Craft is Crap

The more people try to define ‘Craft Beer’ the more I am getting annoyed. Should it be down to size, how many hops they use or, are they only craft if they produce a keg product? The problem is not within the question, it’s the answer that is wrong.

‘Craft’, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary online;

Pronunciation: /krɑːft/

noun

    • an activity involving skill in making things by hand: the craft of cobbling [mass noun]: art and craft
    • (crafts) work or objects made by hand: the shop sells local crafts (as modifier craft) a craft fair
    • [in singular] the skills in carrying out one’s work: the artist learned his craft in Holland
    • the members of a skilled profession.
    • (the Craft) the brotherhood of Freemasons.
    • 2 [mass noun] skill used in deceiving others: her cousin was not her equal in guile and evasive craft
    • 3(plural )a boat or ship: sailing craft
  • an aircraft or spaceship.

Obviously, when referring to the production of beer it is the first point that is relevent, a ‘skill in making something by hand’. It is easy to see how this will apply in brewing, but to me it ends up muddying the water more, and which is why I believe this is the wrong term to use. A ‘craft brewery/brewer’ would produce their beer by hand, which skill and knowledge. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t do what it is supposed to. As an example, who would consider Greenfields Brewery a craft brewer? Well, not even themselves, they make ‘real ale’. But check out the ‘Brewing Process’ tab on their website. They brew on a basic Porter brewing kit, which I know from experience is a very ‘hands on’ brewkit.

On the other side of the coin, take Thornbridge Brewery. I think most would happily consider Thornbridge a ‘craft brewer’, and they do have their smaller Hall brewery, but the bigger Riverside brewery uses the newest technology. With the computer systems they have greater control over the brewing process, in theory producing better beer. But is that ‘craft’? I wouldn’t say it is not, but it is obviously less so by definition than Greenfields Brewery.

By using size as a way of definition is completely inappropriate, as with the two examples above Greenfields are obviously much smaller than Thornbridge. It would be possible to put an upper cap on size, but that mean every brewery that falls within the limits are a ‘craft brewer’? If so, then we are back to sqaure one.

So what do I think is a craft brewer? Well again looking at the Oxford Dictionary I think they have it spot on.

craft beer (craft beer)

(also craft brew)

noun

US

  • a beer with a distinctive flavour, produced and distributed in a particular region.
Greenfields would fit this description, it would be very rare to find their beer outside of the local area, and as discussed they undeniable produce a ‘craft’ product. Thornbridge? Their beer is available both nationally and internationally.
But it is brewers such as Thornbridge, such as Dark Star, such as Kernel, Camden, Magic Rock, Summer Wine etc that we are trying to define under the ‘craft beer’ banner, all with varying size and methods of brewing, which is why CRAFT IS CRAP.
What they all have in common is an ethos, a desire to explore and create styles of beer, to use new or unusual ingredients,developed or introduced new methods to brewing and dispense, to produce high quality beer with the right ingredients first and price accordingly. They have brought a new style of brewing beer to Britain. They deserve to be championed as they are innovators in their field and I believe the future of British brewing.
But they are no more ‘craft’ than anyone else.
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Posted on 03/02/2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jeremey K Hunt

    Why does producing “real ale” mean that Greenfields aren’t craft?

    • Thats my point Jeremy. In my eyes and under a dictionary definition of ‘craft’ they are, more so than others such as the Thornbridge example. But what ‘craft beer’ is being promoted as they would possibly be not, which is why using the term ‘craft beer’ for the style of beer and breweries discussed under that banner is doesn’t work, in my opinion.

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