Monday, 29 November 2010

I wish I'd said that

My blog writer of the year, just for this post:

down with craft beer


Gary Gillman said...

IMO, craft beer is beer made by any brewery established since the brewing revival of the 1970's which has retained its independence (not controlled by a national or international brewer).

This can encompass real ale but also filtered unpasteurized beer, wheat beer, lagers, and beers predominantly using American hops. Freedom's lager is a craft beer, so are the ales of Brew Dog. In this sense of the term, an old-established brewery like Fuller is not a craft brewer but obviously it makes beers as good or better than many craft breweries. Conversely, some craft beers are not that good and might even be styled to the mass market (we have a few of those in North America certainly). On the other hand too, some real ale made by large companies isn't that great either.

Real ale is still an essential term as is CAMRA's mission, but nonetheless I think in time the terms craft beer/craft brewery will find their rightful place in the U.K. I don't see that craft brewing gives rise to any greater snob factor than real ale has. We have all heard about the enthusiasts who argue about cask breather or bottle-conditioned beer re-seeded with a different yeast. Is that any different to drilling down on the types of craft beer which seem to interest the more recently established breweries in the UK? People can still enjoy their products without getting into the minute points. Certainly that is the case in North America.

By the way, I would not call Yuengling a craft brewery. It's a revered old institution and makes some good beers (porter especially) but its history and main product focus seem to me to stand apart from the craft area.


Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, I never use the term craft beer because it's fucking meaningless. Especially in terms of UK beer.

What's the betting the Breweers Association definition changes again next so Sam Adams can remain "craft"?

Gary Gillman said...

Ron, I have explained why I find the term useful here or in the U.K. Others are free to disagree of course. If an association at some point may decide that Sam Adams is not a craft brewer, that is fine for them; to me it will always be one except if it is taken over by an international brewing company. Terms do not have to have, or be bound by, an official sanction, they are used by people for convenience and inevitably there are gray areas.

Real ale is still an enormously helpful term and I admire CAMRA and wish them well. I don't see any contradiction.


Ken Weaver said...


I've not posted on your blog before, but I regularly read your stuff.

Thank you for posting this. I think a lot of the nuance of this argument would be lost on an American audience, who still consider people like Lew Bryson and I as anachronistic for writing about crazy, nutball things like session beers and the importance of having a craft beer that you can actually drink a couple pints of. While "craft beer" here perhaps means more in the historical context of things, it's a shame how the quickly that's devolving into extreme beers and extreme marketing. We've got it good, better than ever before, but there are still plenty of bugs to work out. Here's to better beer.

-Ken Weaver
(kmweaver on Ratebeer)

Oblivious said...

Very good link

The Professor said...

Very good link.
And I heartily agree with Ken that the term "craft" beer has become less and less meaningful other than being a marketing buzzword.
Ultimately, I still maintain that the term will become obsolete anyway, since in the end it is the person downing the pint who decides whether any given beer is worth the designation (and the price), based on the taste the product delivers.

I don't recall who suggested in a blog that "good" beer was a better descriptive than "craft" beer, but it certainly makes more sense, especially since it seems that lately the two terms quite often don't necessarily go hand in hand.