If there’s one thing almost everyone is agreed on it’s that they’re bored of bloggers and beer writers trying to define ‘craft beer’ but, this week, we’ve seen some outsiders (suspicious muttering) having a go.
Speciality beer/ale has been introduced reflecting the increase in shelf space devoted to craft beers produced by speciality and micro-breweries…
Elsewhere in the paper, they specify ‘Speciality beer/ale, bottled’ and it’s that last word which gives the key to how they’re defining it, as the other beers they include are:
- Canned lager
- Canned bitter
- Bottled lager
- Canned stout
So, Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell IPA in a can isn’t craft but Bass No 1, in a bottle, is — right, got it! (It’s a perfectly good working definition for their purposes and reflects a category distinction which most people will recognise from trips to the supermarket with their, er, standard shopping baskets.)
Then, on Radio 4 yesterday, Thomas Thurnell-Read, a senior lecturer in sociology at Coventry University, discussed his paper ‘Craft, tangibility and affect at work in the microbrewery‘ with Laurie Taylor. (Listen here at 16:25; via @waxingbeacons.)
He interviewed many micro-brewers in his research and concluded that one of the key characteristics of ‘craft’ as opposed to industrial brewing is ‘an expression of their identity through the product they are making’.
A common story I had from numerous interviewees was this idea that they could sneak into the pub unnoticed, covert, and watch people consuming the product that they had personally been responsible for producing… Quite a lot of brewers spoke of the doors to the brewery being literally or metaphorically open and their customers would come and knock on their door and tell them how much they like the beer they are producing…
In the last 30 second of the programme, the host asked Dr Thurnell-Read to explain quickly the difference between ‘real ale’ and ‘craft beer’, and, with a sigh, he did his best:
Real ale is a term coined by CAMRA in the early 70s… the carbonation comes from secondary fermentation… Craft beer is a newer term, it’s a lot more broad, and it involves this kind of thing we’ve been talking about — skill, passion… it’s not necessarily real ale.
What all this suggests is that in (sort of) real world conversations people continue to crave a term that distinguishes Those Beers from These Beers.