News, Nuggets & Longreads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Keptinis, Craeft

Here’s all the reading about beer and pubs that inspired us to hit the BOOKMARK button in the past week, from pubs to hazy IPAs.

But let’s start with some items of news.

Illustration: intimidating pub.

For Orig­i­nal Grav­i­ty Emma Inch has writ­ten about the feel­ing of being on edge in pubs, even if noth­ing con­crete hap­pens, because of a sense that peo­ple are just a lit­tle too aware of “what makes you dif­fer­ent”:

Through­out my drink­ing life I’ve been asked to leave a pub on the grounds that it’s a ‘fam­i­ly friend­ly venue’; I’ve wit­nessed a friend being eject­ed for giv­ing his male part­ner a dry peck on the cheek; I’ve had a fel­low cus­tomer shout homo­pho­bic abuse in my ear whilst the bar­tender calm­ly con­tin­ued to ask me to pay for my pint… Once, I had to shield my face from fly­ing glass as the pub win­dows were kicked in by big­ots out­side, and I still remem­ber the sharp, breath­less fear in the days fol­low­ing the Admi­ral Dun­can pub bomb­ing, not know­ing if it was all over, or who and where would be tar­get­ed next.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “News, Nuggets & Lon­greads 14 July 2018: Cain’s, Kep­ti­nis, Craeft”

The Community Is Real, Even if You Don’t Go to the Meetings

Illustration: All Together Now

Martyn Cornell is wrong: there is a craft beer community.

We see evi­dence all the time of peo­ple meet­ing up in strange parts of the world; swap­ping bot­tles, sto­ries and infor­ma­tion; crash­ing in each oth­er’s spare bed­rooms; organ­is­ing events and com­pe­ti­tions; col­lab­o­rat­ing on blogs and pod­casts; going to wed­dings and birth­day par­ties, often at great incon­ve­nience; and sup­port­ing each oth­er dur­ing dif­fi­cult times.

There are peo­ple whose social lives are defined by it, whose careers have been deter­mined by con­nec­tions so made, and who met their part­ners at beer fes­ti­vals.

That does­n’t mean every­body who is inter­est­ed in beer is nec­es­sar­i­ly part of the Com­mu­ni­ty. We’re not, real­ly, through choice. (Sor­ry, stranger-who-also-likes-beer, but, no, you can­not sleep on our sofa.) But the Com­mu­ni­ty does­n’t cease to be just because stand­off­ish sorts decide not to join in.

With­in the com­mu­ni­ty, there are cliques, too – con­cen­trat­ed expres­sions of com­mu­ni­ty which, by def­i­n­i­tion, are also exclu­sive. Oh, yes, the Com­mu­ni­ty can cer­tain­ly be frac­tious, pet­ty and mean-spir­it­ed. But actu­al­ly, all that soap opera – all the emo­tion­al explo­sions, break-ups and schisms – seem to us like evi­dence of the Com­mu­ni­ty’s real­i­ty, and its com­plex­i­ty. (See also: the com­mu­ni­ties that grow up around any­thing, from church­es to foot­ball teams.)

The Com­mu­ni­ty has no sin­gle point of view, no leader, no chief spokesper­son. There is no mem­ber­ship card or secret hand­shake.

From out­side, the Com­mu­ni­ty can some­times look exploita­tive, too. How do you tell the dif­fer­ence between (a) busi­ness­es whose own­ers feel a real sense of belong­ing to, and duty towards, a craft beer com­mu­ni­ty, and (b) cyn­i­cal pre­tence? Or, some­where in between, busi­ness­es that start out as the for­mer and drift towards the lat­ter as out­side invest­ment approach­es.

Mar­tyn is right, though, when he says that busi­ness­es don’t owe the Com­mu­ni­ty any­thing. If a brew­ery decides to sell, in part or in whole, it is not oblig­ed to con­sult the Com­mu­ni­ty, or apol­o­gise.

But if they expect to ben­e­fit from the Com­mu­ni­ty dur­ing the start­up phase, in terms of PR, labour, and even finan­cial invest­ment, then it only seems fair to allow those who per­ceive them­selves to be part of that Com­mu­ni­ty a moment of dis­may when the brew­ery with­draws from the infor­mal con­tract. (Dis­may not includ­ing abuse, of course, espe­cial­ly when direct­ed at staff man­ning social media.)

Or, to put all that anoth­er way, the Com­mu­ni­ty is real, but it isn’t uni­ver­sal, isn’t Utopia, and should­n’t be a cult. It is cer­tain­ly more than a sin­gle Face­book group.

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.

* * *

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.

QUICK POST: One Practical Thing


This morning another conversation about the price of craft beer broke out on Twitter, as it does every three months or so.

This time the prompt was an arti­cle by Will Hawkes for the Guardian on pro­gres­sive brew­eries and inclu­sive­ness:

Women are increas­ing­ly tak­ing the respon­si­bil­i­ty for shap­ing the beer world. Writer Melis­sa Cole and brew­er Jae­ga Wise have dri­ven the cam­paign against using sex­u­alised images of women in beer mar­ket­ing.… There’s [also] a grow­ing sense that the beer world needs to make it eas­i­er for cus­tomers to drink its prod­ucts. Lead­ing the way is Ride Brew­ing Com­pa­ny in Glas­gow, where the tap­room is ful­ly acces­si­ble to peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties. Head brew­er Dave Lan­ni­gan says his expe­ri­ences have influ­enced this stance. “I am offi­cial­ly dis­abled through loss of hear­ing, so have per­son­al expe­ri­ence of being exclud­ed,” he says. “We are just keen to make a dif­fer­ence, no mat­ter how small.”

(Some­one did great work on the head­line for that sto­ry, by the way.)

This prompt­ed food writer Tony Nay­lor to Tweet the fol­low­ing:

Lots of good initiatives here but if craft beer wants an inclusive working class audience it needs to have a serious conversation about the race to establish the £5 pint as standard. What would you drink if you were skint? Idea: £3 Pint Project. 12 breweries in, say, Greater MCR take turns each month to brew a £3 pint/ get it stocked in loads of good bars/ to see what’s possible stylistically. Now THAT (& even £3 is expensive if you’re skint), would be a positive move.

We think that’s quite an inter­est­ing, provoca­tive sug­ges­tion and, indeed, made a sim­i­lar one our­selves in 2012. He’s cer­tain­ly not say­ing all beer should be £3 a pint, or that £5 pints should be banned, or are a great evil – just that some delib­er­ate, dis­rup­tive ges­ture on price might shake things up a bit.

But whether it’s a prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tion or not it did make us think of some­thing beer enthu­si­asts and com­men­ta­tors could be doing more often: mak­ing the effort to high­light good val­ue beers.

Big, rare, strange craft beers nat­u­ral­ly attract a lot of cov­er­age because they’re dif­fer­ent and come with some sort of sto­ry, but that can add up to a sense that (to bor­row CAM­RA’s con­tro­ver­sial phrase) they are ‘the pin­na­cle of the brew­er’s art’ and that if you’re drink­ing any­thing else, you’re slum­ming it. Why both­er? Real­ly, you should sell an organ or two, or skip your lunchtime avo­ca­do feast to cov­er the cost of the upgrade. (Remem­ber, nobody has any mon­ey these days.)

So, instead of moan­ing about expen­sive pints – or at least as well as doing that – make a point of flag­ging great ones you’ve found at £3 a pint or £2 a can.

It does­n’t have to be an essay – just a Face­book post, Tweet or pass­ing men­tion in a post on anoth­er top­ic. But essays are good too. Food crit­ic Jay Rayn­er has just shared a piece defend­ing his writ­ing about expen­sive restau­rants but one of the best things he’s ever writ­ten was about a Pol­ish restau­rant in Birm­ing­ham with main cours­es at under a ten­ner.

Of course nobody should pre­tend to like beers they don’t, or hold back from writ­ing about expen­sive beers that real­ly get them excit­ed, but if there’s a read­i­ly avail­able, afford­able beer you real­ly do enjoy, take a moment to tell the world, with­out apolo­gies or caveats, and with­out expect­ing a medal for your brav­ery.

Session #131: Three Questions About Beer

Illustration: 2018 BEER, constructivist style.

For this 131st Session of the ever-fragile Session (a monthly event which sees beer bloggers round the world post on the same topic) co-founder Jay Brooks has stepped in as emergency host and poses three questions.

  1. What one word, or phrase, do you think should be used to describe beer that you’d like to drink?

What Jay wants to know here, we gath­er, is which phrase we might pre­fer to ‘craft beer’, giv­en the gen­er­al deri­sion that term elic­its from beer geeks in 2018.

But here’s the thing: we don’t use the term craft beer all that often, but when we do want a short­hand phrase for These Beers which are dif­fer­ent to Those Beers, with flex­i­ble cri­te­ria and vague cat­e­go­ry bound­aries, craft beer still seems as good as any.

We don’t real­ly care – bou­tique beer (pre­ten­tious), design­er beer (sounds as if it wears a shiny grey suit with the sleeves rolled up), indie beer (a lit­tle more spe­cif­ic), or even Cat­e­go­ry X94, would all work just as well – but as craft beer does mean some­thing (even if nobody agrees exact­ly what) and is in every­day use on the street, why both­er fight­ing it?

Craft beer’ is fine, and we will con­tin­ue to use it occa­sion­al­ly, if it’s all the same to you.

2. What two breweries do you think are very underrated?

Jay set the bar high on this one: “every­thing they brew should be spot on”. We can’t think of a sin­gle brew­ery that meets that stan­dard and most of those that come near aren’t under­rat­ed. But…

Maybe our brew­ery of the year for 2017, Bris­tol Beer Fac­to­ry, gets a bit less atten­tion than it deserves. It is a touch con­ser­v­a­tive by the stan­dards of 2018; it lacks nov­el­ty val­ue being more than a decade old; and it can seem some­what face­less. Those beers, though. Oh, those beers.

And we’ve been very pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by some of the small West Coun­try brew­eries on rota­tion at our new local, The Drap­er’s Arms, many of which we’d nev­er heard of and/or nev­er tried. There are a few that might end up fill­ing this slot, when we’ve real­ly got to to know them. Ket­tle­smith, for exam­ple, or Stroud, or Ched­dar Ales, all of which have now moved from Risky to Sol­id in our men­tal list of trust­ed brew­eries, with poten­tial to progress fur­ther.

3. Which three kinds of beer would you like to see more of in 2018?

Mild. Dark, ide­al­ly, but with flavours defined by sug­ars rather than out-of-place roasti­ness. (Mild does not just mean baby porter.)

Pale-n-hop­py. It’s not there aren’t lots of them, just that we don’t come across them quite as often as we’d like. Ide­al­ly, every pub would have at least one on offer, just like they’d have one mild/porter/stout, but that’s not our expe­ri­ence so far in Bris­tol pubs.

Impe­r­i­al stout. Although peo­ple com­plain ‘that’s all you get these days’, we still hard­ly ever encounter them in pubs. Bot­tles would be fine – this is one style that can sit in the fridge for months just get­ting more inter­est­ing. The funki­er and scari­er the bet­ter, but ide­al­ly fruit/chocolate/coffee free.