Craft Beers (noun plural, orig. American)

Obviously, I would like to spend more time on twitface/blognet (as I call these things) and generally messing around on the web finding interesting news about beer, pubs, breweries, etc. But, I’m a busy girl, so I can only allocate so much time to all this, so it’s only when a really interesting topic crops up that I try to throw my view into the equation.

So here goes – my view of a current, apparently controversial subject.

The Craft Beer Definition

My definition until recently was that ‘craft beer’ was American for ‘real ale’. This has recently been proved incorrect, or just out of date, as they now include keg beers in the craft category too. Therefore perhaps it could be ‘any beer brewed in a brewery as opposed to manufactured in a factory’. I think that’s better, because the main consideration seems to be around the personal (individual?) skill and passion in the production, rather than any particular methodology or the style of beer. It may be controversial (more so here in the UK) to suggest that all beers brewed by a craft brewer are craft beers. Certainly the type of flavours produced are not in question, and quality is often subjective, so that’s tricky!

So here’s my current groupings: (‘beer’ being used generically in the wider sense.)

Real ales – a beer which undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle or cask. Typically ales and sometimes lager.

Keg products – any beer which does not undergo secondary fermentation, and will be served with added gas at point of sale. Typically lagers, smoothflow beers, continental fruit beers, etc.

Craft beers – Originally an American phrase used to describe beers produced by micro-brewers of varying styles. Recently adopted by UK to move away from the rigid ‘real ale’ definition, so as to include quality beers from abroad, including interesting keg beers, fruit beers, etc.

There is some discussion at the moment surrounding the question of whether CAMRA should be supportive of ‘craft beer’ or not. Their chairman has recently been seen and heard on the internet suggesting that craft beers are all keg beers! Big mistake, whichever way you look at it.

Now this could be a CAMRA ploy just to raise awareness, but I suspect it’s just another example of how the organisation is struggling to redefine itself during the current onslaught of beer popularity and modern marketing.

My personal view is that being positive about one thing does not mean you have to be negative about anything else. There are plenty of great micro-brewers out there producing fabulous real ales which would welcome the positive support of CAMRA and it’s members. There are still plenty of pubs who would welcome the positive promotion of it’s ales on their behalf, not to mention CAMRA members actually buying the stuff!

So, why bother knocking other products – it can only cause controversy and alienation.

Therefore, I have come up with some new positive campaigns for real ale:

  • Adopt a pub – CAMRA branch members pick a pub to support for a month. Choose a local pub which has potential to sell more real ale. Visit it at least 2 or 3 times every week for a pint or two. While there, discuss real ales with the staff and other regulars – tasting notes for their regular beers, how to choose reliable beers, local breweries, using their guest policy, how to keep it fresh, etc. Take in CAMRA newsletters, posters, etc and work with the landlord to generate interest.
  • Conversion Tables – pubs or CAMRA members can hold an event/tasting specifically aimed at people who do not know much about real ales just to try them out. CAMRA produce great leaflets to help educate, but word of mouth works better.
  • Tasters – A campaign to encourage pubs to offer free tasters on request for any (guest) real ales. Ideally this would be backed by local brewers offering a free firkin to balance the cost to the pub.
  • Tasting trays – A campaign to encourage pubs serving 3 or more real ales to offer sets of 3 thirds or halves.
  • Clip check – CAMRA members check that there are tasting notes on the back of each pump clip on the bar. This helps reduce the lack of sales due to ignorant bar staff. Some brewers do it themselves – but many don’t. It is now so easy to find the details (GBG or web), that there really is no excuse.

Most of these campaigns only cost the money drinkers would be spending anyway! The best positive promotion for real ale is passion, then it’s easy! Tell someone today – preferably down the pub!


About beerygilly

Supporter of real ale, real pubs and really nice people. Pub landlady at The Land of Liberty, Peace & Plenty, CAMRA CBoB judge, small business owner. Not necessarily in that order!
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