Ever get the feeling that something you’re experiencing is something you’ve experienced before? There’s a French phrase that describes it; Deja Vu. Or that might be the Gangsta Rapper my eldest listens to. No, that’s DJ Foo.
Let’s talk about Craft Beer, shall we? What is really meant by the term Craft Beer?
That’s right; we’ve already discussed this at length. But it has raised its head above the parapets yet again as a result of the results of The Local Taphouse’s Hot 100 2010 Poll. In each of its three years the Taphouse Hot 100 list has managed to provoke debate and discussion among beer lovers of all sorts upon its Australia Day release.
This year saw triple the entries with somewhere around a thousand punters nominating their five favourite beers of 2010. A total of nearly 500 different beers were nominated and this, in itself, is a good sign for the industry as a whole – how many of you reckon 500 different Australian Craft beers could have been named five years ago, let alone crafted into a ‘Top List’?
But, of the beers that made the top 100, many have been deemed ‘unworthy’ of wearing the label ‘craft beer’ by bloggers and commenters on various online forums. It seems there is a reluctance to accept certain brands as ‘craft’ and a level of confusion as to what actually qualifies as ‘craft’. Is it brewing methods, is it ingredients, does size matter and is provenance and ownership relevant?
It’s interesting to read the comments as they shine a bright light on the perceptions in the beer world in this country as well providing indicators of the health of the Craft Beer sector. That certain beers or brands are seen as ‘corporate’, ‘commercial’ or in some other way ‘evil’ by the average punter and hence unwelcome in any listing of craft beers shows that emotion is alive and well and that beer still holds a valuable place in this nation’s culture. Better to be talked about than ignored, eh?
As discussed here previously, there are many different attitudes to the whole craft terminology. Brewing methods, company size, parent company status and ‘perceived’ intentions are all relevant factors. And if we ever get some sort of consensus do we then use it to compare our industry to that of other craft brewing nations or do we just use it to measure ourselves against where we were 10 years ago? Will we ever be on par with the scene in the States? No? Then why look to them for relevant comparisons?
In addition, if the brewers themselves have differing views on what constitutes a craft beer, then what hope do we as an adoring beer drinking public have in determining worthiness? Is it at all possible that the beer itself is what determines ‘craft’, rather than the ‘machine’ that brewed it or the ‘machine’ that signed off the invoices? If the liquid in my glass ended up there because someone wanted me to enjoy the fruits of their labour irrespective of what that labour cost or who picked up the bill for it, isn’t that just fine?
Let’s look at lists like the Taphouse Hot 100 and feel pretty darned chuffed that we have the beers we have brewed by the skill of craftsmen and women all around this wide brown land. If the beer in your hand is one that you enjoy, then who really cares what anyone else thinks? We could always spend less time over-thinking it all and more time drinking it all, couldn’t we?