We were pondering the hard-to-define, much-loathed term “craft beer” again this morning and decided that, rather than a firm definition, it makes much more sense to think about indicators or signs.
The following list, off the top of our head, is not exhaustive and, clearly, we’re not suggesting that any brewery needs to be able to tick all ten to be considered to be making craft beer. Equally, some of these apply to breweries that, instinctively, we wouldn’t consider craft brewers.
So, this is just more food for thought, really.
1. They use malts like Maris Otter or even Plumage Archer because they want a particular flavour in their beer, rather than higher-yielding, cheaper varieties. This fact is mentioned on the packaging or on the website.
2. They might well produce single-hop beers or beers which prominently feature specific hops. Their choice of hops is driven by something other than the market. It is possible/easy to find out which varieties are used.
3. It is easy to find out where the beer is made – ideally because it is mentioned on the packaging. It does not pretend to be from somewhere else. (I.e. Belgium, Denmark, Newcastle.)
4. The brewers have their names and/or faces on the website or packaging. There are identifiable individuals making the beer. They might even be contactable on Twitter or through their own blogs.
5. They lager or age beer for extended periods even though it’s expensive to do so.
6. Their beers have vintages and change from year to year: they are not entirely focused on consistency.
7. There are signs of innovation led by the brewers rather than marketers or management.
8. The brewers are the management.
9. They make beer that makes you say “wow”, not “meh”. (A beer can be 3.8% abv, brown and hopped with Goldings and still make you go “wow”, by the way.)
10. They make a dark beer: they haven’t ceded this ground to Guinness.