Monday, 8 September 2014

Random Thoughts on Craft Beer

Of course, it was forecast by some to be incapable of gaining momentum. However, it is the case that the idea of craft beer is becoming more and more important in the beer marketing lexicon. Those who choose to ignore this are firmly putting their heads into the sand.

How can I be so sure that it is quite so significant? Well, it's the number of times the term gets mentioned in various arenas. Of course it's been discussed within brewing circles for a number of years now. Often even here with a split of opinion as to it's usefulness as a term. Often, too, with a mind on the troubled sub-issue of definition.

On the anti-side there is often the feeling that it is just a rouse to push out cask beer, and are under the impression that craft beer is only to be found in keg. On the pro-side most are happy to include at least some cask beer into the definition of craft.

It is a divisive issue within CAMRA too. I know some members would love to see a less confrontational approach regarding the subject. Other members, often the ones that would probably consider themselves experienced enough to say "You don't know what you are talking about laddie, you don't remember Watney's Red Barrel!" as if that is some sort of everlasting reason to stay firmly stuck in the past.

What I find curious, and quite a positively interesting phenomena, is the number of times recently I've heard slight scathing comments from CAMRA festival organisers regarding the subject. "Of course, if it wasn't for festivals like this we'd all have to drink craft beer" as if it would be some sort of terrible thing. However, looking along the line of beers, or scanning the program, it becomes clear to me that it would perhaps be a good thing. I know what I like, and it isn't the generally bland stuff at these sort of festivals.

I'm returning to the subject myself as an overall review of where I think Hardknott should be, and where we should go. The overall success of Hardknott OnTrack proves that it is far from essential to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to beer service establishments, even in a small town. The slightly left-field narrower appeal idea certainly hits a customer base that regular old-fashioned pubs fails to satisfy.

I've been out over the years and found what I like in the beer world, and considered what it is about the things I like that makes them so. There is a danger in listening to the "don't forget about Watney's" and the "That tradition is worth saving" brigade to the detriment of finding something that is truly interesting, splendid, different, even stunning.

I know what I like, and from that point of view this is an interesting take on craft beer; It is brewed by people who care about what they are doing, have found something that really fires up their imagination and want to share it with the world.

I have perviously scorned a high profile attempt to suggest a definition of craft beer. I firmly believe in craft beer, but also firmly believe it is complete folly to try and define it in any rules based system.

And so, whatever you think about it, wherever your own beery journey is taking you, it's hard for anyone to completely ignore the craft beer subject, even if the choice is never to mention it.


@craftbeermonkey said...

I agree with you Dave that craft beer shouldn't be pigeon holed or defined by dispense method. I believe the brewers should be judged on the product not storage/dispense method. Yes I'm a camra member of many years & yes I'm part of those subversives who wish the see this part of the world of beer embraced by camra. But instead of being able to discuss this or even get them to sample said beer (dam my 5th column eyes) I was dismissed as a newblood or lacking the knowledge to pass comment. Given the fact that I had been a publican successful for 20 years, won various cask awards I took exception to this & decided to not renew my membership. Camra forgets it is a consumer group not a governing body & that the brewers, publicans, beer writers etc are the professionals. I don't consider myself as fountain of knowledge on the subject but someone with more than passing interest in it! It's a brave new world & I hope people will embrace new beers & celebrate the differences. On Twitter @craftbeermonkey

Alistair Reece said...

When I was back home in Scotland over the summer I drank plenty of beer that would be regarded as 'craft' by anyone's definition, and most of it was dispensed through a beer engine from a cask.

Why people can't accept that it is the beer that is important rather than the method of dispense. Yes, I prefer cask conditioned beer, but given the choice between Greene King (sorry to whip a dead horse) on cask and something from the likes of Cromarty Brewing on keg then keg will always win.

It's about the beer ultimately.

DavidS said...

The extent to which "craft = keg" has become lodged in the public consciousness is incredibly annoying.

Given that it seems to make life harder both for people who'd like to sell interesting, diverse beer to real ale drinkers and for people who'd like to promote cask ale to craft beer fans, I'm baffled that it's stuck so firmly.

FWIW, our local CAMRA fest had stuff from the likes of Arbor, Bristol Beer Factory, Buxton, Moor, Thornbridge, and Wild Beer as well as some local weirdo-experimentalists, so it's not a total lost cause...

@craftbeermonkey said...

Just a quick add on I've come acrossed a few people who have taken to using the American idea of quantity to define what type of brewery you are. While I understand the reasoning behind this (stealth branding, macro subsidiaries etc) surely if anything the term craft infers a certain level of quality & artisan aspects to the product it surely makes no boundaries on how many of a product you produce as long as it is high quality!