The craft-beer business is booming.

According to the Brewers Association, small and independent American craft brewers contributed $55.7 billion to the United States economy in 2014, providing more than 424,000 jobs across the country.

While craft beer is growing in popularity, even the most ardent craft-beer drinkers may not know just what qualifies a beer for craft-beer status.

Defining craft beer can be difficult, but the Brewers Association says there are certain criteria that American brewers should meet before they can be characterized as craft brewers.

Size: Craft brewers are small, with CraftBeer.com saying breweries cannot produce more than 6 million barrels of beer per year.

Independent: Ownership also determines if a brewer can be characterized as a craft brewer. The Brewers Association says that, to be considered a craft brewer, no more than 25 percent of the brewery can be owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcohol-industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.

Traditional: Craft brewers must have a majority of their total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation.

Those requirements are more stringent, but there are some additional characteristics that help to define the craft-brewing industry. For example, the Brewers Association notes that many craft brewers are heavily involved in their communities.


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Bob Johnson, head brewer at Navigation Brewing Company on Western Avenue in Lowell.
Bob Johnson, head brewer at Navigation Brewing Company on Western Avenue in Lowell. (SUN FILE PHOTO)
Such involvement may involve craft brewers sponsoring local events, but may also include philanthropy, product donations and volunteerism.

Innovation is another hallmark of craft brewers. Craft brewers often offer their own interpretations of classic beer styles, giving these styles unique twists. That departure from the norm is what draws beer drinkers to craft beers.

The craft beer business has revolutionized how people think about and consume beer.

More information about craft beer is available at www.brewersassociation.org.