The “C” Word – Let Beer Be Beer

craft noun (SKILL)

(plural crafts) skill and experience, especially in relation to making objects; a job or activity that needs skill and experience, or something produced using skill and experience
I’ve been drinking “beer” for nearly 35 years now. I think that that qualifies me as “old”, to some. My epiphany was in the venerable Manchester institution The Peveril Of The Peak. It came, in about 1982, when I was just about to go and watch the Bristol “Punk-Jazz” band Pigbag and it came, tyhanks to a dear old friend, Martin Murray. You see, I was a BIG BRAND LAGER drinker back then. And the beer in my hand that evening was Carlsberg lager.

Then Martin handed me a golden brown liquid. It was Wilsons Bitter. And it changed my life. It was creamy. It had flavour. And it was Mancunian. Thus began a journey.

Tempus Fugit. And tastes change. And mine most certainly have. And THAT journey started with Punk IPA, by Brewdog. A beer full of fruity flavour and a bracing bitterness.

From traditional to modern. Or – as some would have it said – to “Craft”.

Why do I enclose the word in quotation marks? Because that word means absolutely sod all to me. I just like beer.

Which brings me to a piece by London beer blogger Matt Curtis which highlighted (to my ignorant Northern focussed eyes) the formation of a body named the United Craft Brewers. (Click the hyperlinks to read/access)

Matt – to be fair – is a damn fine writer, with a viewpoint on beer formed from his own epiphanic (is that actually a word?) experiences via US beers. We differ on many things mind, including  one of his thoughts in the above piece

“For Craft Beer in the UK to remain viable and to continue to grow it needs an organisation that both defines and supports it, lest it become the fad that some consider it to be.”

“Craft Beer” isn’t a “thing”. It’s a label. And one that – to be quite frank – bores me rigid.

One of the things that Matt mentions refers to the size of a brewer “I don’t believe being ‘Craft’ has anything to do with the size of a brewery.” In so much as “C****” could be defined by size, I defer to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online definition of craft. If something is made with skill and passion, you can call it what you like, to me, that is a laudable thing.

However….the (US) Brewers Association DOES refer to size when defining what (to them) is a “Craft Brewery” and I quote ”

An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional.  


Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.”

Compared to almost ALL the breweries that I know (obviously leaving the bland Marstons & Greene King out), Brewdog (one of the founders of UCB) can hardly be labelled “small”. Camden are probably stretching that definition a tad too. So, any definition that ignores size, could be regarded as convenient, one might say. And ignores the fundamental BA principle.

The UCB invites brewers to register with them – via the website – so they can enter the discussion and meet in September. I’ll be intrigued to see the take-up of that invitation. I’ve been very tired recently, what with ISBF taking up my spare time that the day job allows, but I woke up with a start on a recent visit to a brewery that I respect hugely. Small, hugely hop forward and the makers of the most consistently excellent beers. I jolted awake and to full attention when one of the owners/brewers said “We’re not a Craft Brewery. We’re a Micro Brewery”

The UCB strikes me as the big boys of Modern British Brewing setting out to take some form of control or leadership of this (if it can be described as a) movement. I could be (and hope that I am) wrong. I’m fairly thick and may have missed the point.

But on one thing I am really clear.

For F***s sake, just let beer be beer.

Full of flavour. Made by people who actually give a shit about what they are doing and do it with care. Consistently.

And let’s stop with the labels eh? What’s wrong with just brewing great beer?