Black holes in space have yet to be directly observed, and their presence can only be inferred through their interaction with other matter and light.
Recent events in the world of beer suggest that ‘craft beer’ might operate in the same way. There’s no agreed definition in the UK, and yet we can all tell when the actions of breweries are being distorted by its mysterious presence.
First, locally, we’ve observed the recent roll-out of a rebranded St Austell ‘Proper Cool’ keg IPA. Does this design and copy remind you of anyone?
Though St Austell don’t use the C-word themselves, here’s how we heard a barman explain this beer to a customer: “You know Proper Job? Well it’s a craft version of that.”
St Austell can claim to have been doing ‘craft’ (US-hopped IPA, beers with spices) since before ‘craft’ was really a thing, so it’s weird to see them aping BrewDog so openly, especially as it’s a bit ‘Dad in a baseball cap’. (They have literally declared themselves cool.)
Then, further north, this fascinating blog post emerged from Thornbridge’s head brewer, Rob Lovatt, announcing the arrival of a Parma Violet porter, and explaining its place in their new ‘Left Field Beer Project’. It seems to us that his teeth are gritted:
All of my brewing team will tell you that I’m very style-oriented and I take some persuading to even put the slightest twist on a classic beer style.
When we visited Thornbridge last year, we detected a (good natured and probably healthy) tension between a conservative lobby focused on tradition, and those who wanted to be more playful and experimental. Parma Violet is, we think, is driven by the latter, and an attempt to do something a bit more ‘craft’, whatever exactly that means. Others made the same suggestion on Twitter:
— Richard Burhouse (@MagicRockRich) May 14, 2014
Disclosure: we have had various dealings with both St Austell and Thornbridge, and are speaking at a Thornbridge pub next week, on 21 May. We’re not scientists — sorry if we got black holes wrong in our attempt at a rhetorical flourish.