Duncan Sambrook was recently asked by a magazine for a definition of Craft Beer. His succinct answer we believe represents a perfect summary of the current state of play:
“There has been lots of discussion about defining craft beer in the beer press, some looking at the size of the producer, others focusing on the beer styles but to my mind, whether the brewer is big or small, craft is all about brewing with a meticulous focus on quality. Regardless of whether the beer is in bottle, cask or keg, I think craft encompasses a style of brewing where the brewer has control of the beer he is producing, using the best ingredients and his skill and craftmanship as a brewer to produce premium quality beer.” DS
However, our resident tour guide Tom believed there was more to it. With Duncan’s blessing he conducted a survey to sort this mess out once and for all.
The results might just be a game-changer.
The term ‘Craft Beer’ makes me feel old. It does. Not because I’m particularly old, but because it’s like those phrases teenagers use I don’t understand.
The other day as I got off the bus a young man remarked to me “You look nang in those creps blud.” Is that an insult? I think it’s an insult, but I’m too British. “Thanks…?” I say/ask. Him and his friends burst out laughing. “Safe, man.” Am I? I’m not so sure.
I retreat to a pub where at least I can understand the language. Then I notice the black board loudly announcing a delicious array of Craft Beers. Great. I have no idea what that really means except it’s a phrase of American origin supposedly denoting quality. I ask a young barman what Craft Beer is… “Just means it tastes good, dunnit?” Thanks. Insightful.
But it’s worse than that. If you ask landlords, beer lovers and brewers what Craft Beer is, everyone has a different idea. Whether it be size, ingredients, taste, no one quite seems to know what it is. I might not be able to understand the teenagers outside, but they at least understand each other. Even if it seems alien to me, they do indeed have a common language.
We on the other hand don’t. We used to. But not anymore.
We are therefore at risk of being overtaken by the youth in terms of intelligence of communication. Whilst they abbreviate to communicate quicker and confuse outsiders, we are only confusing ourselves.
If the teenagers catch on, it won’t be long before they mock us with chants of “Oi, you’re well craft!” meaning you’re confused with just enough arrogance to think you’re not.
So in a bid to save us all, Sambrook’s agreed to let me launch a survey aimed at getting right to the core of what craft beer is. The results are…well, mind-blowing. If I do say so myself.
644 of you took the survey which is definitely a big enough sample for it to speak for the entire world in the definition of Craft Beer. You’re welcome, Earth.
Question 1: Size
A rarity: it seems size doesn’t matter, but if push comes to shove smaller is probably better. There’s a sentence you won’t hear too often.
Question 2: Age
Ageism is a thing of the past, whilst newer breweries tip the scale for the minority.
Question 3: Family
Sharp decline: 45% believe craft beer can’t come from a brewery owned by a global company, meaning almost half say Sharpe’s, recently acquired by Coors, can no longer produce craft beer.
Question 4: Ingredients
Phone home for hops: A lot of faith emerging in E.T. Time to commission a few more mars missions.
Question 5: Quality
Advanced Humans: A quarter are now questioning whether E.T. would be a good supplier of ingredients after remembering the scene he gets drunk on next to nothing, implying his highly advanced race have not yet made it as far as alcohol.
Question 6: Vessel
Designer Angel: Cask just pips keg and bottle to claim the prize as most desirable, but the dress sense of an angel is overwhelmingly irrelevant.
Question 7: Brewer
Monkey business: the majority would like to see a monkey as a brewer.
Question 8: Yeast
.Thirst for science: almost a third are parched by the thought of huge vats of bubbling beer.
Question 9: Recipe
Dying of thirst: the dry mouths have doubled, but some have stay focused enough to tip the scale towards nectar that pushes the envelope of flavour.
Question 10: Taste
Aaahhhhhh: 40% no longer care and are nursing their second pint.
The most incredible thing about this survey though is hidden in the 15% or 77 people who plumped for ‘Other’ to give us their own word. You see, of those 77, 31 people or 6% of everyone who answered this question, went out of their way to type in 4 crucial letters…
If we remove the 40% of people who are now slurring and swaying at the end of the bar, that single word – Good – was volunteered by 10% of you.
So, whilst ‘like heaven’, ‘different’, ‘refreshing’, ‘crisp’ and ‘comforting’ were all more popular, we put those words into your dry mouth, which isn’t really fair.
Good on the other hand came from the recesses of your beer-starved brains.
So what does all this mean?
If we look at the minorities in each of these questions, ignoring those that didn’t mind one way or the other, it appears Craft Beer comes from small, relatively new, privately owned breweries sourcing fresh ingredients from their own country, made with ale yeast by a brewer who cares about what they’re doing, delivered in casks and that tastes ‘like heaven’.
Problem is, I’m ignoring the vast majority of those who took this survey and that’s just massive manipulation. Corruption even. So please ignore that previous sentence.
Nope the true, conclusive definition of craft beer that shall be used from this day forth across all territories contained within planet Earth until the end of time is as follows:
Size doesn’t matter; age doesn’t matter; ownership doesn’t matter; ingredients don’t matter; vessel doesn’t matter; the brewer doesn’t matter; yeast doesn’t matter and recipe doesn’t matter.
What matters is the taste. And since 10% of you brought this word forth from the depths of your minds, I think it’s only fair, only just, to tower it above the others:
Craft Beer tastes good.
So there we have it. The survey to end all surveys. A conclusion so mind-blowing E.T. is booking his next flight. Craft Beer means good beer.
I head back to that pub where I took refuge from those insulting teenagers. The young barman asks me what the results of the survey were.
“It must taste good!” I exclaim proudly.
“Yeah, that’s what I said.” He’s right. That’s exactly what he said.
I finish my pint of good beer wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life and head outside. The same teenagers sit on the wall, sniggering as they notice me.
I just have to know. I wander over.
“What did you say to me the other day?”
“Your creps look nang, blud.” My blank expression makes them laugh more. Much like how I feel with Craft Beer, I’m not in on the joke.
“Your shoes look good, mate.”
As I walk away feeling strangely overwhelmed to be complimented on my fashion by teenagers, I realise that since more people understand this teenage language than understand what craft beer means, perhaps we should adopt it?
So ladies, gentlemen and E.T., since Craft Beer is now defined as Good Beer I propose we rename it to something more people understand and that will no doubt survive longer in the English language…
I feel young again already.
Tom Kerevan is a beer-lover, screenwriter and independent film producer www.tomkerevan.com