Brood: Craft Beer

Over at Pencil & Spoon, Mark Dredge has asked the question: Craft Beer, why it’s the right name. His intent is to start a new beer blogging project called Brood, which is intended to be more of a sideways glance at things than The Session. Quite a few people have participated so far, here’s my take on the whole craft beer thing.

Thornbridge BraciaI was going to write a large screed on this topic, but after reading Barm’s post, "Craft Beer", why it’s a crock of shite, I don’t really have much else to add. So I’ll keep it brief, maybe not as brief as the Reluctant Scooper though…

My problem with the term, is who defines which brewer and breweries are those that produce craft beer…? Do Greene King count as craft? I’m sure they consider their beer well crafted, tasty and made with care and attention, if not love. Do Thornbridge still count now that their brewery is all automated? How much craft does it take to punch a couple of buttons? Does Evin at The Kernel Brewery count? It looks like he’s a one man band who does absolutely everything. Or are we saying that it’s not how the beer is made, that the craft is in the production of the recipe, the selection of the right ingredients and it’s the end result that determines if it’s craft or not…?

Craft beer is an American term, the Americans love categorising stuff, just look at the number of beer styles they’ve come up with, so they have a hard and fast definition of what a Craft Brewery is. Except, that is, when they need to change the rules to keep one of their stars in the craft sector due to their large growth. So you can effectively be craft one day, but not the next; even though the beer you produce and the way that you produce it, hasn’t changed. Personally, I think you either brew beer with a passion for the stuff, or you don’t, having a moving target that defines what you are is ridiculous.

It seems to me that the advocates of the term, craft beer, don’t really drink beers that fall into the boring brown session beer category, at least not very often. They hunt out beers from a new wave of British brewers, beers that aren’t necessarily brown, don’t necessarily have a sessionable ABV and have probably been shown the contents of the hop store. I think it’s a perception issues though, the geeks perceive boring brown session beer to be less interesting and potentially less crafted than the latest pale and hoppy imperial gooseberry wheat stout. I don’t think the brewers of, what I perceive, to be boring brown session beer would agree though. I’m sure they regard their beers as being as well crafted as the next.

I think we can all agree though, that there is a new wave of breweries that are more forward thinking in the beer that they produce. They don’t limit themselves to traditional styles, or hops and not only take inspiration from breweries all over the world, but link up and collaborate therm. I think labelling some things as "craft", is doing a disservice to a lot of brewers and their breweries. I think we should instead talk in terms of the new wave, the forward thinking, those that eschew tradition and look at what beer could be, rather than what is currently is.

Am I a craft beer drinker…? No, I’m just a beer drinker.

4 Replies to “Brood: Craft Beer”

  1. Out of all of the craft beer blog posts I’ve read today I think yours is the best, you have summarised how I feel about it all – good tasty beer should be talked about, boring bland beer need not.

    I’m all for mega-hoppy beers (I’ve ordered a few from AlesByMail today) but I also appreciate the standard british bitter – it’s something that other nations don’t have.

    An excellent post, I’m all for calling stuff “craft” but does that just mean it’s good? Why not just use my baron rating instead? 😉

  2. “Americans love categorising stuff”

    No, homo sapiens love classifying things, it’s in our DNA. Since the dawn of time the first and last thing humans do is classify things. We only recognise any one thing by what it is not – without comparison and classification nothing exists.

    Don’t pin that on Americans, for all their faults that is one trait that was well and truly adopted from the rest of us.

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