What Is Craft Beer Vs Draft?

If you think all beers are created equal, think again. The world of craft beer and draft beer is far more complex than you might imagine. Each type has its own distinct personality, flavor profile, and brewing process.

So, if you've ever wondered what sets these two apart, you'll be surprised by the intricate details that make them so unique. Let's explore what really makes craft beer different from draft, and why it's worth understanding the nuances.

Key Takeaways

  • Craft beer is produced by small or independent breweries, while draft beer is typically produced in mass quantities by larger breweries.
  • Craft beer emphasizes unique and innovative brewing processes, while draft beer aims for consistency in taste and quality.
  • Craft beer often has a higher alcohol content and a wider range of distinct flavors, while draft beer generally has a lower alcohol content and a more standardized taste profile.
  • Craft beer is often unfiltered and unpasteurized, using premium ingredients and focusing on creating rich and flavorful brews, while draft beer is stored in pressurized kegs or casks and prioritizes clarity and effervescence in its appearance.


Craft beer, also known as artisanal beer, is a type of beer produced by small or independent breweries. These breweries focus on premium quality ingredients and limited quantities. They often emphasize unique and innovative brewing processes to create distinctive flavors and aromas.

In contrast, draft beer is typically produced in mass quantities by larger breweries. It is stored in pressurized kegs, aiming for consistency in taste and quality. The differences between craft beer and draft beer lie in their brewing methods. Craft beer is brewed in smaller batches, allowing for more attention to detail and experimentation with flavors.

Craft beer offers a wider range of tastes, from hoppy and robust to fruity and spicy. On the other hand, draft beer tends to have a more standardized flavor profile. Additionally, craft beer is often characterized by its darker appearance and higher alcohol content. This appeals to those seeking a more robust beer-drinking experience.


During the emergence of craft beer, small breweries gained momentum in the 1990s by experimenting with brewing processes and ingredients in smaller batches. Craft beer emerged in response to declining beer sales and dissatisfaction with mass-produced beer. The taste of regular beers no longer appealed to beer lovers, leading to a decline in beer sales in the mid-1990s.

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In the early 20th century, draft beer was served from pressurized containers, and artificial carbonation was introduced in the UK in 1936. By the early 1970s, draught beer became exclusive to beers served under pressure instead of traditional beer casks.

Craft brewers, also known as small independent breweries, started to challenge the dominance of mass-produced beer by producing small batches of unique and flavorful beers. This movement brought about a resurgence in the popularity of kegged beer, as craft beer was increasingly made available on draft in bars and restaurants. While kegs have become synonymous with draft beer, craft beer is also commonly found in bottled and canned forms, offering consumers a variety of options to enjoy their favorite brews.

Brewing Process

As small breweries gained momentum in the 1990s, they began to revolutionize the brewing process, particularly in their approach to crafting unique and flavorful beers. Craft beer is often unfiltered and unpasteurized, retaining its innovative qualities and flavors. The brewing process for craft beer involves the use of premium and high-quality ingredients, allowing brewers to experiment with different mixtures, tastes, and flavorings. On the other hand, draft beer is stored in pressurized stainless steel kegs or casks and served through a beer faucet, preventing oxygen from spoiling the beer and keeping it fresh for a longer period. Craft beer is made with no preservatives or added chemicals, focusing on creating distinct and rich flavors, while draft beer is usually filtered but unpasteurized. Craft beer tends to have a higher alcohol content, typically ranging from 5-10% ABV, resulting in stronger flavors, whereas draft beers typically have 3-4% ABV. The table below summarizes the differences in the brewing process between craft beer and draft beer:

AspectCraft BeerDraft Beer
Filtration/PasteurizationUnfiltered and unpasteurizedUsually filtered, unpasteurized
StorageStored in various vessels, often in stainless steel kegsStored in pressurized stainless steel kegs or casks
Alcohol ContentTypically 5-10% ABVTypically 3-4% ABV
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Taste Profile

When exploring the taste profile of beer, it's essential to consider the unique combination of flavors and aromas that contribute to the overall sensory experience. The taste profile of craft beer is often characterized by distinct and varied flavors, as small breweries and independent breweries focus on unique brewing techniques to create high-quality brews.

On the other hand, draft beer, while also offering a wide range of flavors, tends to have a more standardized taste profile due to large-scale production. Craft beers often exhibit a higher alcohol content, contributing to a richer and more robust taste profile, while draft beers generally have a lower alcohol content, resulting in a lighter and more easy-drinking flavor profile.

Craft beer enthusiasts appreciate the complex and diverse taste profiles, from bold and hoppy to malty and smooth, offered by small-batch brewing. Understanding the taste profile of both craft and draft beers allows you to appreciate the nuances and characteristics of each, ultimately enhancing your overall beer-drinking experience.


As you shift your focus from the taste profile to the appearance of craft beer and draft beer, you'll notice distinct visual cues that contribute to the overall sensory experience.

Craft beer, often associated with small brewing and artisanal beer, exhibits a darker appearance due to the rich malt content and specialty grains used in brewing. This results in a diverse spectrum of colors and opacities, ranging from pale ales to stouts. Craft beer also tends to have a more pronounced and visually appealing head when poured into a glass, enhancing its visual appeal.

On the other hand, draft beers, typically served via pressurized dispensing from kegs or barrels, have a clearer and lighter appearance compared to craft beers. Clarity and effervescence are emphasized in the appearance of draft beers, contributing to their refreshing visual appeal.

Regardless of the differences, the appearance of both craft beer and draft beer is often a key part of the overall sensory experience, influencing the drinker's perception of flavor and quality. Whether it's the higher alcohol content, premium quality ingredients, or the distinct tastes, the appearance plays a significant role in the enjoyment of these beverages.

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Craft beer is often stored in smaller quantities and under specific conditions to preserve its unique flavors and aromas. Here's how craft beer storage differs from draft beer:

  1. Production Scale: Craft beer is typically made by small, independent breweries in smaller batches, while draft beer can be produced by both small and large breweries on a larger scale.
  2. Storage Method: Craft beer is often stored in kegs, bottles, or cans to maintain its distinct taste and appearance, whereas draft beer is usually stored in pressurized kegs, casks, or barrels for dispensing.
  3. Ingredients Used: Craft beer is free from additives, chemicals, and preservatives, and is usually not filtered and left unpasteurized, while draft beer is often left unpasteurized but is usually filtered before storage.
  4. Taste and Appearance: Craft beer has a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) and a darker appearance with rich flavors and distinct aromas, while draft beer is lighter in color, has a refreshing taste, and a smoother texture.

Size & Production

Craft beer is typically produced by small independent breweries, often producing less than 6 million barrels of beer per year. These small brewing companies are known for their emphasis on quality and innovation, using premium ingredients to create a wide range of flavors and styles that appeal to beer enthusiasts. Craft beer is commonly packaged in cans and bottles, allowing for easy distribution and consumption.

On the other hand, draft beer is often associated with mass production by larger breweries. It's typically stored in pressurized stainless steel kegs and is dispensed through a beer faucet. While draft beer is known for its refreshing taste and smoother texture, it's usually produced in larger quantities compared to craft beer.

The Brewers Association defines craft brewers as those who are small, independent, and traditional, emphasizing their focus on producing higher quality beer. This distinction sets craft beer apart from draft beer, as it highlights the artisanal and innovative nature of small brewing companies. Craft beer's commitment to quality and creativity continues to attract a growing number of beer enthusiasts seeking unique and flavorful brews.