After years of persistence from brewers and fans alike, the phrase ‘craft beer’ has taken root. People are drinking more craft ales and beers. It is often said that there has never been a better time to be a beer drinker in the UK. In many ways, this statement is an accurate one. In essence, the number of breweries opening in the last ten years has skyrocketed. There is a greater availability and range of beer styles present in pubs and bars across the country than ever before.
Even the larger pub companies are now cottoning on to the fact that the 21st Century beer drinker desires variety, and are widening their range to entice more ‘craft-curious’ consumers.
Consumers say they feel that drinking craft beer is ‘more special’ than drinking regular beer. Quality is becoming the byword of the brewing industry today. The most significant increase in this market is to those aged 18 to 30. Craft drinkers value ‘locally brewed’ beer. A recent study by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) showed that more than 60% of drinkers care about where their beer is brewed, and over half like ‘drinking local beer’.
What makes a craft beer?
In the UK, there are no firm criteria for precisely what makes a beer ‘craft’. Experts have worked out a rough set of guidelines, which ‘craft’ could be based on. The price point of the product is taken into account. Craft beers are traditionally made by smaller brewers who aren’t able to enjoy the luxury of the scale of production and distribution networks. Consumers expect this and are prepared to pay a premium for a craft product.
In America, the Brewer’s Association has a very clear definition of craft. Brewers have to be small, independent and traditional. It defines a small producer that has an annual production of 6m barrels of beer, which is approximately 3% of US annual beer sales.
Combining two greats
Ok, confession time. I don’t drink a lot of beer, let alone craft beer. However, I do enjoy cooking with it. The flavours really infuse food, crating rich tastes. Beer and food can be used together in many ways, and not just finding the right beer to go with a meal.
There are so many classic dishes, steak and ale pie or Irish stew, but the buck doesn’t stop there when it comes to cooking with beer. The drink can be used in a multitude of dishes, from sweet to savoury. From being the star of the show in ice creams to a subtle flavour booster in marinades and kinds of vinegar.
Cooking with beer was a natural choice for boosting the flavour and aroma in a meal a few hundred years ago. Not many traditional recipes have survived from previous centuries, but it was customary for people to add it to simple food like stews and soups at home.
People do not necessarily associate beer with desserts, but it works brilliantly. It can be used for a chocolate stout cake, an ale syrup and even a beer ice cream. Let’s face it, a dessert with a grown-up finish is always going to be decadent. I do enjoy a beer float with rum and raisin icecream, from time to time.