Isn't it time we all stopped talking about 'craft' beer?

By Steph | 22/01/16

Someone once asked me to estimate how much of my time I spent thinking about things, and how much time I spent actually doing things. It’s a tough question – as someone who has a very overactive imagination, I’m quite proud of my ability to think about things, come up with new ideas and circumnavigate problems –  but by admitting that I spend a lot of time thinking – its difficult not to admit that actually, that meant I spent less time actually ‘doing’ stuff. Now for some context. In the past couple of days, the internet, or more specifically, Twitter, has been  awash with news that California brewers Lagunitas had sold a sizeable stake in their business to European beer giants Heineken. Blog posts abounded, ‘punk’ brewer James Watt of BrewDog even went to the lengths of announcing that Lagunitas beers would be withdrawn from all their bars. Finally, as is always the case when one beer company is bought by the likes of SAB Miller or AB InBev, the adage of ‘They’re not craft anymore!” becomes like a war cry from the blog writers, the customers and the brewing industry. That inevitably devolves into long protracted arguments about what ‘craft’ means – what defines it – and what earns you the apparently ‘esteemed’ label of ‘craft beer brewer’. A little warning at this point – I’m not about to go down that path and try and define craft beer. I’ve read the articles, and the blog posts, and the beer labels, and watched the videos and overheard the conversations in bars across the land. It’s the kind of conversation that bores me just as much as it terrifies me – and so back to my original point. Isn’t it about time that we all stopped thinking about and trying to define ‘craft beer’ and just got on with making it, drinking it, and telling others about it? Without trying to be like the disillusioned Jack Black in High Fidelity trying to pour scorn on a customer for not knowing enough about music to be entitled to buy a Stevie Wonder album?

If we’re really honest, unless you’re picking hops in your back garden, and sourcing your malt from the local farmer, the term ‘craft beer’ was probably bastardised beyond definition quite a few years ago – but in getting caught up in trying to define the term, and make it some exclusive club – we’ve let an astonishing triumph pass us by. The fact is, there are some big breweries out there, some really big breweries – I say this in the same week that BrewDog have valued their business at £25m pounds – and the truth is, those breweries have gotten bigger without diluting, cheapening and weakening the quality of their beer. Isn’t that the important thing? That in the face of billion pound marketing from the likes of AB InBev and SAB, ‘craft beer’ or whatever the hell you want to call it – has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Whilst no one should sit on their laurels and feel like the work is done, it’s time that we all spent a little more time realising that there are hundreds of thousands of people brewing, drinking – and more importantly – recommending beers that taste fantastic, are made ethically and have retained their quality whilst growing at scale.

So, how about we all stop trying to define ‘craft beer’ and just got on with enjoying the positive side of it – that fantastic beer is readily available and much more accessible than it was 10 years ago – and therefore it doesn’t really matter how much money it’s got behind it, unless that money is sourced from unethical means. I’ll be at the bar enjoying a beer – because it tastes great – not asking its brewers to jump a bunch of hurdles before I drink it. I also won’t be telling my friends what they can and can’t drink – but that’s another blog post all together.

P.S this isn’t a pre cursor to the news that we’ve been bought out – or that we’ve secured a truck load of money from somewhere. When I asked about crowd funding here, one of the directors misheard and said: “what’s Clown Funding?”…at least I think he misheard.




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