I recently got my BJCP tasting exam results back and I'm preparing for the written, as well as planning on taking the Certified Cicerone Exam within the next couple of months. So I'm getting deep into every aspect moreso than ever before.
A few years ago, I was just one of those happy kids who was first getting into craft beer and I chased down every new release from all of my favorite breweries. I still do that with my number one favorite, but how could I not support them?
In all of my research and studying, I was taken back. I began to think about where we are today and all of the changes I've seen in this very short 5 year span in the grand history of beer. Things I didn't even begin to notice until about my third year in beer. So, just think about everything I still have to learn and experience.
Where we sit now is the greatest time that has ever existed for Craft Beer. Thinking about that, was it not common to hear Microbrew when referred to "our" beers not that long ago? To my understanding "craft beer" first began it's usage in the 1980's. And it wasn't even a commonality at that time. "Craft Brewing" was how it was referred. It was about the movement that was happening in America. The way our beer was hand crafted vs the industrial methods that were sadly sweeping the country. Recently it has been used to describe the new generation of beer around the world but it's origins seem to be with the early pioneers that were tired of what they were tasting, and for that, we praise today.
Now I understand that we want to differentiate ourselves. Make the market distinction obvious to those casual consumers, especially the ones that don't know any better. But as one who is well versed in our community, and flipping back through a little history, why can't we simply call it beer?
Do you see what I mean, now? I don't go around telling people I drink craft beer. Or that I'm going out for a few craft beers. I just use "Beer". I'm going to "X Brewery", "X Bar". I feel at a point, the thing speaks for itself. It becomes quite obvious. I make sure to know who, to the best of my ability, makes a profit off of each pour I purchase. This is something the majority of consumers don't think about... but then again, maybe it's the appeal of the word craft, that people love.
Before the time of the microbrew, was it not just a pint of Ale or Lager? In 1516, do you think they had fancy names for the beers being created at that time? In today's beer world, the distinction between craft and not so is being blurred. Crafty is a thing. Big business tactics are happening in the wake of the little guys. Certain aspects are still about the joy and community, but others quickly pull you back in to realize beer is a business. First & foremost. So where is the point where you quit acting like a little guy and accept that you are in fact in another league?
I don't mean like the big three. That is a whole different ball game. But the way a business operates and sells across the country. The number of barrels that are produce and sold each year. There is a difference between those just scraping by and those who can essentially rely on their consumers for years to come. This isn't a bad thing. It's just the way things are.
To me, craft isn't about a definition. It's about the way you treat your product and care about your community. While a company may try to separate themselves from corporate beer, does the scale of your brewery not introduce you into that world? The number of breweries or specific off shoot locations you own, do they not paint that picture?
Even with the Brewers Association defining craft beer and then adjusting the definition to keep the biggest brewers from losing the distinction, I wonder, why does it matter? Even if my favorite brewery went above that line, their beers, again, speak for themselves. No if, ands, or butts about it. Everything they do for the beer community as well as the charitable events and support they offer, really goes to show their passion. A side of their character you wouldn't see from those that we do not label with the craft name. And surprisingly enough, at the end of the day, they still need to worry about their profit margin.
These breweries are machines, filled with passionate people. Creating experiences that we all share. Ones we look far into the future for. While I'm not saying they don't deserve to use the title craft, I just feel we are at a point in time where it is not necessary.