Someone who reads the blog and follows us on Twitter wrote to us last week. His email began: “Your definition of Craft Beer/Breweries I feel is the best I’ve seen in an attempt to clarify a confusing situation.”
“Do go on,” we said smugly, sitting in noxious clouds of our own self-satisfaction.
“At what point is a Craft Brewer no longer a Craft Brewer? Can that happen?”
The blood drained from our faces. That is a very awkward question.
It helps if, like us, you don’t think of this as binary, but a question of degrees. And, as the definition of ‘craft beer’ in the UK isn’t (yet) fixed or externally validated, and if you think it’s a worthwhile idea, you need to have your own criteria.
The more boxes they tick, they more likely we are to think they’re a craft brewery. By extension, if those ticks are rubbed out, our thinking goes into reverse.
If Thornbridge start using clear bottles, or ditch cask ale, or start describing Jaipur only as “a premium beer made with the best malt and hops”, we’d begin to have doubts. Brewdog, for all their attempts to monopolise this territory, do lots of things that don’t sound very much like craft brewing to us: a few more steps in that direction, and they’re out, at least in our minds.
Finally, does it matter if a brewery stops being ‘craft’? No. It doesn’t necessarily mean their beer suddenly tastes bad, or that we hate them, just that our relationship changes. ‘Craft’ is not synonymous with ‘worthy’.