Ah ‘craft’ beer, the gift that just keeps on giving. What is it? What is it not? How to define it? Can it even be defined? So far this week I have read many a post, tweet, and Facebook status about the latest attempts to define ‘craft’ beer. Or, at least, how to define it from a British perspective.
Not content with copying paying homage to the language used on Stone Brewing’s labels, those iconclasts of suburban wannabe rebellion, BrewDog have now copied paid homage to the Brewers Association by lifting their text for a definition of a craft brewery practically verbatim and are attempting to apply it to a British and European context. For thoughts very close to my own on this issue, see Martyn and Max’s excellent pieces regarding this latest utterly manufactured furore.
One thing that never seems to come up in these somewhat tedious arguments (as someone that studied the minutiae of medieval theology that is saying something) and dick waving contests is what the consumer thinks? By consumer here I mean your average bloke/lady that drinks beer in the shop or goes to the pub with his/her mates.
I am sure I am being presumptuous here, but I am fairly sure that the average beer drinking consumer gives not a shit about a definition of ‘craft’ beer, they only care about the stuff in their bottle or glass and how it tastes. The average consumer, I am also rather sure, neither knows nor cares whether Blue Moon is made by MolsonCoors, they only care that in their opinion it is a nice beer, perhaps a bit different from what they usually drink.
‘Craft’ beer, if it is to be defined, really needs the consumer to be in the driving seat, not those with a vested interest in aligning themselves with the fastest growing sector of the industry, as well as the one which is currently riding the wave of popularity. This is why I think an organisation like the Campaign for Real Ale has greater legitimacy when it comes to defining a product, it is the creation of consumers. If the consumer, as a general rule, doesn’t particularly give much of a toss, then perhaps people need to spend more time brewing the beer they are so passionate about and less time trying to convince us that ‘craft beer’ matters beyond a tasty way to get a hangover.