A Glossary of Terms

Amongst all the chat about the Campaign for Real Ale’s AGM at the weekend we noticed a few old questions resurfacing: why, exactly, does CAMRA campaign for Real Ale and not Cask Ale? And, of course, “Why is everyone using that bloody awful, meaningless word ‘craft’?”

With that in mind, this isn’t an attempt to jus­ti­fy or pro­mote any one term over anoth­er but rather a chrono­log­i­cal list of terms and that we’ve noticed in cir­cu­la­tion, how they have been and con­tin­ue to be used, and (to the best of our reck­on­ing) where they came from.

If there is a point we’re try­ing to make it’s prob­a­bly that most of these terms are new­er than they seem, and that their mean­ings are less fixed in law or tra­di­tion than you might assume.

If there are terms you think ought to be added, let us know in the com­ments below.

And if you want more detailed accounts of some of this click the links through­out which will take you to old posts of ours, and get hold of a copy of our 2014 book Brew Bri­tan­nia which cov­ers the birth of CAMRA and rise of craft beer in some detail.

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Beer from the Wood, 1880s. A near-syn­onym for cask ale, prob­a­bly derived from ‘Wines from the Wood’ (1850s) which dis­tin­guished wine dis­pensed on tap from bulk wood­en casks from the bot­tled prod­uct. The Soci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of Beer From the Wood (SPBW) was found­ed in 1963 and were prob­a­bly drawn to the phrase because of it’s stout yeo­man of the bar archa­ic qual­i­ty. It was used freely in the 1960s, e.g. in Bats­ford guides, often but not always refer­ring to what we now call cask ale, even though by this time most casks were not actu­al­ly made of wood. These days, it refers specif­i­cal­ly to cask-con­di­tioned beer served from wood­en casks – a grow­ing trend.

Keg Beer, 1955. Keg beer as we know it – stored and served from pres­surised con­tain­ers – was pio­neered by Wat­ney’s in the 1930s but this par­tic­u­lar phrase was first used by Flow­ers in the mid-1950s. The ter­mi­nol­o­gy was mud­dled for most of the decade that fol­lowed with kegs some­times called casks and so on. Which leads us to…

1956 Flower's Keg beermat.
Flow­er’s Keg – not the first keg beer, but the first to use the word in this way, in 1955. It then became (to their annoy­ance) a gener­ic term.

Cask Beer, 1968. The British Gov­ern­men­t’s inquiry into monop­o­lies in the beer indus­try at the end of the 1960s required the firm­ing up of some pre­vi­ous­ly vague ter­mi­nol­o­gy. “We use the descrip­tion ‘draught’ beer to include any beer which is sup­plied to the retail­er in bulk con­tain­ers and drawn to order in the pub for each cus­tomer”, the final report said. “Although the word ‘draught’ is some­times used to dis­tin­guish tra­di­tion­al draught from keg beer, for the pur­pos­es of this report we call the for­mer ‘cask’ beer.”

Bière Arti­sanale, French, c.1970. We’re a bit shaky on this one because it’s hard­er to access sources, and we under­stand them less well even when we can dig them up, but there are def­i­nite­ly instances of this exact phrase in print from around 1970 onward. (And see Craft-brew­ing, below.) Arti­sanale and direct trans­la­tions in oth­er lan­guages are used wide­ly on the Con­ti­nent in a way that rough­ly cor­re­sponds to the late 20th cen­tu­ry sense of craft beer in Eng­lish, i.e. dis­tinc­tive, spe­cial, inter­est­ing, and prob­a­bly from small­er inde­pen­dent pro­duc­ers. The union of Bel­gian Lam­bic pro­duc­ers, HORAL, for exam­ple, found­ed in 1997, is De Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lam­biek­bieren, and trans­lates its name in Eng­lish as the High Coun­cil for Arti­sanal Lam­bic Beers.

Sign: "Traditional Real Ales".

Real Ale, 1973. In 1971, the founders of the Cam­paign for the Revi­tal­i­sa­tion of Ale (CAMRA) chose the word ‘ale’ rather than beer because it seemed more down-to-earth than ‘beer’. Then at the 1973 CAMRA annu­al gen­er­al a deci­sion was made to change the organ­i­sa­tion’s name so it would be eas­i­er to say (espe­cial­ly after a few drinks) and activist Peter Lyn­lie sug­gest­ed the Cam­paign for Real Ale, to per­mit the reten­tion of the exist­ing acronym. And so Real Ale, almost by acci­dent, became a syn­onym for Cask Beer.

Craft-brew­ing, 1977. Used by British writer Michael Jack­son in his World Guide to Beer to refer to rare exam­ples of non-indus­tri­al “spe­cial­i­ty brews” in France, along with craft-brew­ers in the sec­tion on the Amer­i­can brew­ing indus­try dur­ing pro­hi­bi­tion. It was prob­a­bly a direct trans­la­tion of bière arti­sanale.

Micro-brew­ery, 1982. A phrase that first began to appear in print with ref­er­ence to Amer­i­can brew­eries at around the time of the first Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val, and which saw off ‘mini-brew­ery’ and ‘bou­tique brew­ery’ (see Bou­tique Beer, below) as com­peti­tors. In Britain these were gen­er­al­ly called ‘small’ or ‘free trade’ brew­eries until the 1990s. An ambigu­ous term, Micro-brew­ery was also often applied to what we might now dis­tin­guish as Brew­pubs.

Zero Degrees, Bristol.

Brew­pub, 1982. At the 1982 con­fer­ence of the Amer­i­can Home­brew­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion David Bruce, of Firkin fame, gave a talk enti­tled ‘The Eng­lish Brew­pub and the Resur­gence of the Small, Local Brew­ery in Eng­land and Amer­i­ca’. In Britain pubs that made their own beer on the premis­es were known as ‘home-brew hous­es’, or ‘home-brew pubs’, which mor­phed into Brew­pub, we would guess, to avoid con­fu­sion with home-brew­ing of the ama­teur vari­ety.

Bot­tle-con­di­tioned Beer, 1984. In 1980, CAMRA was describ­ing bot­tled Guin­ness as nat­u­ral­ly con­di­tioned. By 1983 it was con­di­tioned in the bot­tle. Then in the 1984 Good Beer Guide it was final­ly described using the phrase we know today.

Craft Beer, 1986. There are almost cer­tain­ly ear­li­er uses of this exact phrase but 1986 is when it start­ed to appear in print in US pub­li­ca­tions such as this news­pa­per arti­cle and Vince Cot­tone’s Good Beer Guide: Brew­ers and Pubs of the Pacif­ic North­west. The ear­li­est instance in a British pub­li­ca­tion we’ve been able to find is from CAM­RA’s What’s Brew­ing for August 1993, in an arti­cle by an Amer­i­can writer, but Roger Protz and oth­er soon took it up. Ini­tial­ly used as a delib­er­ate­ly vague catch-all to dis­tin­guish sup­pos­ed­ly interesting/distinctive/independent beers (includ­ing, but not exclu­sive­ly refer­ring to, Real Ale) from loathed bland/industrial/macro prod­ucts.

Bou­tique Beer, 1988. Used by Michael Jack­son in the 1988 edi­tion of his World Guide to Beer and occa­sion­al­ly up until the present day. In Jack­son’s usage exact­ly syn­ony­mous with Craft Beer, above. Ear­li­er in the decade a vari­ant, ‘Bou­tique Brew­ery’, had occa­sion­al­ly been used as an alter­na­tive to Micro-brew­ery.

Design­er Beer, 1991. Over­lap­ping with Craft Beer but with more focus on style and brand­ing than the beer itself. Sap­poro, in its weird pint-glass-shaped can, was con­sid­ered design­er, but does­n’t seem to have qual­i­fied as craft.

Microp­ub, 2005. The first Microp­ub was launched in Herne, Kent, by Mar­tyn Hilli­er and as far as we have been able to ascer­tain was described that way from the very start. The term was Hillier’s own inven­tion inspired by the idea that it was the pub equiv­a­lent of the Micro-brew­ery. By his own admis­sion he has spent a lot of time since explain­ing that, no, it isn’t a Brew­pub or Micro-brew­ery.

Nano-brew­ery, c.2005. As some of the first wave of Micro-brew­eries got big a word was need­ed to describe tiny com­mer­cial setups oper­at­ing on a home-brew scale. We can’t trace the exact roots of the phrase but here’s a 2006 post on Beer Advo­cate which seems to sug­gest it was in gen­er­al cir­cu­la­tion among the cognoscen­ti by this point.

KeyKeg, 2006. This is a trade­mark for a spe­cif­ic line of prod­ucts pro­duced by Light­weight Con­tain­ers, a Dutch com­pa­ny, and launched at a brew­ing trade fair in Novem­ber 2006. Where­as tra­di­tion­al Keg Beer is exposed to pro­pel­lant gas KeyKeg beer sits in a bag inside a pres­surised ball and does not come into con­tact with the pro­pel­lant. Depend­ing on how the beer derives its car­bon­a­tion, it may or may not qual­i­fy as Real Ale under the stan­dards of CAM­RA’s Tech­ni­cal Com­mit­tee. (Key­Cask is also a trade­mark of Light­weight Con­tain­ers, applied to essen­tial­ly the same prod­ucts.)

Craft Keg, 2010. This is a hard one to pin down but this 2012 arti­cle by Adri­an Tier­ney-Jones for All About Beer places a mark­er point for the term hav­ing tru­ly arrived. Before this, from around 2010, most peo­ple were care­ful­ly refer­ring to “craft keg beer” – that is, Keg Beer, that was also Craft Beer, but look­ing at old Tweets you’ll see peo­ple like Dave ‘Hard­knott’ Bai­ley using it quite freely. There was­n’t real­ly an urgent need for a way to dis­tin­guish good keg from bad (yes, we know – just a short­cut) until the 1990s because until then all keg was bad; and that need did­n’t become urgent until after Brew­Dog began to make waves.

UPDATED 26/04/2018: Added entries for Micro-brew­ery, Brew­pub, Nano-brew­ery, Microp­ub and KeyKeg, and amend­ed oth­er entries to fit as required.

3 thoughts on “A Glossary of Terms”

  1. Nice­ly put. Thank you. I remem­ber the late Michael Jack­son telling me about “bou­tique beer” after one of his vis­its to the USA. BEFORE 1988.

    I can also remem­ber the French stuff in Lille in the 1970s.

    Inci­den­tal­ly, McE­wan served keg ale in the 1930s and lat­er “for ship’s stores only”. (But they did­n’t call it keg). I believe it may have been sparkling ale in bulk. I was once told that this was the ori­gin on land of keg beer. But I am in a Scot­tish con­text here.


  2. Thank you for an excel­lent sum­ma­ry. When I start­ed to drink George Younger’s Alloa Ale (& the occa­sion­al pint of Draught Bass) in the Tit­wood Bar on Niths­dale Road, Glas­gow in 1956, I had no idea that I was drink­ing Real Ale. Now, 60 years or so lat­er, I still pre­fer to drink cask-con­di­tioned beer when­ev­er I can. I am proud to have joined the Glas­gow & West of Scot­land branch of CAMRA when it was formed in 1974 (by which time all the decent Younger Ales had dis­ap­peared). Thanks to CAMRA, it is now plea­sure to return to Scot­land and sam­ple the prod­uct from a huge vari­ety of Real Ale brew­ers.

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