Craft Beer vs. Draft Beer: What Is The Difference?

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: April 6, 2021

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Craft Beer vs Draft Beer_Sound Brewery

While out at a beer heel or restaurant, you might come across the terms “craft beer” and “draft/draught beer” and start wondering what the difference could possibly be. You probably know that not all beers are the same in terms of flavor, crispness, and froth—but what about draft beers? We’ve got the answers you need.

What is Craft Beer?

In the world of beer brewing and drinking, the idea of “craft beer” is actually rather new. While there is little information on who coined the term, Brewers Association says that craft beer is any beer that was made by a small or independent brewery. To count as “small,” a brewery must produce less than 6 million barrels per year. To be independent means that the brewery owns at least 75% of their shares. In comparison, a non-craft brewery will only own the remaining 25% of their company shares.

Another way to describe craft beer as any aristanal or customized brew. The motive for brewing is either for innovation or because someone was just so inclined to give the recipe a shot. Craft beer brewers tend to experiment with all kinds of ingredients and brewing processes in smaller batches, limiting the amount of wasted beer should the experiment fail.

A Brief History on Craft Beer

As you can imagine, discussing what kind of beer is craft and what isn’t can be a point of contention between beer drinkers. Craft beer started to gain momentum in the 1990s, when beer sales were declining because breweries were making beers that didn’t appeal to people. A lot of breweries also didn’t care about the customers, only making money, so they were sacrificing quality for a cheaper swill.

Obviously, people are going to notice. The response was artisanal beers from home brewers.

Historically speaking, craft beer is any kind of beer that was made focusing on the quality of the ingredients and flavors produced rather than making a profit. Today, some larger breweries are riding the wave and creating interesting blends and names for their beers. However, if we go by the definition, they are just making craft beer knock-offs.

What is Draft Beer?

Craft Beer vs Draft Beer_Sound Brewery

Draft beer is any kind of beer that has been stored within a stainless steel keg then served on tap. Beer enthusiasts tend to choose draft beer over bottled or canned beer because anything served from the keg is going to be much fresher, fuller bodied, and crispier. So, to be clear, that means that there is no difference between draft vs tap beer! They’re the same.

Kegs for draft beer are 5, 20, or 50 liters in size. Some are ideal for smaller crowds while most will meet the needs of a bustling restaurant.

Another kind of draft beer out there is “canned draft beer,” which sounds like an utter impossibility when you think about it. But in reality, it’s how the beer was carbonated. To make canned draft beer, there is a small container of nitrogen gas—called a widget—tucked inside the can. When you crack open the can, the air pressure around the widget drops, and the gas is injected into the beer, creating the foam you would expect when beer comes fresh from the tap.

Draft or Draught?

You may see draft beer also referred to as a “draught.” There is no difference between draft and draught beer. The spelling is the fault of the Atlantic ocean. In the UK, draft beer is called draught beer, while Americans call it draft.

How did that happen? Before 1785, beer was drawn from the barrel and brought to the customer in their tankard or mug. The word for “to carry” in Old English was dragan, the root of draught. At first, draught referred to the act of serving and drinking beer, but as more words and ideas were introduced, the focus narrowed down to the beer being poured.

So, What’s The Difference Between Draft vs Craft Beer?

Craft Beer vs Draft Beer_Sound Brewery

Having delved into the history of both craft beer and draught beer, we can start to peel apart the differences between them. Or maybe not.

When you get into the thick of it, there really isn’t any difference between craft vs draft. Since any beer, be it domestic or craft or something from a microbrewery can all be put on tap, thereby making it a draft beer.

Conversely, draft beer can come from anything stored in a keg and drawn from the tap. That means the source can be either regular or artisan beer.

So, in the end, despite the long history of draft beer, it is the history of all beers ever to be served on tap. The includes the most innovative and flavorful craft beers currently on the market that are stored in a keg.