Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Art and craft

I think the penny might have dropped in the USA that the term ‘craft beer’ actually, when it all boils down to it, means absolutely fuck all!

This article ‘Mother Earth wades into craft beer label debate’ highlights the problem that appears to be manifesting itself in the States with bigger breweries trying to muscle in on the craft beer market. And why shouldn’t they? Isn’t America the land of the free market anyway? Surely anything goes?

Of course I’m being a bit mischievous here but it does highlight the problem that a nebulous category like ‘craft beer’ faces. I’m seeing the term ‘craft beer’ used more and more in the UK and whilst I’ve enjoyed a number of beers that might carry that label I have to say that the term ‘craft’ is essentially pretentious bollocks!

Exactly what is a craft beer anyway?

Beer is either real (live) or it is dead. There are good and bad in both kinds. Quite frankly I don’t greatly mind what size the brewery is as long as the beer is of a quality and taste that I enjoy. My preference will always be for real ale when it’s available and of a reasonable quality. I accept that just because a beer is real ale and is from a small brewery it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will be any good. Likewise a beer from a multi-national might not always be bad. Quality is more important than trendy labels. Real ale is relatively easy to define, craft beer means nothing. Craft beer is for the type of people that have an iPhone, shop at Asda or would happily eat out at Nandos; Those that go for image over substance. Craft beer could be a threat to real ale if society continues to head towards a marketing man’s paradise. So expect the return of Watney’s Red Barrel sometime soon!


Curmudgeon said...

I hardly think shopping at ASDA is "going for image" ;-)

Paul Garrard said...

Depends on the image you wish to cultivate perhaps? :-)

Justin Mason said...

I have an iPhone but have never been to Nandos, and shop in Waitrose, so where do I fit in. Good beer is what I choose to drink, keg, bottle or cask, and frankly cask is what I mainly drink. I find that 'Craft' is a term that actually many people, including CAMRA, are trying to distance themselves from. Arguing that beer is not 'real' because it is keg is simply not true. The opposite to real is imaginary (ok, I'm being mischievous there) but you seem to be implying that only cask-conditioned beer is valid, and I would have to disagree with you there too.

Paul Garrard said...

"I have an iPhone... ...where do I fit in" - over in the corner with the rest of the sorry crowd that didn't buy an Android smart phone :-)

I'm with you on the good beer, regardless of it's form, which is what I was saying. I suppose the 'real' refers to 'real ale'. Not quite correct to a pedant like myself but sometimes one has to overlook these things.

I'm not implying that only cask-conditioned beer is valid but I would hate to see it die out as it almost did in the 70s. I drank keg then. It was dire!

In these recession laden times it could be very tempting to sell 'dead' beer as the shelf life and the keeping it is easier and no doubt the profit on it is greater as well.

The latest craze in the USA is a return to cans. No doubt heading here soon. How awful is that?

Oh and by the way anyone who drinks straight from a bottle is a complete knob!

Have I offended everyone?

Paul Bailey said...

"The latest craze in the USA is a return to cans."

I've recently returned from a business trip to Japan, where the can is very much king in the take-home beer market. Apparently the Japanese consider cans more environmentally friendly than glass bottles.

I've not bothered to sit down and analyse how they arrived at this conclusion, but we did try some local micro-brewery beers out there that were sold in cans, and they were pretty good.

Btw my wife likes to shop in ASDA; nothing to do with image, much more to do with price!

Paul Garrard said...

Can-conditioned ale might be an interesting concept. I’m certainly not snobby about cans.

“Btw my wife likes to shop in ASDA; nothing to do with image, much more to do with price!” – btw it has everything to do with image and perception imho ;-) The world’s largest retailer markets itself as so. Personally I think it’s all smoke and mirrors. I think their quality is shite. Perhaps I’m fussy