What is “craft beer”

Ok. Here goes.

what is craft beer?

For a long while, people smarter than me have debated about the concept of craft beer, you know some times hoppy sometimes black, even fizzy sometimes… From a small brewery? Or a big?

Of course, the moniker came from the stupidly clever blokes, Pete Slosberg and Jim Koch, as a nice way of differing their market offering from the BMC’s of the North American Beer Market. so, essentially, we’ve adopted a clever bit of “marketeese” to help define our options in choice. Perhaps, the word isn’t fit for purpose?

So, here’s how I see it.

It’s not the size of your equipment or the amount of hops used, the locale that the product originates from, or the attitude that you take your product to market with.

In actual fact: I don’t believe you can define it by what is actually in your glass.

I will reiterate nothing to do with the size of your stainless, or even if you have a brewery (Mikkeller/Epic/HighWater) more how you use it. I am sure some gentlemen will understand that.

I visualize it as something like a swing: one side the pure crazy artisan and the other the supreme master of his stainless, the engineer. This pendulum, passes through the mid point, whether that is the perfect brewer – I am still dwelling on.

As a brewer, who we must remember is a human being, (honest) they come with a totally individual make up – some artsy fartsy, random, intuitive and holistic and other stoic, logical, rational and sequential and thus reflects in their pleasures and choices. This I believe reflects in their beer and their comfort with flavours.

You will see brewers of each makeup gravitate toward each other at occasions – but will also rely on others for their strengths.

I believe the holistic approach – understanding every ingredient, origins and ultimately the flavours and what it gives to a beer is a large part.

Their willingness to share with that big world of brewers, learning and just spreading the love, is a part. Also, their propensity for risk, both financially and reputation is distinctly a factor. it’s much harder for Fullers to take a risk than jamie at Brodies – and that’s not to do with the volume of beer, just established reputations.

What craft beer is, is a product of a brewer who adopts or bears a philosophy nay an open minded approach to brewing and beer of exploration and creativity toward the creation, sustainability, consistent production, compassion to you fellow brewers and then profitability of our beloved beverage.

So, ultimately I believe it’s more “he [insert brewers name] is a craft brewer”, and thus his/her product only then is a craft brewed beer. It’s not brand or marketing, it’s wholly and solely about the mindset of the brewer and he/she approaches beer.

Beer is about people. The people who make and the people who drink it. The rest just gets in the way.

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16 thoughts on “What is “craft beer”

      • Sad to say, if that’s the case I know a few brewers who proclaim to be ‘craft’ but their ambition outweighs their talent.

        Which further devalues the ‘craft beer’ concept.

      • So much to say, I believe it’s not something that can be self proclaimed, more bestowed upon. Time applied consistently to the above philosophy and humility becomes the craft brewer.

  1. The problem with your “definition” (as with all the others that have gone before that aren’t the well-defined tax-exemption definition) is that it is entirely possible for someone to have that mindset and produce bland, insipid lager.

    • Bland Insipid Lager ™ – see, here is where I have a problem – I love Lager. I would love the opportunity to brew a lager, to my wants. But, getting back to the comment: Why is it always Lager that is the attribute following bland and Insipid. Both those are taste preferences, entirely personal to those 1, who drink them and 2, those who produce them. One man’s full flavour is to another man overwhelming palate smashing. This is why it can never be defined around the product in the glass, on taste definitions. And, yes, I believe it’s entirely possible for someone with that mindset to produce a lacking in presence product – but, I entirely doubt that when push comes to shove that that human would always bend the idea a little. (I tried to make something entirely bland and flavourless for the world cup – failed miserably – had more flavour than the norm) – and, TBH, I would love to see attempts at the NAIL, by “Craft Brewers”! Go for it, do it. Nothing to lose, everything to gain!

      We’re trying to shoe horn a term over a ideal – perhaps rationalising the emotional if you like in total, trying to define. Which is what I believe will always be the stumbling block.

  2. “Of course, the monica came…”

    Who the hell is Monica. Do you mean “moniker”?

  3. “What craft beer is, is a product of a brewer who adopts or bears a philosophy nay an open minded approach to brewing and beer of exploration and creativity toward the creation, sustainability, consistent production, compassion to you fellow brewers and then profitability of our beloved beverage.”

    So I meet you in a pub, point at a pump clip I haven’t seen before reading “Fred Scroggs’ Old Humpy” and say, is that a craft beer? Unless you happen to know that Mr Scroggs is a brewer of open-mindedness, creativity, passion etc, what are you going to tell me? What if you assure me that it is a craft beer, but someone else tells me you’re wrong – Scroggs? Craft brewer? Don’t make me laugh – maybe when he started out, but he’s just in it for the money these days.

    The way you describe it, “craft beer” isn’t a definition at all. Imagine three film buffs – one’s into spaghetti westerns, one’s into classic noirs, and the third’s into great movies – you know, films made with real creativity and passion. Which ones are those? Oh, you know, the great movies – the ones made by the really great film-makers. “Spaghetti Western” is a definition – people can disagree on boundary cases, but the disagreement is based on an agreement about what the genre means. “Great film” is a compliment, which doesn’t have a definition – not even if lots of people apply it to much the same films. I feel very much the same about “craft beer”.

    • It’s tough for me to argue against that scenario, but the proximity that we can maintain to information to above said brewer, surely would help us make an informed choice. Good, well brewed, quality beer, backed up with real information and as Stuart, and other brewers suggest, “the best asset a brewery has to reinforce the beer in market, is the brewer themselves” – if the brewer is out and about – he can build provenance to his ambitions to being a craft brewer.

      Perhaps as Rob (barm) comments, it also leans on the company said brewer keeps?

      Honestly, as I tagged this, defining the undefinable, is where I still stand on this.

      Ultimately, we have a term, that needs looking at on occasion for fear of exploitation by the unscrupulous or naivety when entering this lovely world of beer.

  4. “Compassion to your fellow brewers” would exclude at least one of the breweries that shouts the loudest about “craft beer”.

    • rob, I can guess who you’re talking about, but surely their efforts with notable and not so, brewers is their take on that? Who they chose to work with is entirely their choice. I chose to work with my near neighbours, as alas one small BrewPub in central London doesn’t feature on the big scene as they do.

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