It’s Not Just Beer: the Craftication of Everything

Illustration: perfume.

Not being habitual wearers of perfume we had no idea there was such a thing as ‘niche fragrances’ until last week when we heard a report about them on the radio promoting this exhibition at Somerset House.

Now, bear with us as we stum­ble clum­si­ly through the his­to­ry of an unfa­mil­iar world: for a long time, it seems, there were two types of fra­grance – estab­lished brands, and cheap­er sub­sti­tutes, both equal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive. Then, in the 1970s, a third way began to emerge:

L’Artisan Par­fumeur was the result of a chal­lenge, a plaisan­terie. Due to his train­ing as a chemist, a friend asked Jean Laporte if he could cre­ate a banana scent to wear with a cos­tume of the same fruit to a gala evening at the Folies Bergères. This was quick­ly fol­lowed by grape­fruit and vanil­la fra­grances… He exper­i­ment­ed and cre­at­ed orig­i­nal scents with ‘nat­ur­al essences’. With the suc­cess of his first line of fra­grances, Jean Laporte was named L’Artisan Par­fumeur – the crafts­man of fra­grance – by per­fume enthu­si­asts.

It’s our old friend nat­ur­al vs. chem­i­cal! And grape­fruit! Accounts of the birth of arti­sanal per­fume often also men­tion ‘pas­sion’.

In the decades since niche per­fume has become a sig­nif­i­cant seg­ment of the mar­ket as sum­marised by Reuters:

Niche brands dif­fer from their big­ger rivals in that they focus more on the orig­i­nal­i­ty of the scent than the pack­ag­ing and the image pro­ject­ed via a celebri­ty. They also usu­al­ly use high­er con­cen­tra­tions of per­fume extracts and more nat­ur­al ingre­di­ents which tend to last longer…

There are now niche per­fumes designed to evoke every­thing from fair­ground log flume rides to a seduc­tion rit­u­al in Mali. Some are stunts, not real­ly designed to be worn so much as col­lect­ed and shown off, while oth­ers have become best­selling stan­dards in their own right. The only rule seems to be that they shouldn’t smell of, you know… per­fume.

You’ll be glad to know that niche in per­fume, like craft in beer, ‘is ceas­ing to become mean­ing­ful as a descrip­tor’ at least in part because big­ger pro­duc­ers have jumped on the band­wag­on and also bought out small­er hous­es (Reuters again):

Estee Laud­er Com­pa­nies which owns Jo Mal­one – which used to be regard­ed as niche – just bought Le Labo and Edi­tions de Par­fums Fred­er­ic Malle and con­sol­i­da­tion is set to con­tin­ue as big groups hunt for what could be the next big per­fume brand

But, any­way, per­fume isn’t the point – it’s that this ham­mered home how easy it is to see every­thing from with­in a silo and thus fail to recog­nise that devel­op­ments in your field are part of wider changes in soci­ety. Craft beer (indie beer, bou­tique beer, what­ev­er you want to call it) devel­oped at the same time as, and along­side, things like mod­ern sour­dough bak­ing, nat­ur­al wine, niche per­fume, upmar­ket street food, gas­trop­ubs, and no doubt a thou­sand oth­er class-bend­ing trends in fields about which we know noth­ing.

Niche, the per­fume world’s choice of descrip­tor, is an inter­est­ing one because in a sense this is about lev­er­ing a space between, and maybe a bit to the left of, exist­ing polarised seg­ments.

  • Beer > Craft Beer < Wine
  • Per­fume > Niche Per­fume < Brand/Designer Per­fume
  • Camp­ing > Glamping/Boutique Hotels < The Hilton

Whether you like it or not, this bit in the mid­dle seems to ful­fil the needs of a gen­er­a­tion whose mem­bers per­haps don’t under­stand class the way their par­ents and grand­par­ents did, and who are every bit as appalled by tacky gild­ed visions of LUXURY as they are unin­spired by the main­stream bog stan­dard.

Sug­ges­tions for oth­er sec­tors where bou­tinichecrafti­fi­ca­tion has occurred, as well as for fur­ther read­ing, are very wel­come – leave a com­ment below.

38 thoughts on “It’s Not Just Beer: the Craftication of Everything”

  1. If you had a time machine, you could nip back to 1973 or so and pub­lish this entire arti­cle – includ­ing the slight­ly coat-trail­ing con­clu­sion – as a com­men­tary on the ‘real’ trend: it’s not just real ale, there’s real bread, real cheese, a whole ‘real’ diet, not to men­tion ‘real’ ways to socialise and bring up chil­dren…

    1. Well (see Brew Bri­tan­nia) we do tend to think the cur­rent ‘craft’ thing *is* a devel­op­ment of ‘real’, even if it some­times seems like two war­ring fac­tions. Bet some­one called that first ‘niche’ per­fume back in 1976 ‘real per­fume’ at one point or anoth­er.

    2. And at least with bread and cheese, the rev­o­lu­tion has been as effec­tive as with beer. Sure there is still ter­ri­ble mild “ched­dar” avail­able that tastes of noth­ing, and some dread­ful sliced white bread, but it’s triv­ial­ly easy to get much more inter­est­ing tra­di­tion­al cheese and bread that had almost died out, as well as cut­ting edge “craft” ver­sions. I think it’s an inevitable trend due to increased liv­ing stan­dards and increased incomes – peo­ple will always look for new expe­ri­ences as well as back to old tra­di­tion­al ones.

    3. Not sure – I’d say the cur­rent “craft” ten­den­cy is some­thing very dif­fer­ent from “real”, “organ­ic”, “authen­tic” etc. It is pre­dom­i­nant­ly urban, keen on inno­va­tion and eager to bring in influ­ences and ingre­di­ents from all round the world. In many ways it is the antithe­sis of “back to nature”.

      1. From our lit­tle dip into the world of niche per­fume – still large­ly mys­te­ri­ous because we don’t even know which are good sources of info – what seems to have hap­pened there is that it start­ed out whole­some and nat­ur­al in the 1970s but nowa­days they’re just as like­ly to boast about using all syn­thet­ic com­pounds to achieve a par­tic­u­lar effect.

        So, some­where along the line, the hip­py ver­sion mutat­ed into some­thing more ‘con­cep­tu­al’, a bit like with mol­e­c­u­lar gas­tron­o­my and all that, I sup­pose.

        1. The mol­e­c­u­lar per­fumery may be part of it but I guess a more fun­da­men­tal thing is that the “nat­ur­al” per­fumes rely on eso­teric nat­ur­al ingre­di­ents that can’t be ramped up and down just like that. Com­pare with the great surge of enthu­si­asm for grape­fruity beers 2–3 years ago – hop farm­ers couldn’t pro­duce enough of the Simcoe/Amarillo hops that were need­ed to gen­er­ate the fash­ion­able taste, so brew­ers turned to oth­er means of achiev­ing the same flavour using grape­fruit peel/juice – hence things like Elvis Juice. It may not be as “pure” but it was an effec­tive way of sat­is­fy­ing mar­ket demand in the face of short­ages of a nat­ur­al prod­uct.

        2. The inter­est­ing thing about ‘craft’ is that it sounds as if it’s the same thing that was going on in the 70s – to the extent of using a lot of the same vocab­u­lary (like ‘arti­san’ and for that mat­ter ‘craft’ itself) – but it real­ly isn’t. There’s a pre­mi­um on nov­el­ty and vari­ety, togeth­er with a much high­er lev­el of mar­ket­ing, lead­ing to the ‘Repub­lic of Crafto­nia’ no-brand­ing brand expe­ri­ence. ‘Craft’ pro­duc­ers do some­times evoke local­i­ty and tra­di­tion – there’s con­ti­nu­ity to that extent – but by and large it’s not cen­tral to what they do, as it was dur­ing the ‘real’ wave. ‘Real’ is the whole­meal loaf made with local­ly-milled flour; ‘craft’ is sour­dough piz­za every­where.

          1. As I said below, any small pro­duc­er has three obvi­ous ways to go – qual­i­ty, local­ism, vari­ety or a com­bi­na­tion of all three. But I wouldn’t say vari­ety is unique­ly defin­ing – look at many of the big US craft brew­eries like Sam Adams, Brook­lyn, Sier­ra Neva­da, Lagu­ni­tas – all prin­ci­pal­ly known for just one beer even if they are now try­ing to dif­fuse the brand a bit. Free­dom and Cam­den are exam­ples clos­er to home – admit­ted­ly it’s a bit dif­fer­ent with lager as the keg founts that are the main route to mar­ket are so hard to break into, even Guin­ness (arguably the biggest “craft” brew­ery in the world) has his­tor­i­cal­ly strug­gled to get into adja­cent founts until the last 5 years despite their huge advan­tages in dis­tri­b­u­tion and scale. But I bet 90% of Brew­dog cus­tomers have only tried the 3 beers in their local super­mar­ket, and half have prob­a­bly only had Punk. Dit­to Beaver­town with Gam­ma Ray and Neck Oil – are Brew­dog and Beaver­town not “craft”? Sure, the likes of Cloud­wa­ter are push­ing the “vari­ety” angle, but I’m not sure it’s a defin­ing attribute for “craft”. I think it’s more reflect­ing the cur­rent retail mar­ket – we’ve gone from beer being most­ly sold in estates tied to a few brew­ers, and sub­se­quent­ly in super­mar­kets, both of which have only a hand­ful of “slots” and hence it’s worth get­ting behind a sin­gle beer as a brand (Guin­ness being a clas­sic exam­ple, Doom Bar a more recent one). At the moment we’re at a Cam­bri­an explo­sion stage, where there’s lots of new mod­els being tried and lots of out­lets with lots of choice – which is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for small brew­eries to get their prod­ucts onto shelves – but I’m not sure it’s going to last. I can see the num­ber of pure High St bot­tle shops con­tract­ing, which in turn will put pres­sure on the sec­ond-rank brew­eries. Same with cask free­hous­es. As the hand­pulls and slots on the shelves decline, brew­eries will have to either go to a super-sea­son­al Cloud­wa­ter mod­el or con­cen­trate on indi­vid­ual beers (like say Titan­ic with Plum Porter) if they want to sell more beer – or revert to the tied pub mod­el (as Titan­ic are doing, they’re up to 7 or so).

            But no, I don’t think vari­ety defines all craft, although it’s one of the Big 3 options for small pro­duc­ers.

  2. To me ‘slow food’ has always looked like part of the same thing: local, hand made and ‘authen­tic’, not indus­tri­al, multi­na­tion­al and ersatz.

  3. Inter­est­ing arti­cle, and much (arti­sanal) food for thought. The exam­ple of this else­where that imme­di­ate­ly sprang to mind was choco­late. Some­thing like:

    Cad­bury >Green and Black < Lindt?

    Also, posh(er) crisps. What next, pork scratch­ings?!

    1. Choco­late is a great exam­ple – can’t believe we didn’t think of it. Maybe more like:

      Dairy Milk > Small Batch Arti­sanal Val­rhona Don’t know. Need an expert to chime in.

    2. Scratch­ings are already there – Mr Scratchy is no longer good enough. I was incred­i­bly cyn­i­cal about flavoured scratch­ings but some of them real­ly work – salt & vine­gar or chori­zo (pig on pig – what’s not to like?). Some just don’t – in par­tic­u­lar there’s a bit of a thing putting insane amounts of chilli in scratch­ings, which is just unpleas­ant. Snaf­fling Pig are the best craft scratch­ings I’ve had, but there are oth­ers.

      Also pop­corn – I’m not a big fan, but I have to admit that flavoured pop­corn from the likes of Joe & Seph do kin­da work.

      I guess you can trace a lot of this “afford­able lux­u­ry” to Haa­gen Dazs (found­ed 1961, sold to Pills­bury in 1983, assim­i­la­tion into Nes­tle start­ed in 1999). Then came peo­ple from New Eng­land who were more inter­est­ed in mouth­feel (as one of them has taste prob­lems) – Ben & Jerry’s start­ed in 1978, sold out to Unilever in 2000. I guess you could throw in Ket­tle Chips (Ore­gon, 1978) and Star­bucks (Wash­ing­ton state, 1971), Fever-Tree (2005), Inno­cent Drinks (1998) and Pret a Manger (1984) as well.

      If you’re a small pro­duc­er you can’t com­pete on price, so your options are to push the local, crafty angle, the qual­i­ty angle, or the vari­ety angle. And ide­al­ly you want to be good at all three. Qual­i­ty is the most sus­tain­able, but there is always a frac­tion of the mar­ket that craves nov­el­ty, so the Baskin Rob­bins approach can work but it tends to be quite niche. You’re see­ing it in gin at the moment – pun­ters have worked out that most of the new gins kin­da taste of cit­rus and juniper, but there’s not much between them. They will pay more for “gim­mick” flavoured gins, things like the Zymur­go­ri­um sweet vio­let and Slings­by rhubarb, which is where the growth in gin seems to be at the moment.

      1. Astute obser­va­tions.

        It occurred to us that Star­bucks was a good exam­ple after we’d post­ed but we didn’t think of the oth­ers you men­tion.

      2. I guess you can trace a lot of this “afford­able lux­u­ry” to Haa­gen Dazs (found­ed 1961, sold to Pills­bury in 1983, assim­i­la­tion into Nes­tle start­ed in 1999). Then came peo­ple from New Eng­land who were more inter­est­ed in mouth­feel (as one of them has taste prob­lems) – Ben & Jerry’s start­ed in 1978, sold out to Unilever in 2000. I guess you could throw in Ket­tle Chips (Ore­gon, 1978) and Star­bucks (Wash­ing­ton state, 1971), Fever-Tree (2005), Inno­cent Drinks (1998) and Pret a Manger (1984) as well.

        Riff­ing off this, the oth­er inter­est­ing thing about the ‘real’ phe­nom­e­non (includ­ing the ear­ly days of ‘real ale’) was that it took root in a coun­try where long-estab­lished mass pro­duc­tion had led to a wide­spread homogeni­sa­tion and per­ceived debase­ment of food, sym­bol­ised by Watney’s and Mother’s Pride. The ‘real’ stuff was intend­ed to be beer/bread/cheese as it used to be, and as – per­haps – you could still find it, if you looked far enough afield.

        The US is anoth­er coun­try where the homogenisation/debasement of food pro­gressed a long way; per­haps even fur­ther than here. A lot of the names list­ed above can be brought under the head­ing of ‘re-cre­ation of qual­i­ty’ – or rather ‘re-cre­ation, stan­dard­i­s­a­tion and brand­ing of qual­i­ty’. But the massification/homogenisation trend wasn’t uni­ver­sal in the 1970s and 1980s, and prob­a­bly isn’t even now. (I was in France a cou­ple of years ago, and if I want­ed to find local­ly-pro­duced milk, but­ter and cheese in a super­mar­ket I just need­ed to look in the milk, but­ter and cheese sec­tion; nation­al brands would have been hard­er to find.) The best ice-cream I’ve ever tast­ed was in Italy in 1991; it wasn’t Ben & Jerry’s, but it wasn’t Nes­tle either. Nei­ther craft nor Kraft, as you might say. I’d hap­pi­ly call it real, though.

        So maybe the dif­fer­ence between the ‘real’ and the ‘craft’ waves is that the for­mer was try­ing (quixot­i­cal­ly?) to roll back the tide of mass-pro­duc­tion, and the lat­ter is hap­py to find a niche with­in it. (And we’re back with nich­es.)

  4. As a Swiss cit­i­zen liv­ing in a city with a sol­id horol­o­gy her­itage, I noticed it happemn­ing on the wrist­watch mar­ket too.
    A sec­tor which has has, around a few influ­en­tial forums (notably Watchuseek) and web­sites, as well as heavy use of social media, seen in the past decade or so the emer­gence of WIS – the “watch idiot savant”, equiv­a­lent to the beer geek – as well as micro­brands, a con­cept, which, just like micro­brew­ery, every­body under­stands, yet has no absolute­ly clear def­i­n­i­tion.
    They are the horol­o­gy equiv­a­lent of gip­sy brew­ers, design­ing watch­es – usu­al­ly auto­mat­ic / mechan­i­cals, quartz being looked down on by many WIS – and hav­ing them pro­duced by a third par­ty, mak­ing use of the glob­al­i­sa­tion of the watch indus­try: Japan­ese or Swiss move­ments, Chi­nese cas­es and parts, etc. to mar­ket watch­es aimed at the WIS crowd. A lot of those start up using crowd­fund­ing, Kick­starter, for instance being pret­ty full of such projects at all times, or offer them at reduced prices dur­ing pre-sales (think bot­tle releas­es, etc.).
    The “com­pul­so­ry fig­ures” in the sec­tor – think the equiv­a­lent of US IPA or Impe­r­i­al stout in the beer world – are large div­er watch­es inspired by world-famous upmar­ket bands (think Rolex, Omega, Tudor, Pan­erai…) and “min­i­mal­ist” watch­es with bare-bones dials (think Daniel Welling­ton), along with large pilot watch­es, notably “flieger” styles, mod­elled after the watch­es worn by WW2 Luft­waffe pilots, bronze and brass cas­es instead of stain­less steel being a notable cur­rent trend.
    The usu­al mar­ket­ing blurb on Kick­stater also has its sligh­ly ludi­crous tropes such as “dis­rupt­ing the indus­try”, “lux­u­ry at non-lux­u­ry prizes”, “redefin­ing / rein­vent­ing afford­able lux­u­ry”, “I couldn’t find what I want­ed so I made my own”, etc.

    1. This is great stuff – thanks, Lau­rent!

      Seems like exact­ly the same impulse. Sim­i­lar with foun­tain pens too, I gath­er, where there are obses­sives trad­ing notes online. They can’t afford super-expen­sive Mont Blancs but don’t want bog stan­dard £10 pens either, so they buy c.£100 pens from small firms that spe­cialise in fit­ting and fine tun­ing cus­tom-made nibs to mass-pro­duced pens and so on.

  5. I think you’re broad­ly on the right track, except I’m not con­vinced that craft fills the gap between mass mar­ket and expen­sive; I think it’s a touch more com­plex than that. In some cas­es, it’s about bring­ing the unat­tain­able to a wider audi­ence, but for the most part, I think it’s about push­ing bound­aries; pro­duc­ing prod­ucts that have nev­er been seen before, or more extreme ver­sions of ones that have.
    As far attain­abil­i­ty goes, I think It’s more gen­er­al­ly access to a prod­uct rather than just price; of course in many cas­es price is that bar­ri­er to access, but sim­ple rar­i­ty may be too; West­vleteren beers, for exam­ple, long wide­ly acknowl­edged as among the best in the world but rather dif­fi­cult to get hold of. And for me, such high-end beers are a more log­i­cal top bound­ary; wine appears to me to be much more a com­par­a­tive and com­pet­i­tive prod­uct on all lev­els. Has the lat­est craft beer real­ly got any con­nec­tions with a Grand Cru Classe? Does it attempt to com­pete? Would it recog­nise the com­par­i­son? No, but it might very well con­sid­er itself a com­peti­tor to a vin de table from a cut­ting edge vigneron. What craft beer owes to wine for me is the roadmap; a path to fol­low; it’s no sur­prise to me that craft beer start­ed in the US, where wine­mak­ers had already been exper­i­ment­ing with flavours for some time, and that Sean Franklin, a man immersed in the wine world, was one of the pio­neers of what was to become the craft scene over here. Not because they were tak­ing on the top end in any sense – in fact Michael Jack­son, Roger Protz and Susan Nowak inter alia had been doing that through their writ­ing for some time, using exist­ing beers for the most part – but because they were fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful wine blue­print; get into those nich­es. The dif­fi­cul­ty for craft beer, wine and per­fume is that those nich­es become main­stream over time, and that push­es craft ever more extreme, where the niche mar­ket is small­er; or else it trans­forms the craft pro­duc­er into a a much more main­stream enti­ty, erod­ing that almost illic­it, under­ground char­ac­ter that is so cen­tral to the craft move­ment.

    1. I think what we had in mind was that, before real-ale/craft-beer, if you were some­one who enjoyed food and drink, you “grad­u­at­ed” to wine. Now, you can instead “grad­u­ate” with­out hav­ing to leave beer behind. But per­haps we’re think­ing of wine in a specif­i­cal­ly British cul­tur­al con­text which is why it doesn’t quite work.

  6. My two cents is this is the ful­fill­ment of Graeme Kerr, the Gal­lop­ing Gourmet. TV intro­duces vari­ety and baby boomers add self-assigned excep­tion­al­ism. Rel­a­tive good eco­nom­ic times from 1950 to today sup­ply that vari­ety care of bet­ter ship­ping of goods. As boomers age, they teach their kids the same lessons. Add the Inter­net and peer to peer, then the indi­vid­u­al­ly curat­ed life and then the con­stant demand for indi­vid­u­al­ly pack­aged expe­ri­ence. Church­es emp­ty, polit­i­cal norms break down. Sud­den­ly, it’s all T.S. Elliot. Pass the brown sauce and the brown ale, please.

    1. Grop­ing towards some­thing here… Is it about exclu­siv­i­ty through knowl­edge rather than through price? These things are rel­a­tive­ly afford­able but you have to spend years before­hand on web forums and read­ing books, learn­ing the lore, to real­ly know which things are good and which things are just aping the trap­pings. Calvin Trillin’s account of New York “chowhounds” from 2001 springs to mind. (Pay­walled)

      Peo­ple some­times say craft beer is about show­ing off wealth. I don’t think that’s true, but it might be at least part­ly about con­spic­u­ous­ly demon­strat­ing knowl­edge. (Or try­ing to…)

      1. There’s always been an ele­ment of that with fash­ion though, hasn’t there? Either you are part of the in-crowd so get tipped off what’s “cool” by word of mouth or you’re a few months behind because you read about it in the spe­cial­ist mag­a­zines – and then by the time a restaurant/dress is in the nation­al media or in High St shops, it starts to become uncool and the in crowd have moved on.

        There is the prod­uct-knowl­edge aspect, of which wine is per­haps the best exam­ple, but that’s a bit dif­fer­ent to the “know­ing what’s cool” bit. And I think some of your beer-> wine thing specif­i­cal­ly relates to the shift from beer to wine in gen­er­al in the 90s/00s. Going from eg Blue Nun mass-mar­ket wine to more “crafty” wine has always been a thing with­in wine itself.

        Some­thing I’m a bit fas­ci­nat­ed by is the effects of women work­ing longer hours in bet­ter jobs in the late 20th cen­tu­ry. One of the biggest effects has been that the age of first baby went from some­thing like 24 to 32 with­in two decades (there­abouts) – one of the biggest social rev­o­lu­tions in his­to­ry. That in turn meant that there was sud­den­ly a large demo­graph­ic of sin­gle 20-some­thing women with mon­ey in their pock­et, who ini­tial­ly were ladettes ape­ing men by drink­ing macro lager in the 90s, but then evolved their own iden­ti­ty and drinks, like Pinot gri­gio in the noughties and craft gin in the teens. I can’t help think­ing that some of what’s hap­pened is trans­plant­i­ng that restaurant/bar cul­ture of one’s twen­ties into the post-baby “nest” at home.

        I’m not say­ing this is all dri­ven by women, far from it – but that age-of-1st-baby thing is such a stag­ger­ing change that it’s bound to affect pat­terns of con­sump­tion.

        OT-ish – saw my first North­ern Monk in a Mor­risons in a north­ern min­ing town today. Tru­ly “craft” has won… But I think NM have got it right, a cheap bulk offer­ing – 6-packs of Eter­nal – in the super­mar­kets where they make almost no mon­ey but at least have vol­ume and adver­tis­ing, and then sin­gles and spe­cials in the spe­cial­ist trade with no real over­lap between them.

      2. It’s inter­est­ing how dif­fer­ent parts of this thread have focused on niche being some­thing that has either been pro­duc­er-cre­at­ed or con­sumer-demand­ed. I’d sug­gest a lot of it is the for­mer and that prod­ucts of all descrip­tions have hit upon how to lever­age cul­tur­al cap­i­tal. Con­sumers want their prod­ucts to allow them to show off and pro­duc­ers oblige.

        If you cre­ate more nich­es with­in a giv­en cat­e­go­ry as a pro­duc­er, the sub­ject grows more com­plex and sat­is­fy­ing for your tar­get audi­ence since there is more to geek up on and con­se­quent­ly more to show off about when you are down the pub. It also makes it more like­ly these con­sumers will stay with­in your cat­e­go­ry in gen­er­al rather than find nich­es else­where. You men­tioned that peo­ple need not ‘grad­u­ate’ out of beer to wine any­more, which is of course tremen­dous­ly wel­come for the brew­ing indus­try since they can now pro­duce – and more effec­tive­ly mar­ket – pre­mi­u­mised offer­ings. More rev­enue from a cap­tive audi­ence. Isn’t this the very pur­pose of line exten­sions?

        Many peo­ple will believe they are inde­pen­dent­ly-mind­ed, dis­crim­i­nat­ing con­sumers when they stride into their near­est brew­pub. The real­i­ty may be that their tastes are grow­ing ever nar­row­er and – pos­si­bly – ever eas­i­er to pre­dict and direct by the brew­ing indus­try at large.

  7. Inter­est­ing.
    Part of a gen­er­al trend in the UK at least for more indi­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion, fuelled I sus­pect by two key issues:
    – a much high­er % of high­er-edu­cat­ed under-35s than was his­tor­i­cal­ly the case, able (in the­o­ry!) to think for them­selves and not fol­low the mass-brand­ed crowd
    – the need to cul­ti­vate an inter­est­ing per­son­al­i­ty online; this will affect all man­ner of sec­tors includ­ing beer; you get few social inter­est points for post­ing “I’m at a Har­vester” when you could be show­ing off your lat­est arti­san burg­er.

  8. In the 1950s, if you use the drunk­en lec­ture on Mer­rie Eng­land at the end, there was the home-made pot­tery crowd, the organ­ic hus­bandry crowd, the recorder-play­ing crowd that got the ire of Amis’ hap­less epony­mous char­ac­ter, pre­sum­ably the crafties of their day.

    1. Sus­pect there’s a book title miss­ing there – Lucky Jim?

      Any­way, it’s a good point. A hand­ful of beat­niks and folkies mov­ing in their own cir­cles doesn’t amount to much but you might argue that it was those peo­ple who went on to invent and mar­ket things like miniskirts and afford­able stain­less steel cut­lery. Stuff that wasn’t junk, but wasn’t posh either. Mid­dling in terms of cost, high­ly inter­est­ing in terms of con­cep­tion.

      1. Biba and Ter­ence Con­ran (Habi­tat) being per­haps the defin­ing exam­ples of the time.

      2. yep, senil­i­ty awaits, and I’d even pulled the book down from the shelf to check the quote.

  9. Agree that the crafti­fi­ca­tion is hap­pen­ing all over, but I’m not sure I agree with the con­clu­sion about what need it serves. Your for­mu­la beer -> craft beer craft beer - tra­di­tion­al beer” seems clos­er, but I don’t think that quite cap­tures what’s going on. But I haven’t for­mu­lat­ed a bet­ter the­o­ry just yet.

  10. What you wrote about foun­tain pens sounds very sim­i­lar indeed. All the more since foun­tain pens, just like mechan­i­cal watch­es, are seem by most peo­ple as obso­lete, and can con­sti­tute a kind of philo­soph­i­cal state­ment about tech­no­log­i­cal progress and lux­u­ry from their own­ers. Pret­ty much what Ger­man retail­er Man­u­fac­tum (UK pres­ence : have been fos­ter­ing for two decades by sell­ing all kinds of items made.
    (FWIW, one of the pio­neer­ing watch micro­brands, Christo­pher Ward, is British, but they went as far as merg­ing with their Swiss con­trac­tor:

  11. I bought a new crafty French fra­grance just last week. I’d nev­er even real­ly thought about doing so before and it was not in a tra­di­tion­al store at all, but one of those hip­ster stores which sold all sorts of stuff. As long as it smells good, and is not evil, then great. A bit like beer then.….

  12. Phil & qq

    On the sub­ject of variety/novelty this post by Dave S springs to mind:

    It’s unde­ni­able that new-wave British craft brew­eries don’t trou­ble them­selves too much with pre­scrip­tivist ideas about what ‘doesn’t belong’ in beer, and it’s often the weird­er stuff that grabs atten­tion at beer fes­ti­vals and gets Twit­ter and Insta­gram buzzing. But again, once you actu­al­ly start look­ing, you find that vir­tu­al­ly every British craft brew­ery builds its range around pale ales, amber ales, stouts, porters and lagers.”

    As we say in the post, there are some Ker-aaaaaazy per­fumes that don’t real­ly seem to be designed to be worn, but quite a lot of ‘niche’ per­fumes seem to shift decent vol­umes because they’re just a *bit* to the left of the main­stream, rather than com­plete­ly barmy.

  13. I think there’s a book – or a PhD the­sis – in this thread. Lots of fan­tas­tic ideas to explore fur­ther…
    Have to say I’ve real­ly enjoyed this post (and the fol­low-up) even more than usu­al, togeth­er with the pre­vi­ous one – amaz­ing thought-starters; espe­cial­ly if we see it as the before and after of the crafti­fi­ca­tion process.

  14. Its always been the case that with the ben­e­fit of local knowl­edge, you could find high­er qual­i­ty prod­ucts and ser­vices with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly hav­ing to pay the price pre­mi­um asso­ci­at­ed with more wide­ly known, know­ing­ly high-end pro­duc­ers. This applies to every­thing from bak­eries to car mechan­ics.

    This knowl­edge used to be spread by word-of-mouth, but with the advent of the inter­net, it can be wide­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed, cre­at­ing an upsurge in demand for these high qual­i­ty “local” prod­ucts, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a much wider dis­tri­b­u­tion.

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