"Craft Beer" is an American term that is here to stay, yet I'm sure it's usage gives "English Language Persons" the shudders.
"Craft" isn't an adjective, but it is used as one. In proper usage, "craft" is a noun or transitive verb indicating a special trade or skill or the ability to make a product by hand. It is likely a bastardization of "hand-crafted" beer; perhaps like "Bock" from "Einbeck?"
Why must we make a distinction between the Process
versus the Product
There is no doubt in my mind that brewers, especially professional brewers, are skilled manual workers who employ creative thinking and manual dexerity to create their products. It is true that bigger brewers require a team of brewers and more elaborate process equipment to accomplish this task, while smaller brewpubs and microbrews might just have one brewer. Yet, the work is the same: one must boil water, crush and mash grains, lauter, boil the wort, add hops, chill the wort, add yeast, ferment, transfer, keg/bottle, and serve. There's not much difference in the "process," in my view.
The product? Now that's a big deal. BA defines a "craft brewer" here: http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/craft-brewer-defined
. I think of craft beer as "a flavorful all-malt beer, that may, depending on the style, use flavorful adjuncts to enhance, rather than lighten, the flavor or body of the beer."
I don't see how volume of production has anything to do with the product in my glass. Honestly, I can't tell if the IPA in my glass was produced by a brewer who meets the craft, small, independent, regional, or large categories that BA espouses.
Having said that, I like supporting my local brewers (they do more for the community, they're fun guys, and they make great beers) as opposed to buying a Large Brewery-produced beer (e.g., BMC--all foreign-owned or beholden to stockholders, who are more interested in the dividends or stock value than what is in my glass).
The success of Sam Adams (Boston Brewing Co), Anchor Brewing, and Sierra Nevada is in no small part due to the fact that they make great all-malt beers, generously support the craft beer movement, and aid in the revival of nearly-dead beer styles. Thanks in no small part to them, the general public has awakened to the fact that many, more flavorful, options now exist. As long as these craft brewers remain true to those goals, I see no reason to begrudge them their success or designation as a craft brewer, regardless of their category as a brewer.
I am a craft brewer (albiet, 10 gallons at a time, at home).