Generalisations about beer culture opinion real ale

The Post Craft World

Illustration: beer on a table.

It is inevitable that, by the time a trend goes ‘mainstream’, those who first championed it will be moving on. And so it is with ‘craft beer’.

2014 is set to be the year of craft beer, with the term ‘craft ales‘ leaking into everyday usage, while Wetherspoon’s, big regional brewers and supermarkets have gone into overdrive slapping the words onto every receptive surface.

So of course the cognoscenti, after some years of grumbling, have begun to reject the phrase outright.

We think it’s partly that they’re just bored of hearing it. They’re certainly bored of the debate about what it means, even as they’re drawn to join in.

It is also, however, gaining some distinctly negative connotations: we recently noticed a former noted craftophile describing a dodgy pint as ‘a bit too craft’ the other day.

Apart from BrewDog, we haven’t spoken to many brewers to whom we would apply the term who like or use it themselves.

In fact, these brewers from New Zealand have suggested an alternative…

Post craft

The elements of ‘craft beer’ people seem to be reacting against are sloppiness, inconsistency and sometimes downright dirtiness. The appetite for novelty doesn’t seem to be diminishing just yet, but there is perhaps now less appetite for bankrolling other people’s playtime: people are beginning to demand cleanness and consistency, and to reward those breweries which deliver it.

Or, to put it another way, people are realising that undisciplined, amateurish, enthusiastic ‘punk’ music is far more fun to listen to than ‘punk’ beers are to drink.

And after that?

The abandonment of ‘craft beer’ by the geeks won’t mean the sudden resurgence of ‘real ale’. Not yet, anyway: we can well imagine, in a few years time, a cutting-edge revivalist movement founded on brown bitter brewed in dodgy old barns, with crystal malt, Fuggles and Goldings.

Everything becomes cool again given time.

The Pub Curmudgeon and Pete Brown have also both considered the ‘craft beer’ trend (or fad) in recent posts.

beer in fiction / tv opinion

Beer: a flash in the pan?

On our recent trip to London, we found ourselves pondering the sustainability of the current craze for craft beer.

At the Southampton Arms, as befits our great age, we sat in the corner saying things like “What does he think his hair looks like?”; “Eee, she’ll catch her death in them trousers — they don’t reach her ankles!”; and “Is that lad wearing leggings and cowboy boots?” The crowd was young and fashionable and, for the most part, drinking cask ale from dimple mugs.

We have a suspicion that, in two years time, when beer has had its moment in the spotlight and, say, the eighties wine bar has made a retro comeback, or everyone’s drinking Sahti, or whatever, some of these people will deny ever having touched a pint of ale. Maybe they’ll secretly admit they didn’t like it at all and only did so to look cool.

Even if we are witnessing a mere trend, however, it will be impossible to put beer back in its box. After all, wine didn’t disappear from the collective consciousness when the Dagmar burned down. The heady euphoria of ten new breweries a week and can’t go on forever, but Britain’s beer landscape will have changed for good by the time the fad passes. A hidden demand for good beer will have been flushed out and many will have become (to some extent) beer geeks for life.

It’s hard to have a fling with beer: to know it is to love it.