting with flavour. And it’s a taste of the world because craft beer can hail from the US as it can from Scandinavia and Europe. Last year, for instance, it was the year of Californian IPAs. However, other countries didn’t just sit back and watch. Italy, for instance, embraced the craft beer culture: the small town of Apecchio collaborated with American Brooklyn Brewery to produce the AMA Bionda, a Belgian pale ale made with aromatic malts and Sicilian orange blossom honey.

The two countries leading the craft beer movement are the US and the UK. Back in 1990, there were only 298 craft breweries in the US – nowadays, there are over 3,000. According to the Society of Independent Brewers, in the UK, some 200 new-wave breweries are opening each year. Moreover, statistics by market researchers Mintel show that one in five British adults have drunk craft beer in the last six months, encouraged by the opening of new breweries as well as events such as the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo.

So, availability, bold flavours and a studied approach all work in favour of craft beer. The only downside is the price because small-scale production and exotic raw ingredients all push the price of craft beer up. But that’s not a problem because the next one is on you.

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