Some beer is brewed purely to make money. The flavour of this beer and the processes used to make it are irrelevant; they are necessary cogs in a money making machine, and if the brewer can change them to increase the money he makes then he will, regardless of the impact it has. A production process driven by profit alone, we call this beer “Macro Beer”.
Some beer is brewed for experimentation, for investigation, through interest and enthusiasm, for the love of flavour. When this beer is made no consideration is given to cost or complexity of process; if there’s a way to make that beer better, the brewer will find it and will use it. A production process that’s enabled by skill and knowledge, driven by the quality of the final product. We call this beer “Homebrew”.
And then some beer finds itself sitting between these two groups. It’s made with the passion, skill and love that defines the homebrew, but it’s also sold to make the brewer a living. Profitability is critical, but it isn’t to the detriment of the finished beer. The brewer strives for balance, to achieve both a quality product, and enough money to live. What do we call this beer?
It's a tough environment over on that macro side. Massive marketing budgets, corporate sponsorships, endless pounds to spend on research and the economies of scale. The only way that our plucky middle-group-hero can compete is by carving out a niche, identifying himself as something a bit different, something worthy of attention. That niche is quality, and his weapon is the reassurance that it's ok to pay a premium for something of significant quality. His identity, his banner, is "Craft Beer".
Appealing to this niche is critical if a foothold is to be established in that left hand group. The macro cannot be matched for price; the moment quality is brought into question or a beer is viewed as too expensive it fails, and the customer reverts to the cheap slabs piled high in the corner.
So slap the words “Craft Beer” on any old product and the jobs a goodun then? No. Branding, packaging, promotion; all critical in denoting a product as being one of quality. Take supermarkets; you see a black packet in Marks & Spencer or Tesco and you immediately think quality. Whether the banner is “Taste the difference”, “Finest” or “ASDA Extra Special” isn’t important, you’ll judge a beer on the appearance of the pump clip or bottle label way before you get a chance to read the small print. And all these things are only worthy of investment if the product’s right; the skill and expertise of the brewer have to be there in the first place, the proof of the pudding is in the eating they say, there’s no point in polishing a turd.
A banner does allow us to tie things together though, we with our natural human instinct to group, categorise and classify. It’s an enabler for providing us with a way to write and speak and communicate with more accuracy than by just saying “beer”. It’s an identity and a statement of intent.
The specific name we use isn’t the important thing here. “Craft Beer" or "Micro Beer or "Artisan Ale”, each would work equally well, and any preference for one over the other is exactly that - just a preference. A preference which is irrelevant, irrelevant for the reasons discussed and irrelevant because, like it or not, “Craft Beer” has become the de facto standard. “Craft Beer” puts emphasis on the craftsmanship behind the beer, on the skill and expertise of the brewer, on quality; as a banner, “Craft beer” works.
This blog was posted as part of "Brood", see here.