Disguising beers from industry scale brewers as „craft beer“ has been an industry standard for years. When the craft beer wave hit Europe lots of industry players hopped on that train. The train is still moving and is probably still far away from its final destination.
Beer enthusiasts like The Beernut or Melissa Cole spot those “disguisers” fast and easily. In one of her tweets Melissa shared the conversation between her and Sainsbury’s requesting the name of the producer of a beer they sell. Mission impossible as it turns out. Few of the comments also say that Sainsbury’s probably just wants to portray the image of a craft beer. Hence sell the beer of a more-than-likely industry scale brewery as “craft lager”.
The problem is the term itself
But, the problem lays within the term “craft beer” itself. Crafting is described by the free dictionary “skill in doing or making something as in the arts; proficiency” and by that the term “craft beer” can be used by any type of brewery, because even an industry scale brewery possesses the craft of creating beer.
Let’s face it: the term “craft beer” was never meant to distinguish micro breweries from industry scale production. It was never really possible to do so. For me this term is pretty useless. It is like the German purity law, which today is more a marketing sentence than a label that really promises something, like organic. The term “craft beer” can be used by anyone brewing beer. There is no limit, no rules, nothing. Hence I don’t quite understand the big commotion by my fellow beer enthusiasts on how the term is being used “wrong”.
Numbers please – capacity and output
The easiest way to distinguish a brewery’s size is by its output. If you have a brewery, like for example Brewdog, which bottles about 2.2 million bottles per month (in 2015, from Wikipedia) and has a capacity of 220.000hl is not a micro brewery anymore. Their beer might still be named “craft beer” but they play in entirely different league than a micro brewery or brew pub. I usually use the output as one of the main criteria to buy beer as it gives a good idea about the production process.
The question is:
Who do we want to support?
The higher the output number the more likely it is that industrial processes are used and that money becomes a more and more important driving factor. Of course industrial “profit beers” can be good. It is just a matter of who and for what we, the consumers, customers and beer lovers want to give our money to. It is about what kind of system we support: A local brewery run by two friends whose income supports two families and enlivens their town - or brewery with a lot of replaceable workers where a conglomerate of anonymous & profit-driven stock holders own the factory? Everyone’s free to make their own choice. Personally, I made mine a long time ago.