Craft beer offers a world of possibilities when it comes to exploring new styles and flavours. But where to start? As part of our very own Beer Festival, we asked some of Britain's top breweries to share their thoughts on what puts the craft into craft beer.

As BAD Company’s Head Brewer, Paul Holden-Ridgway explains, craft is on the up in a big way:

“Craft Beer is individually brewed batches of beer - all made with the finest of ingredients, care, skill and knowledge of the process. Experimenting with different styles allows craft brewers like us to be versatile in style and means we can be free-thinking and innovative. It also gives us the ability to change and improve as we go.

The craft brewing scene has become extremely innovative over the past few years, from Ice Cream  flavoured beers to modern Yorkshire Bitters, there is something for everyone’s taste. New exciting breweries are opening weekly, making all breweries pay attention and continue to strive to  improve the quality of what they are doing.”

Head Brewer, Patrick McGinty at Marston's, agrees that craft is all about creativity:

“There is no universal definition of craft beer in UK. In the United States a craft brewer is defined as one that produces less than six million barrels of beer a year. In the UK we have a long tradition of small batch ‘real ale’ breweries, so defining by size isn’t as appropriate.

Here and now in the UK, craft Beer is seen as being at the forefront of creativity, constantly evolving, experimenting. There’s no ‘rule book’ as such for craft beer, though there are some product and design cues that denote craft beer to consumers:

  • Size of brewery – small batch / microbreweries / local (increasingly craft is becoming more mainstream and so the size of brewery is becoming less of a defining factor)
  • Taste – known for bolder and more experimental flavours – hoppy, sours etc.
  • Serve – 330ml cans and bottles alongside larger pours.
  • Branding – lack of traditional design cues, more adventurous and artistic can and bottle label designs using bright and eye catching colours and artwork.

Craft beer is known for having bolder, hoppier flavours and there is consistently a big emphasis on flavour and quality. It is most commonly available in smaller serves than traditional ale and lager, typically available in 330ml cans or bottles. Part of the reason for the smaller serves is the tendency for craft beer to have a higher ABV than other types. Craft drinkers are generally more experimental than ale or lager drinkers, and will constantly seek out new flavours and brands to expand their experience."

Lead Brewer, Jason Pond shares Brewdog’s take on craft beer:

"There are many differences but three key ones are flavour, creativity and ownership. The near- endless variety of ingredients and brewing techniques mean craft beer has a huge range of ‘notes’ to suit any taste. From clean, citrus-powered India Pale Ales (IPA’s) to inky, resonant Imperial Stouts. Experimentation is the driving force of craft brewing. Ultimately craft beer is about independence – of thought and action.

At BrewDog, our ongoing mission is to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. It’s a battle that we believe is going in the right direction as people realise there is more out there than ‘identikit’ mass-produced lagers."

Jo Theakston, Sales & Marketing Director at Black Sheep adds:

"Craft beers are generally made in smaller batches. They tend to have distinctive flavours and are led by their hop character. The hops are generally newer styles from the US or New Zealand for example. There tends to be a big variety of styles and flavours to discover.

Craft beer is an attitude rooted in genuine independence, provenance, passion for beer, quality and challenging the norm. It’s about brewing without compromise to flavour and ingredients, it’s about telling the truth to your consumers. It’s about brewing beers that you love and are true to you, whether you are pushing the boundaries of beer through experimentation or respecting the established styles.

Craft beer for us is about thinking differently. Creating new styles that we haven’t seen before and letting the craft beer fans in our business brew the beers they love. Getting to our current range made us think differently about ingredients, flavours and how we use them in each part of the brewing process. The best craft brewers are the ones who use lots of new and different ingredients but create really coherent and memorable beers."

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