It is inevitable that, by the time a trend goes ‘mainstream’, those who first championed it will be moving on. And so it is with ‘craft beer’.
2014 is set to be the year of craft beer, with the term ‘craft ales’ leaking into everyday usage, while Wetherspoon’s, big regional brewers and supermarkets have gone into overdrive slapping the words onto every receptive surface.
So of course the cognoscenti, after some years of grumbling, have begun to reject the phrase outright.
We think it’s partly that they’re just bored of hearing it. They’re certainly bored of the debate about what it means, even as they’re drawn to join in.
It is also, however, gaining some distinctly negative connotations: we recently noticed a former noted craftophile describing a dodgy pint as ‘a bit too craft’ the other day.
Apart from BrewDog, we haven’t spoken to many brewers to whom we would apply the term who like or use it themselves.
In fact, these brewers from New Zealand have suggested an alternative…
— Yeastie Boys (@yeastieboys) November 6, 2013
The elements of ‘craft beer’ people seem to be reacting against are sloppiness, inconsistency and sometimes downright dirtiness. The appetite for novelty doesn’t seem to be diminishing just yet, but there is perhaps now less appetite for bankrolling other people’s playtime: people are beginning to demand cleanness and consistency, and to reward those breweries which deliver it.
Or, to put it another way, people are realising that undisciplined, amateurish, enthusiastic ‘punk’ music is far more fun to listen to than ‘punk’ beers are to drink.
And after that?
The abandonment of ‘craft beer’ by the geeks won’t mean the sudden resurgence of ‘real ale’. Not yet, anyway: we can well imagine, in a few years time, a cutting-edge revivalist movement founded on brown bitter brewed in dodgy old barns, with crystal malt, Fuggles and Goldings.
Everything becomes cool again given time.