Thirty years before everyone started getting annoyed about the term ‘craft beer’, the phrase that looked as if it might take hold was ’boutique beer’.
Here’s Michael ‘Beer Hunter’ Jackson in the introduction to a new edition of his World Guide to Beer in 1988:
The smaller the brewery, the more easily it can devote itself to speciality styles of beer… Not every brew-pub takes this opportunity, but many do. The best of the micro-breweries certainly do. A good few old-established independents have rediscovered the confidence to assert their heritage. Even on some of the national and international giants have found time to produce the odd speciality beer… In volume, sales of these ’boutique beers’ are tiny…
What we’ve found in recent months is that no-one hates the term ‘craft beer’ quite as much as some of the brewers to whose work it is applied. Mention it and they sigh, roll their eyes, and sometimes even groan, as if in pain.
There are various reasons for their antipathy: they’re bored of hearing people talk about it; they don’t like being labelled; they’re frustrated that a term they thought they understood has been undermined by excessive examination; and they feel it’s been devalued by bigger breweries slapping it on labels and pump-clips.
Jackson observed something similar in regard to ’boutique beer’ in the mid-eighties:
What the revivalists and new brewers offer is variety, not just of names and packages, but of classic beer-styles. That is why many of them dislike the term ’boutique beer’: it is descriptive, but perhaps suggests that their products might be ‘designer’ whims, fashionable but ephemeral.
To develop that thought, is it that brewers feel uneasy about being part of any ‘scene’ or ‘movement’ whose value may go down as well as up? Which might collapse when the ‘next big thing’ comes along?