Beer has been around for-ev-er. So that isn't necessarily true, but it's been around for a pretty darn long time. Egyptians sipped on beer as they built the pyramids. The ancient Romans and Greeks were aware of beer, too, but they considered it a barbaric brew.
That being said, generations-old practices are still used by many craft brewers. Commercial brewing, however, is a whole other monster.
— Simon Bunn (@BrewhouseUK) March 15, 2017
Featured above is a visual representation of the difference between commercial and craft beer. Tweeted by Brewhouse & Kitchen, a UK-based pub and microbrewery, this picture separates each style of beer's contents in its whole form.
Without thinking too hard, we all know that a commercial beer is produced in a much higher scale than a craft beer. If you've ever done a Coors factory tour in Golden, Colorado and then gone to Mountain Toad Brewing just a few minutes away, you have experienced this size difference firsthand.
While size does matter in this case, other factors separate craft from commercial beer. While it's hard to ID each and every ingredient in the image above, we do know that many commercial-scale breweries use ingredients like corn syrup to create a milder flavor in their beers.
Milder beers are, theoretically, easier to drink. Craft-brewed session beers attempt to do this, too, but they typically will avoid corn syrup.
When it comes to the wheat and barley used in commercial beers, that size factor comes back into play. These breweries need to produce high quantities of the crops they used to make beer, so genetically modified organisms make production easier. Food Babe cites the following genetically modified ingredients as reported by commercial breweries:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (Guinness - unable to provide an affidavit for non-GMO proof)
- Corn syrup (Miller Light, Coors, Corona, Fosters, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Stripe)
- Dextrose (Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch Light, Michelob Ultra)
- Corn (Red Stripe, Miller Coors Brand, Anheuser-Busch Brands)
We won't argue that all commercially scaled brewers use GMOs. We also won't argue that all craft brewers do not.
Logically, though, it makes sense that the more beer you make, the more likely you are to use such ingredients. Another difference between commercial and craft brew is flavor, which is also ingredient-based.
See those pellets at the top of the craft beer? No, those aren't rat pellets. Those are hop pellets. IPA lovers know what different varieties of hops can do to a beer.
If you're a double IPA kind of person, then you really know how hops can influence a beer's flavor. (Typically, a double IPA will have two-times as many hops as a standard IPA.) There is an ever-increasing amount of exciting, exotic ingredients being added to craft beers, too.
September is right around the corner, and that means fresh hop season is almost upon us!! For all our Neighborhood Hop Swap growers, keep and eye out for the right time to harvest your hops, and mark your calendars for this brew day on September 10th. Be sure to join us, toss your hops in the kettle and help us make this truly one-of-a-kind collaboration Pale Ale! #freshhops #hops #craftbeer #drinklocal #cheers
Long story short, you can take the same ingredients from different sources and have a much different beer. Craft breweries typically put more stock into locally sourced ingredients, and quality is incredibly important.
High-quality ingredients separate a good local brewery from just another so-so craft beer joint. Flavor is king, and, while we may personally prefer PBR to Budweiser, the flavor of a commercially brewed beer pales in comparison to that of a craft beer nine times out of ten.
There are bourbon-barrel-aged beers, beers you can drink fifty of and still not feel buzzed, beers so sour that you want to die, and beers that you'll drink once and never think about again.
Knowing what you like is important, but thinking about where those ingredients come from is becoming increasingly important, too. Consider the sources, weigh your options, and make the decision that makes the most sense to you.