Short for the Brewers Association, they have three strict definitions of craft breweries in the U.S. and have been using them for years:
(1) The maximum annual output is no more than 6 million barrels.
(2) The brewery is not or less than 25% controlled by a non-craft brewery.
(3) At least one of the main products, or more than 50% of the sales volume, does not use adjuncts to lighten the flavor and character of the beer but rather enhances it.
Beer Judge Certificate Program (BJCP for short), founded in the United States in 1985, has a history of 30 years and has more than 5,200 members certified as beer judges. According to BJCP’s standards, beer is classified into 28 categories. Their objectives are:
(1) To promote and educate people about beer, cider, and mead-related knowledge and culture (with beer being the most important but also including the other two).
(2) To improve the public’s awareness, tasting, and evaluation skills of these beverages, making it easier for individuals to communicate using professional terminology.
(3) To create a standardized beer evaluation program, teach enthusiasts how to accurately evaluate and appreciate beer, facilitate ranking and evaluation in the industry, provide a pool of skilled judges, and offer constructive feedback to brewers.
3. Hoppy Hops
Hops are plants initially used for preservation and not primarily for flavoring. However, they now serve to balance the sweetness of malt and mildly inhibit yeast. Hops contribute various flavors such as floral, citrus, herbal, and more to beer. They also act as natural preservatives and help maintain yeast activity. With the recent surge in the popularity of U.S. craft beers, hop production has struggled to keep up with the increased demand from brewers.
4. Dry Hopped
The term “dry” in dry hopping does not refer to adding dried hops to beer, but rather a brewing technique of adding hops during fermentation. Dry hopping maximizes hop aroma because the hops are added at a stage when they are not boiled, ensuring that the beer’s bitterness remains unaffected. This technique is commonly used in hop-forward American-style light beers and IPAs. Here are ten tips for effectively using hops in craft beer:
(1) Use hop pellets for quicker and more efficient flavor extraction.
(2) Incorporate a variety of hops to create complexity.
(3) Different stages of hop addition yield varying flavors.
(4) Higher temperatures during hop addition result in more aroma incorporation (12.8°-18.8° Celsius).
(5) Optimize contact time between hops and beer for maximum aroma release.
(6) Add hops towards the end of primary fermentation or during the final stages.
(7) Minimize oxygen exposure during late-stage fermentation.
(8) Extract more flavor by adding hops during whirlpooling or hopback.
(9) Understand the law of diminishing returns regarding hop utilization (4g/L-12g/L).
(10) Determine optimal hop dosage and addition methods using the hop utilization analysis table.
IPA stands for “India Pale Ale,” a beer style known for its pronounced hop flavor. Originally produced in England, IPA was developed to withstand long-distance shipping to the British colonies in India. The increased alcohol content and higher hop levels helped preserve the beer during the journey. Following the decline of colonial rule and the rise of industrial brewing, IPA almost disappeared. It wasn’t until the late 20th century when the United States initiated the craft beer movement, with a focus on IPA, that this style regained popularity.
In recent years, the global popularity of IPA has led to “India” becoming synonymous with strong hoppy beers, giving rise to new styles such as India Pale Lager and India Saison. In the United States, the first Thursday of August is designated as National IPA Day.
6. Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout originated in England and gained popularity because the Russian Tsar’s family favored the strong-flavored Stout beer. Regular Stout had a short shelf life when exported over long distances, so breweries increased the malt quantity to create an Imperial (high-alcohol) version. Given its association with the Russian royal family, this intense Stout style came to be known as Imperial Russian Stout or simply Imperial Stout.
Imperial Stout is characterized by its high alcohol content, intense bitterness, and dark color. Typically, it contains at least 8% ABV (alcohol by volume), with mainstream versions averaging around 12% ABV. Bitterness levels usually exceed 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), with mainstream examples averaging around 70 IBUs. Dark malts and roasted barley contribute to its deep color and dominate the aroma and flavor with caramel notes. Imperial Stout is one of the heaviest and most diverse beer styles in the craft beer world.
In the midst of the global craft beer trend and continuous innovation, barrel-aged beers are rapidly gaining popularity. Barrel aging involves re-aging brewed beer in barrels previously used for other alcoholic beverages, which imparts unique flavors to the beer. Red wine barrels, renowned for their robust flavors, are commonly used. The aged beer takes on a richer, more complex character, absorbing some of the original wine flavors from the barrel. Barrel-aged versions of Imperial Stout in the United States, where they are popular, include almost all well-known examples of the style.
8. Sour Beer
Sour beer has become increasingly popular among craft beer enthusiasts in recent years. Sourness in beer is typically achieved through two methods: fermentation by bacteria other than yeast, mainly involving certain strains of Lactobacillus, or by adding sour fruits like tart cherries to the beer.
Belgian Lambic, a more exotic type of sour beer, is cooled after boiling the wort and undergoes spontaneous fermentation using natural yeasts. The beer is then aged in wooden barrels for at least three years, during which time it also acquires bactericidal properties from aged hops. Research suggests that more than 100 types of bacteria contribute to Lambic. Producing deliberately sour beer requires complex techniques, making it one of the most highly regarded and sought-after beer styles.
9. Seasonal Beers
Seasonal beers are brewed with ingredients that are characteristic of a particular season. Examples include pumpkin beers in the autumn and watermelon beers in the summer. These beers are best enjoyed fresh to fully appreciate the unique flavors provided by seasonal ingredients.
10. Flavored Beers
To enhance the taste of beer and offer greater diversity, breweries sometimes add ingredients beyond water, malt, hops, and yeast. Popular additions include fruits, coffee, and milk, while more unusual combinations may feature spices like pepper or unexpected ingredients such as oysters or beef kidneys. Examples of flavored beer styles include Spice Beer, Herb Beer, Vanilla Beer, Vegetable Beer, Christmas Beer, and Winter Specialty Spiced Beer.
11. Vintage Beers
Most beers are meant to be consumed fresh and do not require aging. Lighter beer styles are typically best enjoyed when fresh, while more complex and robust styles like Imperial Stout or barley wine benefit from aging to develop enhanced flavors.
Beers with an alcohol content close to 10% or higher tend to have a longer shelf life. Some breweries label these beers with a year to indicate they can be aged and tasted over multiple years, as their flavors evolve wonderfully over time.