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What Is Craft Beer?

If you love beer, there’s never been a better time to visit your local Majestic.

There’s a reason people talk about the ‘Craft Beer Revolution. It’s more than just hoppy, punchy and refreshingly flavoursome beer.   It’s a revolution against the idea that beer comes in two styles – mass-produced keg bitters, or light and bland lagers.

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The Campaign for Real Ale, formed in 1971, did wonders for keg ales, but the lager problem prevailed.  Then something unexpected happened.  It was either a move born of remarkable foresight or a class demonstration of the law of unintended consequences.

In 2002, Gordon Brown – then Chancellor of the Exchequer – introduced the Progressive Beer Duty. This gave tax breaks to small breweries, making it possible for independent brewers to set up shop and begin making artisanal beer.  To begin with, they made cask ales, but then they heard about something happening over the pond.

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Go way back to 1873, to a faraway land known as the United States of America.  There were around 4,000 breweries gainfully employed in the production of beer.  In 1920 Prohibition struck, and for the next 13 years distillers, brewers and vintners were forced to close down.  In the years that followed, it was large companies that thrived – in both spirits and beer.  By 1978 there were as few as 89 breweries, and three of them accounted for 80% of the market between them.

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But something happened.  Tired of beer-lite and rarified ale barely worthy of the name, a small few began making hoppy ales and lagers with bite.  They used pungent hops varieties to craft citrussy bombs laced with notes of pine resin and tropical fruit.

They multiplied like yeast.  Today there are over 3,500 breweries in the US, and we’re following suit.  There are now more than 800 craft breweries in the UK, using natural ingredients to create bold flavours using artisanal methods.

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Brewers like Meantime in Greenwich dug up forgotten ideas and developed original recipes.  Beers to drink at the bar, or at the dinner table.  In 2007, two wee teuchters (sorry, boys), Martin and James, bought a heap of stainless steel and began making some hardcore beers.  Bottled by hand, sold by hand.  So began the vagabond upstart BrewDog.  In 8 years they’ve become one of the most outspoken Craft Brewers in the UK.  Arguably the world.

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The beauty of success stories like Meantime and BrewDog it is that they show anyone with the drive can do it.  It’s beer made by passionate people, not by marketeers.  Beer made for taste, not just the bottom line.  It’s brewed with love, care and attention.

We love wine because every bottle is different, every grape has its own, majestic potential.  Beer is every bit as exciting. We’ve always carried a good line of British ales, but we think it’s time to show you craft beer as more than just an ‘also ran’.  It’s time to celebrate local beers, microbrewers, independent upstarts who want to bottle something special.

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You can get involved at your local Majestic.  From 9th-11th October we’re asking you to help us taste artisan beers from two categories: World Craft Beers and Local British Craft Beers.  Taste them with our teams in store, then pick your favourite from each category.

While you’re there, you can tweet a picture of your favourite using the tag #craftmajestic – our favourite picture in October wins a year’s supply of beer!

Next, we’ll shortlist local craft beers, as voted for by you.  And we’ll pick one lucky customer at random from every store to join our elite Beer Tasting Team.  Each Beer Taster will get their own mixed-case of the country’s most popular local craft beers, and you’ll decide which comes out on top.  We’ll stock the victorious beer nationwide!

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And let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how cool Van Damme is, he’s not going to make a beer taste any better.  But you can.  Head to your local Majestic from 9th-11th October to get tasting and start judging.

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