As Craft Beer Starts Gushing, Its Essence Gets Watered Down

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There was once a time when it was easy to throw around the term “craft beer” and know exactly what you were talking about. For decades, craft was the way to differentiate small, independently owned breweries – and the beer they make – from the brewing giants like Coors, Budweiser and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

But the line separating craft brewers from large multinational companies is growing blurrier. Small breweries are transforming into big ones, while big breweries are masquerading as small brands, selling “crafty” knockoff beers in an attempt to lure customers from the craft beer market.

Part of the confusion over what craft beer means has come from within the craft beer community itself. The , a Colorado industry group that serves as a voice for craft brewers, has changed its definition multiple times.

In February, the organization eliminated a long-standing requirement that a craft brewery must make at least half of its product, as well as its “flagship” beer, from only barley malt — not sugar from rice or corn, which large breweries commonly rely on to make thinly flavored lagers.

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