Christ I am so sick of people trying to work out whether a beer is craft or not, whether the beer that they might enjoy in their glass is made by one man in a bathtub or created beneath the whip of an evil, moustachioed corporate type (and who doesn’t probably pay their fair share of tax either). Good beer is good beer, though if you are the sort to boycott a company because what they do offends your view of the world then good luck (I must admit to a small chuckle when I saw that someone had written that they thought ‘we’ are boycotting Amazon when it came to discuss buying a certain beer book — who’s ‘we’ when they are at home?).
My mock outrage is fuelled by the furore (smallish I suspect in the context of the worldview of beer) over a press release issued by the Brewers Association the other day. It is entitled Craft Vs Crafty and goes on to state (or maybe restate) what a craft brewery is, making specific connections to breweries that are owned by big corporations.
This is the part of the press release that jumped out at me and bit my nose: ‘Witnessing both the tremendous success and growth of craft brewers and the fact that many beer lovers are turning away from mass-produced light lagers, the large brewers have been seeking entry into the craft beer marketplace. Many started producing their own craft-imitating beers, while some purchased (or are attempting to purchase) large or full stakes in small and independent breweries.
‘While this is certainly a nod to the innovation and ingenuity of today's small and independent brewers, it's important to remember that if a large brewer has a controlling share of a smaller producing brewery, the brewer is, by definition, not craft.’
I was sent the press release and my first thoughts were of the UK regional breweries that are using the word craft and crafty for beers produced on both their big kits and pilot micros. Greene King ‘craft’ their beers, while others like Brains, St Austell and Wadworth have small ‘craft breweries’ to produce excellent beers such as Brains’ series of IPAs, St Austell’s incredible array of one-offs for their beer festival and Waddies’ Beer Kitchen range. And the other day I enjoyed Thwaites’ Crafty Dan, a 6% American-style Pale Ale produced on a micro kit. Are these beers craft? I don’t give a monkeys. I enjoy Crafty Dan and Shepherd Neame’s Double Stout as much as I have recently loved Arbor’s Dr Rudi’s IPA, Otley’s Oxymoron and anything by Wild Beer.
It’s up to the BA to say what they like and I suspect that there might still be a vestige of David vs Goliath in their mental make-up, something which you could probably apply to the mind-set of some within a beer group closer to home. Goose Island are owned by the Evil Empire, but I still love their IPA, Matilda and Bourbon County amongst others, so I couldn’t give a flying fig whether it was classified as craft or not. I don’t care very much for the effluent of Pabst Blue Ribbon (is it still a hipster’s ironic choice?) but on the other hand I have also been under whelmed by some US (and UK) self-proclaimed craft breweries.
Craft, craft or craft? Who knows, who cares?