Monday, 26 August 2013

Why is the debate about Craft Beer important?

Many of you are fed up of the recurring question; what is Craft Beer?

I understand why, much more than you might think.

I understand that you think it is nothing more than a marketing term. I know you think I want to keep the debate alive because it matters to my business. You are right, of course.

Even if that is all it is then there are good reasons to be concerned about how we approach the term. Good reasons not only for me, but you, as a beer drinker. In return, your view also matters to me. Therefore I welcome, and enjoy your comments on my blog telling me what you think. Even if sometimes I'm not in agreement, or can't quite see your point, I still enjoy the engagement.

But I think it's much more than just a marketing term. I think it really does mean something to an increasing proportion of beer drinkers. Most importantly the group of people that it matters to are part of the future of beer and cannot be simply dismissed as "hipsters"

I like to think Hardknott makes beer that is different. We try not to conform to the norm, we want to stand out from the crowd. If everyone simply said "we make great beer" then there would be nothing to differentiate one brewer from another.

The term Craft Beer does mean something. Even if exactly what that is remains debated, it does still mean something, and the number of people to whom it means something is increasing.

There are an increasing number of Craft Beer Bars. There are an increasing number of people who are going to those Craft Beer Bars. There are an increasing number of brewers who are calling themselves Craft Brewers in the hope of selling beer to these Craft Beer Bars, aimed at the increasing number of drinkers who are happy to call themselves Craft Beer Drinkers.

There are Craft Beer Festivals. They are very different to the same-old-same-old Real Ale festivals. There are even festivals that might not be overtly Craft Beer Festivals, as such, but do seek out new and interesting beers without pre-conceved and obviously biased selection against those of us who do wear the Craft Beer badge with pride.

There is beer that is excellent beer, made by micro brewers and is very acceptable to a broad audience. It has appeal, but isn't really that much different to beer that was brewed 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even 30 years ago. Some people think this is Craft Beer. I disagree. It it is the same-old-same-old which means it is not Craft Beer. It is not what the Craft Beer Drinker wants to drink.

I think the Craft Beer Movement is real. I think its much more than a marketing term, even if it is vague and disputed. It is real and important even if it is abused by some brewers and retailers who seem to think a major Italian brand of beer is Craft Beer.

Keep it Craft.

68 comments:

BeerCast Rich said...

I'm still to be convinced, to be honest - if a term is used enough, it eventually becomes true to its definition?

I agree that innovate, modern, well-made beer should move away from 'hipsters' to become mainstream, but using craft as the word...well...to paraphrase one of your sentences:- 'if everyone simply said "we make craft beer" then there would be nothing to differentiate one brewer from another'

Interesting debate, though, and one that will continue for some time...

Dave Bailey said...

Rich,

"......if a term is used enough, it eventually becomes true to its definition? "

Yup, I think you've got it. I've tried to not actually be explicit in saying that, quite, and I'm glad someone else has realised.

English is what they call a live language. It changes. People who say "All this use of such and such is so against the real meaning of the word(s)" completely miss the point that if it means enough to enough people then the meaning has indeed changed.

How we ensure that the term Craft Beer doesn't become overused and meaningless is interesting. Personally I think the debate over whether Blue Moon is or isn't is part of this. It's important and part of the self regulation that is needed.

Anonymous said...

Pleased you allow Anon postings now. Pity about word verification, but HeyHo!

Gazza Prescott said...

As you say, the term means something to non cask ale drinkers who are, not to put too fine a point on things, the future of beer drinking. ordinary drinkers have no idea what cask means, what conditioning is, but the term craft conjures up images of a beer made by artisans not computers at some faceless factory. it may annoy CAMRA and suchlike but, if the term lets normal drinkers differentiate between industrial and artisan beer (which is a horrible pretentious phrase if ever I heard one) then it's fine with me.

and I'd always ally myself with the craft moment over the real ale one as I'd rather be seen as a creative brewer rather than one who makes bitter with twigs for beardy Morris dancers.

RedNev said...

When in doubt about making a sensible comment, spew out a few stereotypes.

CAMRA isn't annoyed about craft ale, although some individual members might be. This was made very clear in a speech by the national chairman at the AGM and also by the fact that the members at the AGM voted against two extremely divisive motions hostile to craft beer.

"Bitter with twigs for beardy Morris dancers." This is just silly.

Dave: "craft" and "innovative" are not synonymous. The fact that a product has been made for 10, 20 or 30 years doesn't mean it hasn't been crafted, although it would probably have ceased to merit the term "innovative". Experienced craftsmen and women who work in wood, leather, glass, pottery, traditional foods, or any other crafted product might object to their skills being denied the term craft. I know about language and how it evolves, but your own definition of craft based on how long a product has been made doesn't work.

Smarte said...

'if a term is used enough, it eventually becomes true to its definition?'

How exactly does that differ from Goebbels' maxim that:

'If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it'?

is 'craft' beer a pure and simple case of propaganda?

Curmudgeon said...

Can't a craft brewer make beer in a broadly traditional style, then? There's a new local micro-brewery called Ringway. The guy running it, Paul Alderson, is very serious-minded and committed. He unashamedly uses only English hops, and aims to make hoppy beers in the traditional English style. The samples I've had have been very good. I'd say he's a craft brewer, but apparently you wouldn't. I don't think you need to be at the bleeding edge of innovation to be "craft".

Dave Bailey said...

Nev, innovative might not be what is meant by craft in the wider world, but in the UK sense, to Craft Beer Drinkers, who are looking for Craft Beer, generally need to be able to see some sort of innovation to accept the beer as Craft Beer. Although it's a generalisation, and as you have already indicated, generalisations can be dangerous.

Smarte, you are suggesting that Craft Brewers are making the same beer as everyone else, but pretending it's different. I think you're simply wrong.

Mudgie, I do not think there is a reason to say that Craft Beer cannot be made with English hops. If it is simply making a traditional English ale, like everyone else has, then I'd say it isn't Craft Beer. If there is a point of difference, then perhaps it is.

A case in point is English Cascade hops. I've not used them yet, but they might well produce some interesting results.

Anonymous said...

I find it telling, that not once in your post, do you mention the quality of your product. It would seem that just being different is enough to be 'Craft'.

Unlike other 'Craftsmen', who rely on providing a product/service of a much higher quality than their mass produced competition, the Craft Brewer can and does knock out a product that is largely inferior (off flavours and aromas/oxidised/gushers/yeast bombs/flat)to their mass produced competition.

If one wants to be 'Craft', one has to try much, much harder.

James Matthews, brewer.


Bailey said...

A fuller response might follow once the other half and I have had chance to ponder a bit but, for starters...

We've been wondering if what distinguishes a 'craft brewery' (as understood by those who use the term casually without fretting over its meaning) from any other small/independent/'real ale' brewery is that their flagship beer is not a brown bitter. It will probably be an IPA or lager, or maybe something weirder.

A 22-year-old asking 'Is there anywhere in this town that sells craft beer?' would probably be confused if we sent them to a pub selling a really nice, well-made cask bitter from a brewery that's been trading since 1982.

We'd have *liked* craft beer to encompass that kind of product, but don't think, based on usage, that it does.

As for 'It's just a marketing term' -- yes, to some extent, it is a term used by breweries to communicate what kind of product they might expect. Don't have a problem with that, personally.

Dave Bailey said...

James,

This is where most of the people who have been arguing with me on here may now turn on you. If we consider the term craft in the meaning many would still like to use, i.e. "handcrafted" we would indeed find more imperfections, rough edges, wider tolerance in the finished product. Whether we talk about hand carved wooden items, hand moulded pottery, hand painted art, etc. Mass produced products are the ones that tend to be perfect, and less variable.

Same with beer really.

If we want "perfect beer" we choose a mass produced beer, which is indeed as intended every time, but as boring as hell.

We want interest.

However, that does not mean that Craft Brewers are not interested in quality and consistency. Quite the reverse I feel.

Curmudgeon said...

Do we not need a different term such as "avant-garde beer" then?

Dave Bailey said...

Mudge, I agree. However, Craft Beer is now part of the Lexicon of the beer world. Difficult to change I'd suggest.

Although, I may use the term Avant-Garde Beer at some point, I quite like it, although I suspect Gazza might think it even more pretentious.

Ed said...

I mostly see it as a marketing term now, though I'm sure there is a 'craft beer' market segment.

Attempts to define it as something distinct and separate from anything else are doomed to failure. But then I do tend to see things in terms of bell curves rather than discrete categories...


unclepuble said...

Dave,

Why are you trying to twist the meaning of the word "Craft" in no definition any where in the world does the word craft mean "different"

Synonyms for craft are
art technique ability adeptness adroitness aptitude artistry cleverness competence cunning dexterity expertness ingenuity knack know-how

Antonyms for craft are
clumsiness ignorance inability inadequacy incapacity incompetence ineptitude ineptness lack stupidity want

Your definition lends more to the Antonyms rather than the Synonyms.

& I am sorry but a lot of what you would consider "Craft Beer" from your definition belongs to the "BISH BASH BOSH" lets chuck as much stuff (Hops usually)in as possible and hope for the best, brigade. that does not lend itself to a craft or Crafted product at all.

Just because its brown does not mean it cannot be craft, lots of CRAFT Brewed beers over the pond are Germanic age old recipes that taste very traditional & do not smack of loads of hops, but they are welcomed into the Craft fold.

if you want a more acurate label for your beer do what the comedy world have done and label it "Alternative Beer"

Dave Bailey said...

Ed, yup, in reality, bell curves are the thing, I'm with you there. But then you'd expect that.

unclepuble, I'm not trying to twist the meaning of craft. It's already been twisted.

Gary Gillman said...

Here's the thing: first time I visited U.K. from Canada, I tried Old Hokkey, Ruddles County, Young's Ordinary and Special, The Fuller line, Courage's beers and the like. This was after a period of good experience with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Boulder Pale Ale, Newman's Albany Amber, Wellington County Ale in Ontario and similar.

I said to myself, they have craft beer too, I see now where the tradition comes from. The flavours, while not always the same, were parallel in purity and malt and hop intensity. Those English beers were craft beers because they taste like traditional top-fermented ale of the English tradition should. And they weren't even made by the post-CAMRA clutch of breweries, the old-established did just fine on their own, indeed setting the mark.

PIlsener Urquell is a craft beer. I think HB's hells still is and numerous other central European beers.

It's the taste that counts (IMO).

Gary

Gary Gillman said...

Sorry, Old Hookey I meant.

Gary

Anonymous said...

Four hours in, Godwin's law invoked...

Magnus said...

The issue with the word "craft" isn't so much what and who it invokes.

I think this is a term at the moment we may use as we have no idea how to describe all of the amazing beers that have popped up on our shores (and others).

Maybe craft isn't good or bad as a descriptor but until we have something else I guess it'll have to do?




Cooking Lager said...

Why is the debate about Craft Beer important?

Is it because it’s good for the business of a self-defined craft brewer to have lots of beer geeks debating it?


One I can’t help but note is that basically as far as I can see “craft” in the context of beer has a meaning to those that use it but no punter would ask for a craft beer. They might ask “what craft beers do you have?” meaning offer me something unusual and none mainstream.

Craft beer cannot be mainstream and cannot go mainstream. It loses its point when it does. It no longer offers the customer the caveat they pay more for. If a top end merc was available to all drivers they would no longer be premium motors. Go for a drive in Germany, your average German thinks a merc is as prestigious as a ford but better because it’s domestic and they like domestic. It’s only premium in the rest of the world.

What I know about brewing is how to knock up a Geordie beer kit with a plastic barrel. If I opened my cheque book and bought all the proper equipment and ingredients and got given an authentic recipe and process for any beer style (ale, lager, weisen) and followed it to the letter absolutely and without short cut or compromise I would knock up a brilliant beer you would all praise me for. Most people would and could. It doesn’t take a craftsman or an artist. It requires someone with the capability to be a lab assistant, someone with A levels. Bright but diligent.

Once you’ve learnt how to cook you no longer need a recipe, you can make your own up. I do it all the time, half an hour before the missus gets home from work. I start with a frying pan, an onion, some root ginger and some garlic. I snip herbs from my herb garden and chop up whatever meat is cheap. It tastes great. It doesn’t make me a Michelin starred chef.

All “craft” means is short hand for posher more expensive beer. It works for the micro brewer because they need to make more because they cannot match the cost efficiency of a macro brewer. It works for customers who think they are getting something better for paying more. It is harmless standard capitalism. Credit to mall involved. Brewer would like you to believe it is better and worth more of your money. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

Gary Gillman said...

I would agree with the comment above if we distinguished in the U.K. new-style craft vs. old-style craft. Old-style craft is bitter made to have a predominantly English palate, it can be made by an old-established brewer (irrespective of size) or a post-CAMRA one, doesn't matter. New-style craft is beer made with New World hops or some other recognized variation on so-called brown beer, e.g. Black IPA, Red IPA, or any wheat beer, or any all-malt lager with a reasonable hop taste (Freedom Lager say). Heineken is all malt on the Continent certainly but I wouldn't call it a craft beer, it's too mass-market styled, but there is room for disagreement there.

In America we don't need the subsets, it's all craft what isn't high adjunct yellow lager basically.

Gary

StringersBeer said...

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

Phil said...

There is beer that is excellent beer, made by micro brewers and is very acceptable to a broad audience. It has appeal, but isn't really that much different to beer that was brewed 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even 30 years ago. Some people think this is Craft Beer. I disagree.

...

Keep it Craft.

Keep it craft? Keep it the same? Continue to do the same thing? Sounds a bit conservative to me. At what point in the next ten years do you plan to stop saying that?

Smarte said...

"Smarte, you are suggesting that Craft Brewers are making the same beer as everyone else, but pretending it's different. I think you're simply wrong."

You're using malt, hops, water, and yeast? If so, you're making beer like everyone else from Felinfoel to MolsonCoors.

John Clarke said...

"Why is the debate about craft beer important?"

It's not.

Tedious? Yup. Never-ending? Seemingly.

Important? No. Never really was and it certainly isn't now.

Tandleman said...

"All “craft” means is short hand for posher more expensive beer."

Cookie is so good at getting to the nub of things.

Bailey said...

'"All “craft” means is short hand for posher more expensive beer."

Cookie is so good at getting to the nub of things.'

I think that's what Michael Jackson's old phrase 'beers of character' meant. It covered everything from cask bitter to the poshest Belgian imports -- everything that wasn't mass-produced keg bitter or lager, basically.

Perhaps craft beer is a subset of 'beers of character': posher, more expensive beer targeted at under twenty-fives?

Phil said...

I think it's either meaningless or pernicious. Meaningless, because what it usually means is "beers that the brewers and their fans like to refer to as 'craft'": it's simply a label, which tells you nothing about the beer. It's true that you can have a rough idea of what you're likely to get if you ask for 'craft beer', but only because you're buying into the current trends inside the craft bubble. At any one time, most brewers who use the word 'craft' are brewing to suit 'craft beer' drinkers and impress other 'craft' brewers - and what 'craft beer' drinkers like is the kind of beers that are currently being made by brewers who use the word 'craft'. It's not so much a moving target as a target on castors.

It's pernicious, on the other hand, if it's defined in the way CGA want to define it: as beer that's different and distinctive and challenging and blah, and that's expensive and sold in expensive bars. Craft as 'you probably couldn't afford it' - beer for the 10% or even the 1%. The exclusive, high-price angle runs right through the CGA definition, and I think it's the last thing we need.

Phil said...

I think that's what Michael Jackson's old phrase 'beers of character' meant. It covered everything from cask bitter to the poshest Belgian imports -- everything that wasn't mass-produced keg bitter or lager, basically.

In other words, most 'beers of character' actually weren't either 'posher' or 'more expensive' - they were just better quality, or (more simply) of good quality. Totally different thing.

Bailey said...

They were incidentally more expensive*, and being the subject of 'snobby' behaviour (i.e. people choosing to drink them rather than whatever was cheapest and most readily available) makes them 'posh'.

* We haven't blogged about it yet, but there's a great mid-80s CAMRA survey which shows cask ale was, on average, more expensive than keg bitter or lager, because it had become a niche product for 'snobs'...

Phil said...

I'll be interested to hear about that survey - I don't remember cask beer ever becoming a niche product, and I find it hard to imagine a pint of Harvey's Best or Hyde's Anvil or Shipstone's Gutrot (depending where you were in the country) being more expensive than keg lager.

being the subject of 'snobby' behaviour (i.e. people choosing to drink them rather than whatever was cheapest and most readily available) makes them 'posh'.

I don't agree at all. How can consistently choosing one kind of beer rather than another - irrespective of whether it's dearer, cheaper or the same price - possibly be 'snobby', let alone 'posh'? Cask enthusiasts tie themselves in knots to avoid saying that other kinds of beer are less good than cask.

In the 'craft' context we're talking about beers which are being marketed as a superior product - not just good, better than the alternative. And one distinguishing characteristic of these superior beers is that they're more expensive and aren't available where most people drink. That's very straightforward snobbery and elitism.

Dave Bailey said...

I find it interesting when snobs clamour to deny their own snobbery whilst being absolutely certain of everyone else's.

StringersBeer said...

Of course, Phil, where most people drink, they're drinking Carling. Mostly.

Phil said...

Stringers - if cask really was a middle-class niche product I'd have had a lot more stale pints in Spoons'. Someone's drinking all those guest beers.

Your blog, Dave, but I find it tedious and annoying when people make open-ended disapproving comments without actually responding to anything specific. Sticking with Spoons, if everyone who prefers Ruddles at £2 to Heineken (£3) is a snob, the word 'snob' has no meaning at all.

Bailey said...

I think snob is just a meaningless marketing term.

Dave Bailey said...

Right, that's settled then. Craft Beer = Beer For Snobs.

Sorted.

StringersBeer said...

"Squeezed middle" niche?

Dave Bailey said...

But seriously Phil. I don't think it's about price. If someone chooses Ruddles, because they perceive it to be better than Heineken, then they are a snob in my eyes.

Dave Bailey said...

Well, I was going to say, cask beer = 10% of total beer in UK. Probably is niche.

StringersBeer said...

How did y'all get on to Ruddles v. Heineken? But sticking with Ruddles, I've always thought of it as just another one of those GK fakes that clutter up the Spoons. I'd rather have the Heineken, frankly.

Anonymous said...

Over the last few years a number of british breweries have emerged that are brewing beer that is different to the majority of cask ale that was being produced up until a couple of years back. And by different I mean more challenging, more flavoursome, different styles, experimenting with new hops and igredients etc. Thornbridge, Magic Rock, Kernel, Summer Wine, Weird Beard are a handful of these such breweries. And for the reasons mentioned these breweries, rightly or wrongly, are known as craft breweries.

There are now specialist bars, port street for example, specialising in these craft breweries. From a drinkers point of view, i seek out these kind of bars not because i want to pay for expensive beer because im a snob, but i want to try challenging beers that are hopefully going to be flavoursome and unpredictable.

There is a large amount of low percentage session beer out there, that may well be hand crafted and well made, but im sorry, its not going to be classed as craft beer, in the current manner of what i class craft beer as. Whether craft beer is the right term is another issue, but clearly that is what its known as at present. And it definately has a market as there is now craft beer bars specialising in it, and it is clearly a different market from a brewery producing well made hand crafted decent session beers, of which i do also drink a considerable amount.

Adam Coulson, drinker of beer

Phil said...

I don't think it's about price.

Glad to hear it - but the guys at CGA clearly do.

If someone chooses Ruddles, because they perceive it to be better than Heineken, then they are a snob in my eyes.

Why? Personally I dislike both of them, but I dislike bland keg lager slightly more than I dislike mediocre cask ale, so if I had to choose between the two I'd go for the Ruddles. In what way would that make me a snob?

It seems to me that there is an awful lot of second-guessing and mind-reading going on here, in an attempt to make the values of 'real ale' look as elitist and socially divisive as those of 'craft beer'. Given that 'craft beer' is increasingly being defined in elitist and socially divisive terms, this seems a bit silly.

StringersBeer said...

Well, to quote the "Cask Report" (2011-12):
"69% of cask drinkers are social grade ABC1 – only 31% are C2DE. Cask ale drinkers become more upmarket
every year."


The idea that "cask" (or "Real Ale"), is some great leveller isn't really borne out by the facts. Nowadays.

Indeed, publicans *use" their beer offering to target distinct drinker populations - trying to turn 'round a pub that had a young "rough" crowd? Get another handpull and put on some pongy locAles. That'll work.


But, there's a valuable demographic (yuk) being missed here - despite all the protestations you'll hear, yer trad "Real Ale" isn't recruiting at all well among young-ish affluent-ish urbanites.

Hence, "craft". Whatever that is.



Curmudgeon said...

You have a point that there is a "craft beer demographic" and, if anything, it is more "trendy" than "snobby".

StringersBeer said...

Oh heck, yes. This is where the whole "define craft" thang has failed. Try to define "craft brewery"? Erm... "craft beer"? Oooh... But how about "craft drinker"?

Phil said...

I don't think there's much difference between "trendy" and "snobby". "Trendy" is indulging in expensive & exclusive leisure choices because you're young and have no commitments, & you've got a bit of disposable income. "Snobby" is doing the same thing even though you're middle-aged and have responsibilities, because you're loaded.

The idea that "cask" (or "Real Ale"), is some great leveller

...is a strawman; I never suggested it was. What I would say is that there's nothing inherently exclusive or elitist about the pricing, the availability, the image or the appeal of 'real ale', which isn't something you could say of 'craft beer'. In fact I think (echoing your second point) that a good part of the appeal of 'craft beer' to some of its enthusiasts is that 'real ale' isn't exclusive or elitist enough. (That's not a dig at Dave.)

Cooking Lager said...

Snobbery isn't buying an £8 beer. It's buying and £8 beer and being condescending to those folk in Spoons drinking a £2 beer.

Any high priced product will attract snobs to it. You can if you want to pay top whack, neck it and not be a snob about it. Your choice.

Oh and anti-snobbery is not reverse snobbery, nor is reverse snobbery the mirror image of snobbery nor equally contemptible. Now you know.

Dave Bailey said...

Cookie, whatever form of anti-snobbery, reverse-snobbery or mirror snobbery you believe you exhibit, I will treat it with just the amount of contempt I feel it deserves, depending on what mood I'm in.

So there.

Curmudgeon said...

A geek buys an £8 beer because it's weird shit but he likes it.

A trendy person buys an £8 beer because all his mates and some slebs on Facebook are buying it.

A snob buys an £8 beer because it marks him out as a person of superior taste and judgment.

Phil said...

Thinking about it, snobbery is a personal character flaw. You can have elitist, divisive & socially exclusive ideas without necessarily being a snob - and not being a snob doesn't automatically mean you don't have socially exclusive ideas.

So what's a socially exclusive idea? I think "let's price this beer so that only 10% of the adult population can afford it" qualifies as socially exclusive. Also, "let's control the distribution of this beer so that only 5% of the adult population is ever likely to see it on sale". But what's really divisive & socially exclusive is "let's celebrate this new and exciting category of beer which we've defined as being unavailable to 90-95% of the people, and then pretend that all those people aren't drinking it because they're too dim and unsophisticated".

The social elitism of the 'craft beer' scene sticks out a mile. It amazes me that it gets so much slack, when you think of the amount of stick CAMRA gets whenever someone in Ipswich says something disobliging about lager drinkers.

StringersBeer said...

Well, Phil, there may not be something inherently "exclusive or elitist about the pricing, the availability, the image or the appeal of 'real ale'", but prima facie (I love this stuff) it appeals to a relatively old, disproportionately male, somewhat socially restricted section of the population. Real ale fans (and I include myself here) might look to that, and perhaps waste less time sniping at so-called "craft".

But hey, there's a market. Why shouldn't producers aim products at it? Real Ale doesn't make you old, male and ABC1 - anymore than "craft beer" is turning people into snobs or "hipsters". Unless you believe that by creating the product (and the marketing) brewers are warping the customer's true nature?

Dave Bailey said...

Phil,

We make beer that we want to make. It costs more to make, we sell it at a price that makes us a modest profit.

Why is that wrong?

Oh, and sometimes, when we get it wrong, we don't make a profit. It's a risk we take, and completely our risk.

Phil said...

1. Pricing beer at £5 a pint (say) isn't necessarily elitist; maybe that really is just what it costs. (And the publican has a part to play, of course. I resented paying £4 for a Six O'Clock beer at a hip bar in Manchester, but I later discovered that Port Street were charging even more for it.)

2. Celebrating beer that costs £5 a pint isn't necessarily elitist either. But...

3. Celebrating beer that costs £5 a pint because it costs £5 a pint definitely is elitist. (This is my big argument with the CGA definition of 'craft beer'.)

4. And pricing beer at £5 a pint because you know you can get away with it, because there are people who prefer to pay more (see 3.), would be elitist. But I'm sure none of our fine English craft brewers would do such a thing.

Stringers - I'm really not seeing how 'craft beer' is less exclusive than 'real ale'. It's certainly a different market segment (albeit with a big overlap - I even drink the stuff myself) but I don't see how it can possibly be a larger one.

Anyway, I'm not calling it exclusive because I don't like it - I do like it (a lot of the time) but I don't like its exclusiveness. I haven't got a problem with the "new! different! amazing!" line; a lot of it is new and different and pretty damn good. (I had an amazing Moor Hoppiness the other week. Wonder what it'd be like on cask?) I just wish they'd drop the "costs a bit more but hey, who cares!" line - and the one about "not like that boring brown beer that old men drink!". And it would be nice

NB THIS PART IS NOT AIMED AT DAVE (OR STRINGERS), WHOSE BEERS ARE (IN MY EXPERIENCE) QUITE REASONABLY PRICED

if they could drop the damn price, just a bit. But I suspect market forces will do the job before too long - the novelty of "a half for the price of a pint!" has got to wear off some time.

StringersBeer said...

"pricing beer at £5 a pint because you know you can get away with it"? That's capitalism. You don't like it, go and live in Russia. ;-)

Dave Bailey said...

Owch Stringers, a bit churlish after he said our beers were reasonably priced. And after all, you never did strike me as a big right wing sympathiser.

But Phil, I'm glad you think our beers are reasonably priced, but there's the thing. We work damn hard, we've expanded the brewery and created 3 full time jobs. I do not think the return for our efforts is good enough for the work we do.

I have on numerous occasions thought that I should give it all up and go back to earn an engineers salary, with all the pension provision and leave entitlement that would bring.

But I don't. I kinda like what I do, most of the time. Sure, persuading bars, pubs, shops and punters that my beer is worth paying a little extra for is a far harder gig than pay review boards. But I'm fully responsible for my destiny and want to continue to do what I do.

But to be able to continue to do what I do, with rising costs, staff who deserve a pay rise, and to be able to start to put a little bit away so I can have an OK retirement, I need to look to eke a little higher price.

We are recovering from a recession. Thankfully we are recovering. Economic recovery will not come without prices rising. The beer industry in some ways has felt a hit from the recession. The lowest wholesale beer price has not gone up in over 10 years, despite costs increasing.

CGA do a good job of providing vital economic data to the industry. An industry that wants to know the good news and where to find the areas which are doing well. Of course price is important. I do not believe CGA are particularly celebrating, just noting the facts.

I also think that some beers need to be £5 a pint and perhaps even a lot more to justify the various costs in manufacture, transport etc.

For instance, selling beer in Cumbria is an up-hill battle. Pubs ask for it then baulk at the price. Further south it gets easier, but transport is expensive. In London I guess some beers are very expensive. Overheads are higher in London. Our beers might well seem reasonable in Manchester, London or wherever, because we have lower overheads.

Some craft beer bars want beer from, say, London breweries, with higher overheads. The breweries may well say, OK then, but we'll have to put transport costs on already high prices. The pubs go, well, yeah, hell, our customers will drink it, I guess, but we'll have to charge on the extra cost if they want it. This is just an example of how prices might get skewed.

You are a consumer. Of course you want all beer to be affordable. I want to sell my beer for a little bit more. Of course I'm pleased that some beers can sell for crazy prices. That doesn't mean I think they are worth it. But if some beer is commanding a higher price, then perhaps I can push my prices up in line with costs a bit more easily.

Some beer is over priced and I'd agree far from good value. I don't buy it, and if you think it's over priced then why work yourself up into a lather? It's poncy over-priced swill. Leave it.

Dave Bailey said...

We're just finishing our latest batch of Vitesse Noir. It has been in tank for over 2 months. I really wish it hadn't taken up so much tank time. I made sure it stayed there because I want it to be right when it gets racked. Today we piled in a load of extra vanilla, chocolate and coffee because I didn't think it quite had what it needed. We also bunged in a load of dry hops. A rough estimate of £300 just for the adjustment ingredients. Just because I want it to be just right. The loss of revenue created by not having that tank for something else is not insignificant. It's an expensive beer to make and I shall probably be selling it for less than I should. But be sure of one thing, it'll be a damn sight more than £5 a pint.

So yes, I celebrate beers that can command an appropriate price. What we do not do is deliberately price any beer to prevent anyone from buying it. If any brewer can sell beer for more than is reasonable then good luck to them too.

If you don't like the price of a particular beer then just don't buy it, that's what I do.

StringersBeer said...

I did a winkie " ;-) "

Dave Bailey said...

You know Stringers, I don't think I like capitalism either, it makes me feel all nasty. Is Russia a nice place to live?

Phil said...

It's poncy over-priced swill. Leave it.

So we do agree about craft beer!

Velky Al said...

I've got to the point where I really don't give a monkey's uncle what you call it, as long as it tastes good and I don't feel ripped off.

Everything else is just so much fluff.

John Clarke said...

Couldn't agree more. I don't think a definition will ever be agreed (I mean, who's to enforce it?). What may happen is that it enters into general parlance as a rather vague, ill defined concept (much like "traditional" has done perhaps although hopefully not quite as debased as the use of that word has become). Not perhaps satisfactory from the "crafterati" perspective but good enough for everyone else.

Rather that than an attempt at a fixed definition, particularly if the push for such a definition is driven by brewers and such like who may conveniently arrive at a definition that just happens to chime with their business model.

StringersBeer said...

I dunno about Russia Dave, I'm feeling increasingly drawn to Sweden.Skål!

Benjamin Nunn said...

Phil, Moor do Hoppiness in cask from time to time, and it's very nice (though their JJJ is even better and quite a bit hoppier still!)

Curmudgeon, your definitions are bang on. The only missing bit is 'a ticker buys an £8 beer because it's rare and they haven't had it before'

Dave, you run a small, independent business. You have to be a least a little bit capitalist to do that - even up there in the North!

Jeff Pickthall said...

Craft beer is like pornography: difficult to define but you know it when you encounter it.

Chris said...

"Craft beer" is sort of OK in the US, but here, I really hate the term, to be honest. The name blatantly implies superior quality and if we take it to mean only American-influenced breweries and exclude traditional breweries I think that's incredibly unfair.

DaveS said...

New Wave Beer always seems like an intrinsically better phrase than Craft Beer to describe what's been going on in some bits of the UK for the last 15 years or so. But if we're stuck with "Craft" then so be it.

What gets my goat (part i) is the attempt to take that craft beer and then claim that it's synonymous with "beer brewed for passion, not profit" as if the two blokes brewing Old Curmudgeons Very Peculiar With Twigs In are just in it for the lucre.

What gets my goat (part ii) is the attempt to create an artificial divide between the "craft beer scene" and the "real ale" scene, normally by overplaying the significance of craft keg, when for most people who don't write (or comment on) blogs, breweries like Magic Rock and Dark Star and Kernel (and indeed Hardknott) are just more beers that turn up at your local forward thinking real ale pub or bottle shop, rather than part of some radically different world...

John Clarke said...

Dave S is absolutely right. The blogosphere is full of those inside the "craft bubble" looking out whereas most people are outside the "craft bubble" looking in.

As an example, the Buxton Tap House opens today. It will sell a range of craft keg and cask (plus fancy bottles). Good news for Buxton but most people in the town will just see it as a good new bar with an interesting range of beers rather than another front in the so-called "craft beer revolution".