Sunday, 14 September 2014



There is an unending debate about what is and is not Craft Beer. It will never be solved. For one very good reason.

"Craft Beer" does not exist.

There is, basically, excellent beer, good beer, ok beer, mediocre beer, crap beer and awful beer. The size and ownership of the brewery in question has little impact on the quality of the product.  "Craft" as it stands today is just a tick-box list of the things a certain sector of beer consumers like and expect to see. 
Microbreweries in London and elsewhere (but mainly London) are tripping over themselves to be the beardiest, distressed-fontiest and railway-archiest brewery around.  They proclaim about being wild and crazy dudes chucking hops and stuff into a bucket and somehow (somehow!) coming out with amazing beer at the end. The fact that brewing is an exacting and careful process, and the people behind the breweries are often refugees from IT,  Commerce and Academia is not mentioned. Because that wouldn't be "Craft".
Since the whole "Craft" ethos has been distilled down to a basic formula of "Craft" signifiers, it's no surprise the big brewers have taken them and made their own "Craft" beers. In most cases these are no better or worse than so-called "authentic craft". But the fact it's happening shows how easily done it is.

So, enjoy your beer. Macro or micro. Craft keg or cask. But remember that nothing is free of marketing and associated bullshit. Otherwise, stay inside and drink your homebrew.


  1. Historically in class riddled Blighty domestic produce was the preserve of a working class and the middle and upper enjoyed the ability to enjoy more expensive imported produce. As prices have democratised, most imported food and wines have become accessible to all whilst still retaining there previous generation position as class signifiers.

    Therefore much domestic produce is re marketed as artisinal, organic, posh or even craft. You can buy artisinal scotch eggs for christ sake. Craft beer is no more nor less a marketing term for selling domestic beer to middle class waitrose shoppers at prices the plebs are unwilling to pay.

    As to whether this is to the good or bad. To the good it is domestic economic activity. British people making things and selling them to other Brits. To the bad it is an indication that the class differences of generations ago are still with us.

  2. A friend of mine worked in a posh shoe and handbag shop in London in the 1980s and was told she could have anything at cost price. "Not at these prices," she thought, until she fell in love with an item costing more than £110 and decided to treat herself. She was amazed to find the cost price was around £17.

    Some people simply like to pay more to prove how discerning they are.

  3. Retail margins on clothes, Nev, have long been outrageous. About 20 years ago when British textiles went down the pan and it was all outsourced to Bangalore, the consumer got no benefit until the supermarkets entered the market. Realising they could apply a lower margin, pile it high, sell it cheap approach they cleaned up. Unable to accuse them of below cost selling they were accused (correctly) of exploiting unskilled labour by the very high street retailers that pioneered doing just that but at higher retail margins. You can still pay more at M&S but they still don’t guarantee me the Indian lady in Bangalore doing the sewing is paid enough to feed her kids. If they did I might by a pricier shirt.

    Back to craft, my grandmother’s sister used to like a dish called pig trotters. I have never eaten it. I gather it was a cheap cut working class people used to buy from butchers shops. Like offal & tripe and such. I gather it takes a long time to cook and isn’t as convenient as steak. Prosperity appeared to have killed such dishes off. In a posh eatery the other week, what is on the menu? Pig’s trotters and all manner of offal based rubbish masquerading as fashionable for £30+ a plate. A square plate, mind. In a place they don’t let you have ketchup.

    Dress it up, hike its price and see if you can part a fool from their money. But you see, those fools would not buy it if it was dirt cheap. It’s pricey, therefore it must be good.

    If you want middle class people to drink domestic beer, then craft beer is a necessary development in the market. They don’t want a £1.80 pint of Sams old brewery until it’s rebranded as craft and costs £4.50

  4. You're being harsh @cookie. Small scale / artisanal production is expensive - and for some genuinely craft-scale products is fairly reflected in the price asked. If people pay it, I guess it's because they're happy to be buying that intangible on top of the inherent qualities of the liquid. Fair enough. Their money. Course, if they're buying something out of a medium sized chemical factory with the c-word on the label in fake letterpress, then something's gone wrong.

  5. Of course stringer, the celebration of a cottage industry created through a differential tax. That's what the waitrose shopper pays more for. Big is bad.

    I guess my £1 tesco underpants sewn by indian children in a fire trap hovel are just as craft eh? Nothing out of a nasty modern factory with a health and safety certificate.