Craft Beer vs. Regular Beer: What’s The Difference?

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: March 16, 2021

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Imagine for a moment that you are in the store, staring at an aisle of brews. If you are someone who doesn’t know much about beer, all those fancy labels probably look like gibberish. You can’t tell the difference between a favorite local craft beer vs regular beer that is mass produced. Don’t worry. We’ve all been there.

That’s why we are going to demystify the differences between craft beer and regular beer.

Table of Contents

What is Regular Beer?

We can’t define craft beer without first talking about regular beer, because the term is pretty vague. Most people who hear “regular beer” probably think about some common watery brews, like Coors or Millers. Some people might refine that further and say that regular beer is any cheap American beer—Busch, Budweiser, Narragansett, and so on—but every country has beer that is mass produced. Take Corona and Heineken, for example.

Regular beers are bottled en masse at large corporate (macro) breweries. The concern is getting beer out to the world as fast as possible, not on the quality. Macrobreweries are less likely to choose premium ingredients, substituting instead with substandard grains, hops, and malts.

So, let’s make this simple: regular beer is any beer that is pale and watery. Regular beer can be enjoyed in copious amounts, since the alcohol by volume (ABV) is low.

What is Craft Beer?

Now, in order for any brew to be officially called a “craft beer,” it must use traditional ingredients. That means grains, malt, hops, water, and yeast. Yes, other ingredients can be incorporated into the brew, but it must be for flavor. As soon as a brewery adds something to cut the cost of production, it can no longer be called a craft beer.

Another requisite is that a craft brewery has a 6 million barrel limit per year.  Do keep in mind that not all craft breweries are considered microbreweries. Macro and micro is based on how much beer is produced.

But that doesn’t really answer the question, does it? We know that craft beer is often promoted as “special,” yet if it’s only using traditional recipes, isn’t craft beer just beer?

Why yes, it is. Back when humans first started brewing beer, everything was craft beer. Meaning it was produced in small quantities and used a strict recipe.

In short, the difference in origin between craft beer vs regular beer is that the latter is mass-produced and purposely watered down to make brewing cheaper, while craft beer focuses on the richness of flavor and overall quality, regardless of production costs.

Craft Beer vs Regular Beer: Which is Stronger?

Regular beer is touted for being watered down and easy to drink. That wouldn’t be possible if regular beer had an ABV higher than the typical 3-5 percent. Since craft beer is brewed in smaller batches with quality ingredients, the alcohol by volume is much higher. Most craft beers hover around 7 percent ABV, but there are some that have an outrageous 40 percent ABV.

There are definitely some low alcohol craft beers out there, but most craft brews released are much stronger than regular beers.

Which Tastes Better, Craft or Regular Beer?

In the debate of craft beer vs regular beer, this is a question asked often. And the answer is craft beer, hands down. Any home brewer or craft beer fanatic will happily tell you that you are missing out if you just drink Budweiser.

Craft breweries aren’t like the macrobreweries churning out billions of gallons of beer in a year. They usually care much more about how their brews taste, and they will take their time making sure that the end result is an adventure. If you haven’t checked out a local craft brewery yet, you might be surprised just how creative beers can be.

You can get chocolate flavored stouts, tart ales, and smooth lagers that will shock you with their depth. Regular beers cannot compare (unless you’re drinking them in the shower).

Now you know why regular beers are usually served icy cold—they’re boring! The cold helps cover up just how bland mass produced brews are. On the other hand, a craft beer will be served only slightly chilled so that your palate can pick up the aromas and notes as you drink.

Is Craft Beer Healthier Than Regular Beer?

With all the talk of low calorie foods and beverages, macrobreweries were quick to jump on that wagon and develop light or carb-conscious beers. It’s little more than bubbly water at that point.

Craft breweries are more concerned about a full-bodied beer with layers of flavor. This results in brews with more calories than regular beer.

But does that mean that regular beer is healthier for you than craft beer? Nope. Craft beer does not have the same nutritional profile as mass produced beer. It’s much healthier for you.

First, because the alcohol content is higher in craft beer, you are probably going to end up drinking far less than you would knocking back regular beer. Right there, you cut calories.

Secondly, research has proven that craft beer can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease when consumed in moderation. Take a look at regular beers and you find additives for cutting costs. Some of those additives affect your health negatively, like worsening hangovers.

Is Regular Beer Cheaper Than Craft Beer?

Another difference! When compared side-by-side, craft beer is much pricier than regular beer. Again, we can attribute that to the finer ingredients, extra brewing time, and labor required.

Some people might wonder, “Is the cost of craft beer worth it?” We’d say yes. One bottle of flavorful craft beer is infinitely better than mass produced beer.

Besides, you can even make your own craft beer right at home! Setting up a home brewery is relatively easy, and you can try your hand at all kinds of recipes. Buying those ingredients in bulk might even be cheaper than buying large packs of commercial beer.

Craft Beer vs Regular Beer – The Final Verdict

So, what is the differences between craft beer and regular beer? It all comes down to the quality of the ingredients and production method. Craft beer brewers focus on quality and uniqueness. Craft beer is bursting with flavor, while regular beer is more bland. Obviously, this affects the price and calories of the beers, as well.

Both craft beers and regular beers have their time and place, but we always recommend that you try a local brew. You never know what you are missing!