Monday, October 15, 2012

Defining Craft

I'm a little behind the curve with this post, but I want to get my two sense in on this.

Last week, Zak Avery posted a question, What the Hell is craft beer? The post ended up being as much a response to his own question as a question itself. Zak, having participated in a panel discussion at the Indy Beer Man Con, got to hear number of explanations on exactly what a group of beer folks think "craft" means. What gets me about the  question—and I'm not singling Zak out on this, by any means—is the need to ask it at all.

I try to not butt in on discussions that involve CAMRA, or really British beer drinking habits and traditions at all, because truthfully, there is a subtlety I simply don't understand. I have however, noticed a significant cross-Atlantic differences when it comes to this perilous question. The U.K.ers, it seems, want to wrap craft up in a neat little box, so that real ale, and indy beer, and keg beer, and macro lager and every other kind of fermented product can have a cosy little column to reside in. Us Yanks, on the other hand, seem to be more interested not in what craft is, but rather what it's not. I have a few issues with both of these positions, but I'm not going to get into them.

Ya know why?

Because the bloggy interwebs have become a bastion for wrongness–or rather your (or my) wrongness. Defining "craft" is sissyfussian, because the conversation inevitably breaks down to who's wrong versus who's right, rather than actually coming to a consensus on anything. That's why no one has been able to define "craft" beer.

I don't believe in a holy conversion of the big to the small. I don't write this blog to convince you to come to the light side—the right side—of beer. I personally don't care what you drink, and I have no intentions to either educate your simple mind on the "correctness" of craft beer or evangelize you into seeing my opinion my way. You are an adult. You can and have made the decisions to like the things you like, without me.

I love beer—and I love drinking it and talking about it, and especially writing about it. This blog is purely an expression of me. I don't need to get into discussions about subjectivity, and that's what the What is craft beer? discussion is all about. Craft means a thousand different things to a thousand different people—and guess what? They're all right. If you think craft beer has to have ground-up puppies and kitties in it, then the argument that craft beer should only be made with gasoline is irrelevant. You have already defined craft beer for yourself, and any opposing point of view from the Gasoline Craft Brewers Alliance will fall on deaf ears. I take the argument to the absurd to prove a point—it's and argument for arguing's sake.

Someone commented on Alan's blog that "'s the intangibles that craft brewing represents that are ultimately more important than the process." I find that comment to be ridiculous. I personally, don't think that anything is more important to craft brewing than the process of making beer—and the beer that results from that process. That being said, I'm not mentioning this because my intention was to call this fella out. I mention it because calling him out on that point would have been silly. I might as well have tried to convince him that blue is a better color than green. He has his opinion and I have mine—and as Kipling wrote—never the twain shall meet.

All the time that is spent arguing over craft, or style, or whatever else the dispute du jour is, is time not spent drinking great beer—be it craft or macro, real or keg, tangible or intangible.


  1. Nah, there's just two types of beer: cask and keg. Er, and bottles. Make that three types.

    1. See Ron, that's why we get along. But don't forget the best kind of beer—free beer!

  2. It seems clear to me that the usage of "craft" is rapidly diverging. We have reached very different places from different starting points.

    1. USians, several decades ago: "Hey, why can’t we have tasty beer like the Europeans have?"
    2. People go off and learn to homebrew and start microbreweries
    3. "Craft beer" comes into being, distinct from the monolithic brewing industry that existed already, proud of its own achievements and respectful of the European brews that inspired it

    Years pass ...
    1. Small number of UKers: "Hey, why can’t we have tasty strong, hoppy beers like the Americans have?"
    2. People start making beer with US hops but find the market already populated with a wide variety of other beers
    3. "Craft beer" becomes an ideology directed against existing European brewing traditions which must be denigrated and insulted.

    Hence the ideology of "craft beer" is harmless in the USA but pernicious in Europe.

    1. Again, I can't speak for Europe, but I've grown to dislike the preciousness that "craft" implies here in the States. It's become an ideology here too, one that can take on a self importance, flaunting the hipster beautifulness of locally sourced unicorn farts. It's just beer for cripe's sake.

      I say have fun, be adventurous, but stay off the high horse and for the love of God, just make—or drink—great beer.

  3. This is exactly what I'm talking about.