A few weeks ago Melbourne blogger ‘Ale of a Time’ (aka Luke) posted a rant about the stupidity of the term ‘craft’ beer. Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the term, but then I like craft. I like to imagine that a craft beer has had as much thought, quality ingredients, and skill put into it as a sock that I’ve knitted. To me, it seemed more appropriate than microbrew and less wanky than boutique beers. But I could see Luke’s point. Particularly when he concluded that as far as beer is concerned, ‘Some is good, some is less good, some is made by evil companies, some is made by nice people. It. Is. Called. Beer.’*
A couple of days later, I had a few beers with Luke and I found myself agreeing with him more and more. But as we chatted we realised we could not remove ‘craft’ from our vocabulary. We’d be chatting along and – boom – there is was in the middle of a sentence again. It is an established part of the way we discuss beer. It would take considerable effort to change it. There is, however, nothing to stop us from preventing even stupider terms becoming commonplace. I am speaking of ‘faux craft’. It’s been rumbling around for a while and when I saw it used in Hashigo Zake’s post ‘The Truth About Faux Craft‘ I finally snapped.**
A little like ‘craft beer’, ‘faux craft beer’ almost makes sense – until you have to define it. For example, a faux craft brewery is not really a brewery – it’s just a brand, with the beer still made by a big brewery. What then of Hancocks? Hancocks, as far as I know (being a little more removed from the news than I used to be) is brewed at Stoke, which many would consider a ‘craft brewery’. Sure, Hancocks makes out like they have their own brewery, but how often do brewing companies in New Zealand promote that their beers are made at a contract brewery? Let’s face it, a lack of full disclosure about where a beer is brewed is hardly uncommon in New Zealand.
Which is why I’m strongly considering adopting Luke’s mantra of ‘It.Is.Beer.’ It’s a little easier for me to do here in Australia where I’m quite ignorant of who owns what. Also, since I’ve been here, a lack of funds and a certain amount of politeness has meant I’ve drunk beers that I’d probably wouldn’t have tried in New Zealand. And I’m going to continue to do so. I’m going to judge a beer on its own merits. I won’t be surprised if I discover that some ‘craft’ beers will be the equivalent of grandma’s macramé – ugly and faulty – while some ‘mainstream’ beers will be machine-made socks – nothing fancy, slightly boring, but well-made in their manner. But I am sure that good beer, which has had a well-though-out creative recipe, quality ingredients, and impeccable brewing skills, will show through. And that’s what I’ll continue to buy and support with my dollars.
* Which I think is a point Phil Cook has made before. With a music analogy. Of course.
** I thought the tasting was a great idea and well done – it is the term and only the term that I am criticising.