Defining Craft Beer
Last year at the Independent Manchester Beer Convention, I was part of a panel discussing craft beer. I was the only member of the discussion who felt that we need to define what craft beer is. The others on the panel, as is the same for most people in the UK industry, baulked at the challenge, simply quoting the difficulties and declaring me insane. I don’t care. I can live with being a little crazy.
I categorically believe we need to define craft beer in order to protect the fledgling craft beer movement in the UK and in Europe. I believe if we do not look to put an industry recognised definition on craft beer then the large, monolithic brewers will simply exploit all that we have worked so hard to build.
From my perspective, the US craft beer movement has only been able to grow as it has because of the US Brewers' Association’s official and accepted definition of craft beer. Sure, their definition is imperfect; it has it's flaws and people can dig up a few exceptions or perhaps controversial omissions. However, it has undeniably served its purpose in that it has enabled craft beer to explode, that it has given new consumers a point of reference and enabled retailers to structure their offerings in order to promote great craft beer.
I think we need an official definition firstly to protect craft brewers and what we are building; secondly to guide consumers in this new and emerging category in the UK; thirdly to ensure that true craft brewers can charge a fair and sustainable price for their masterpieces; and fourthly to enable craft beers to grow as strongly in the UK as they have in America.
Our friend Greg Koch from Stone Brewing agrees we need to define it;
"Craft beer is more than just awesomely delicious beer. It's also a revolution against the insult of the industrialized notion of beer that has been preying on the populace for decades. And yet with the success of the resulting backlash of craft beer which has brought real choice back to the people, the mega-beer-industrial-complex wants to co-opt craft beer now too. We cannot allow this to happen or it will erode the very progress we have all worked so hard to achieve. And they know this. A strong craft beer definition, which has admittedly proved to be a daunting task, is critical in shoring up the defenses for this thing that is so very dear to beer enthusiasts. We should not let the difficulty of the task of clear definitions dissuade us. We need to allow consumers the ability to decide for themselves who they want to support, but in order to do that, they must be able to understand clear definitions. The big companies wish to obfuscate and confuse. It is to their advantage. The craft brewers wish to be open, honest and straightforward as it is to our advantage. A strong, clear definition allows for actual choice, and not just the illusion of choice. The difference is massive. Freedom!"
We want retail stores, bars, restaurants & hotels all to have a craft beer section in their offering. It is almost impossible to get them to commit to this without being able to offer them an official definition of what craft beer is. What we then don’t want, is for them to a create a craft beer section in their shop or menu only for this to be carpet bombed by beers that are not craft.
I also accept that any definition will be at least slightly controversial, that it will be imperfect and that people will love citing potential exceptions (as they do in America too). However, I certainly don’t believe these are reasons not to put an official definition in place. If people focus on the bigger picture rather than small exceptions, its benefit is undeniable to everyone who loves great beer.
I also propose that the definition of craft beer is a beer brewed by a craft brewer at a craft brewery. The challenge then becomes around defining craft brewer and not craft beer.
Building from and adapting the official US definition seems a sensible place to start. The Brewers' Association defines a craft brewery as small, traditional and independent (more detail on the breakdown of these terms here: http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/business-tools/craft-brewing-statistics/craft-brewer-defined.) America is different market in terms of scale and structure to here so I don’t think it makes sense to adopt their definition unilaterally, so we would propose to build the definition as follows:
A European Craft Brewery:
1) Is Small
Brews less than 500,000 HL annually. *see point 3 below
2) Is Authentic
a) brews all their beers at original gravity
b) does not use rice, corn or any other adjuncts to lessen flavour and reduce costs
3) Is Honest
a) All ingredients are clearly listed on the label of all of their beers.
b) The place where the beer is brewed is clearly listed on all of their beers.
c) All their beer is brewed at craft breweries.
4) Is Independent
Is not more than 20% owned by a brewing company which operates any brewery which is not a craft brewery
A couple of notes on the proposed definition above:
1) This is intended to be the starting point for an open discussion rather than the end definition. By engaging the craft beer community and encouraging an open discussion around a definition we can hopefully build on and improve what we have outlined above. We would love to hear your thoughts on how to improve our proposed definition.
2) It would also mean the consumer can hold everyone in the craft beer industry to a higher standard of accountability. In the past we have sometimes not always had every ingredient listed on the label and although we were open on our blog when we made a small percentage of our beer off site in 2011 & 2012, this was not always reflected on our packaging. With our new brewery all our beer is now made in house. However the clause 3) above raises the bar for everyone, including ourselves.
3) The first point is probably the most contentious and logically difficult one. For me the definition may work equally well by dropping the first point and not linking at all to size. Non craft breweries over 500,000 would inevitably fall foul of 2) a and 2) b perhaps making the first clause largely irrelevant. We would be interested in your thoughts here.
The need for a definition is as much about protecting and informing the customer as it is the fledgling category.
People may argue about point 4. However, for me, intent is a massive part of craft brewing. If you are responsible for bastardizing beer on a colossal scale all around the globe (such as AB-InBev & Molson Coors) your intention when it comes to beer is pretty clear. Therefore any brewery which is owned by one of these companies should no longer count as a craft brewer. The beer might still be ok (for a while), but, in my view, the brewery is no longer a craft brewery. Feel free to shout at me about Goose Island. Also, feel free to apologise in 10 years time when the brewery no longer exists and all their beer is made under contract with rice & corn at an InBev plant. The guys there knew exactly what they were doing when they sold to AB InBev and their beer no longer counts as craft.
Craft Beer (as Pete Brown recently advocated) cannot be an adjective. Mark Dredge recently wrote a book about craft beer and then declared that "it is not an actually definable thing"; he then lost the plot slightly also cited "Farmers' Market" as another example of an undefinable thing. As much as I respect Pete Brown and Mark Dredge's writing and I usually agree with them pretty much all of the time, I disagree with them here.
Craft Beer needs a definition, and that definition needs something tangible and solid. Everyone who brews, drinks and cares about great beer will be stronger as a result.
We want a definition to be recognised by both CAMRA and SIBA and also at a European level by The Brewers of Europe Association.
James & Martin x
Posted in - brewdog-news
- @ James und Martin:
Contract brewing in a traditional Bavarian brewery? There not craft, us too? ; )
- Hi James, interesting piece and I agree with many of your points. Here is my response:
- Maybe a definition based on marketing and advertising budget relative to the quantity of beer produced may be the way to go. If you need to spend a load of money persuading and/or conning people to drink your beer then it probably isn't craft. Ian Prise19.10.2013
My personal thought is that while I understand the motivation behind creating a definition of craft beer, and have no problem with it in principle, I don't really have a clue who defining craft will help. If I'm honest, it actually comes across as strangely anti-competitive to be trying to stop big brewers from using the phrase - beat them with quality, not with marketing parlance, if you will. Right now (and in the immediate future), I don't think the word 'craft' offers particular leverage for a brand (in this country at any rate), and I've yet to see anything in the British on or off-sales market to convince me otherwise.
Looking at this purely as a consumer - all I care about is drinking beer that I like. Suppose a massive brewer makes a good beer, and an accredited craft brewer makes a good beer - that definition of 'craft' isn't really much use. Consumer opinion is going to be formed by personal tasting of the beer, the marketing, peer opinion, or any awards, reviews etc. they've seen. The brewery, brewer or beer being labelled as 'craft' just becomes one of several factors that an individual will consider in their choice. If it's a section in a supermarket (for example), at best it just means the customer is standing in front of a single shelving unit containing all the beers meeting that category - which they already are, right now.
On top of that, I've had my fair share of awful beer that's irrefutably 'craft' by anyone's definition, but it hasn't helped me to have that word, or even the ingredients and location of the brewery stamped on the bottle - I've still ended up with a shocking beer. The definition above is no brand of quality or worthwhile endorsement, it just means it's made to conform to a series of small-brewer tick boxes, and it still doesn't really help me pick a better bottle of beer. It doesn't tell me the tanks haven't been cleaned properly; that the hops have been kept open in a hot room for the last week; or that the malt's poorly modified (or that the brewer even knows what the hell that means).
I know I'm probably in the minority on this blog, but think about it - the type of people that read and post on here do not, in any way represent the public as a whole. This is a niche talking to a niche about naming a niche product. How many people here even think about the word 'craft' when picking their beers? We read nerdy beer blogs and use apps to rate what we drink. We speak to absurdly knowledgeable friends, and we go to beer tastings, bar openings and product launches. This is the bleeding edge, and even here, nobody shits kittens about a brewer outsourcing production because of capacity issues - as long as the end product meets their personal standards of taste. The definition above is so niche that you'd have to educate the hell out of most drinkers to get them to even know it exists, never mind what half of it means.
My main point is this. Whatever the definition you pursue ends up being, it should focus on the quality of product in layman's terms - skills of the brewer, provenance and freshness of ingredients. You should think long and hard about the processes to include in the definition - leave enough room to allow experimentation, given it's a pretty fundamental part of craft in relation to any product. If this is about marketing craft beer (which I think it's safe to say it clearly is), then your definition needs to be pitched at the people that don't know what craft beer is - they almost certainly don't care about high gravity brewing, adjuncts etc.
This is a big, complicated subject, and it's a bold one to raise, but that's my take on what's been written so far. You should talk to average beer drinkers: the ones who you WANT to drink craft, not the ones who already do. Not Greg from Stone, and certainly not us.MrJP19.10.2013
- People who think for themselves don't need a label to know what they should or shouldn't drink. When people who have both taste buds and a brain try a beer and it's shite, they make a mental note and move on. If it's good, they buy it again and possibly check out other beers from the same brewery.
Seeing as there are shite beers out there that - according to your definiton - are craft, and good beers that aren't craft, I don't see how having a definition of craft would be helpful to anyone but people who can't resist the urge to keep going on about how craft they are.Jiri Balsinek18.10.2013
- “Craft beer” name it-self, is marketing gimmicks used by manually operated brewers to create the new segment in Brewing Industries. Now a day’s most of the brewers are upgraded to semi-automated process and their volumes are all much higher. Few small brewers cultivate the barley for their own productions but their volume of Beer productions is very, very low. Most interesting part of this Brewing Industry is the source of raw materials, like Malt, Hops, Chemicals and the process design & tanks are supplied by the common suppliers in the industries. However Brewers make their product unique by choosing & culturing their own Yeast strains and using their experienced “hands”.
Finally, Customer acceptance and satisfaction are the success of any product, so whoever perceived customer value, will win customer heart and the Business.
- A couple of thoughts...
- Isn't a definition going to be restrictive? The one thing that's great about craft beer is its inherent freedom: no constraint on ingredients, dispense etc.
- There seems to be a thread running through these responses that compromise is what craft beer rejects. However, I believe compromise is an inevitability of business - it's about maintaining integrity while making the 'right' decisions for yourselves as a brewer and for your customers (existing and potential).
Personally, I think some hijacking of the term by big brewers is a small price to pay to maintain the freedom inherent in craft beer. Craft shouldn't be an off/on term, it should be a fader - there should be degrees of craft. Perhaps Blue Moon is the gateway drug (...perish the thought!) Which of us started drinking craft beer from day one of our journey though beer?JohnH18.10.2013
- i don't need a definition other than it's beer i like. don't care who owns brewery or what size it is john sheffield17.10.2013
- Good article lads. When I speak about Brewdog and craft beer, I always get asked "what's craft beer then?" I am also a paid-up member of CAMRA and our local Lincolnshire magazine had an excellent article about craft, based upon a visit it had made to a pub in Norwich (as I remember). Although fairly generalistic it concentrated on the beers and type of person who frequented the pub (mainly younger, seemingly affluent drinkers) due to the difference in price between cask ale and craft beer. It was a balanced piece and I can assure you there are many CAMRA members who speak fondly of Brewdog down here. arobertson17.10.2013
- All good points and craft beer does need to be defined - mainly so I can see a clear craft beer section in pubs when I go out! However, would this mean that some small real ale breweries become craft breweries? Also, agree that point 1 should go- as long as each beer stays as batches and lots of new beer is made often. Craft breweries need protecting and support and I defo think rules should be set!!! punkingmonkey17.10.2013
- Thanks for trying to make sense of this mess. However, I'm now beginning to feel that it’s too late to work out what we are really talking about, 'craft beer'/'craft brewery' have become marketing terms. For example – do any of these really come from a ‘craft brewery’?
• Marston's Revisionist Craft Lager (4%),
• Fuller's new lager, Frontier (4.5%), promoted as a: 'new wave craft lager'
• Brains with their 'craft brewery' and (bottled) IPA
• Greene King (Morland): 'Old Crafty Hen' .......
No-one knows what ‘carft brewery’ really means .... no matter how good a definition is worked out, the confusion will continue ..... ‘craft’ is now a marketing term. Hopefully, in the UK, we will return to the use of clear definitions: cask conditioned beer, keg …… and stop using meaningless terms such as ‘craft beer.’
Dave - Sheffield17.10.2013
- I get what you're saying guys. The same way CAMRA has defined real ale, it makes sense for craft beer to have a true definition. I would say 99% of the British public wouldn't know what you were talking about if you say you liked Craft beer. We, as a nation only know of lager or real ale (CAMRA) and there is virtually no one promoting craft beer (other than you guys)
At the end of the day, CAMRA found a way to define Real ale, so there Is no reason why someone can't create a definition of for craft beer.
You guys are the biggest craft brewery in the uk so it makes sense for you to lead the way. Good luck guys! I hope you succeed. It would be nice to see more pubs that don't only sell lager and real ale. Up the revolution!!J.bax17.10.2013
- The latest comments touch on markets, customers and "craft". I see pubs advertising "craft beer" that turns out to be Blue Moon and Leffe. If we are to consider "craft beer" to mean anything, this sort of thing is insidious and misleading. I'm not saying big brewers can't produce good beer - Sierra Nevada is humongous but I love their output. It's when the big boys shunt into the market with their large marketing budgets and supply contracts and effectively PREVENT choice, customers lose out.
This should not be about the brewer. This should be about the customer, drinker, the buyer.
All commercial brewers produce beer to make a profit. It it at least a significant part of the equation. Nobody does it out of pure altruism or passion. But to count as something valuable, I think those elements are critical. Someone brewing "craft beer" should be able to stand behind their product and go "cor, I made this, have a sip and tell me if it isn't amazing". It is something about that immediacy as well, of being able to actually know who (and I mean exactly who, not a faceless factory somewhere) had a hand in digging out the mash tun and throwing the hops in, that counts for me. And that can be equally valid in a big brewery. I may not know who works under Vinnie Cilurzo or Mitch Steele, but they're not completely anonymous cogs in a machine.
- Craft is in part a marketing term and I find it hard to reduce beer into a category any more than you can put a band into a music genre. It may be a better approach to define "processed beer" and agree what doesn't fit into that category is made with the right approach regardless of how good it is. Also, where does branding a Brew Dog beer as Tesco's finest fit into this debate?
There is no doubt that Brew Dog deserve a lot of credit for their part in moving the industry so this debate can be had but I have an aversion to categorising anything . Nothing in life is ever as simple as a few rules.
What I would like to see is an approach alternative musicians use, such as Epitaph records. They were set up by punk band Bad Religion who essential fund the music they liked (Rancid, Hives, Offspring, NOFX to name a few) so that artistic integrity (craft) was not compromised by big labels and we all get the music we want to hear; not sanitised Cowelled crap aimed at mass market.
The best way to define craft beer would be for Brew Dog (and others) to fund smaller breweries that they like. This way good beer gets out of garages and into pubs where the drinkers get the final say. If good guys like Brew Dog don't then the bad guys will which leaves us where we started.
- I agree in theory with the aims of the article. I lived in BC, Canada for 6 years and worked in the beverage industry focussing on Craft Beer. There is a similar and often overlooked craft beer scene in Canada to the US but perhaps with some more European influence! I think in the US and Canada it is easier to define what is not Craft beer, as the multinationals are so huge and the craft breweries are so small
Here we have good quality regional breweries that I have always felt are craft breweries, just traditional ones! (eg Fullers, or Youngs etc) I
It is also hard when breweries owned by the big guys still produce great beer, like Worthington White label and not call that beer a craft beer.
It's worth noting that the US Brewers Assoc. definition allows breweries to brew 6 000 000 US barrels - over 7 million hectolitres! (Not micro any more) and rather controversially added Yuengling to their membership list!
I think large craft brewers can and will exist and we shouldn't limit the size (we are not defining "Micro breweries") perhaps focus on "independent breweries" for actual brewery membership of a UK Craft brewers assoc, and accept that some beers brewed under ownership by a big multinational may still be craft beer while not being made by a craft brewery.
Confused yet? It's a tough one but it's great that you've made a start and the debate will continue....
It will be very hard to come up withThe Beer Wrangler17.10.2013
- Not really sure about the benefits of putting a defined label on beer to assist the consumer in making a purchasing choice. I would like to think the customer is considered to be more intelligent than requiring defined guidance. To be honest I find the term "Craft" a little bit jaded now anyway, and don't tend to trust the term means a solid product (the rampant increase in microbreweries that are producing a poor product is more of a problem for me as a consumer than the potential that conglomerates try and muscle into the market utilising this years fashion hop).
Most people who are interested in quality beers will do their own research, and ultimately choose through the age old process of tasting the product. Having a defined label seems a little bit of a Nanny State to me.brewchoose17.10.2013
This was written a week or so ago, before the Tennent's announcement.
But it is exactly the type of thing that should not be allowed to call itself craft.BrewDog James 17.10.2013
- Craft = small, don't get that one. Big is not necessarily bad, it's what you do when you get bigger that matters. I'd like to think that BrewDog will keep brewing beer the way they are doing now, no matter how big they get.
For a start, I'd like to see a full list of ingredients and at which brewery the beer was brewed and packaged. I agree that some measure of authenticity is needed as well.
Byron burger restaurants have the words "Craft Beers" printed on their drinks menus, so at least some segment of the market thinks that the term already has some meaning and value.Fanboy Puppy Lover16.10.2013
- I think this is a useful thing to define, and the process is, quite frankly, more useful than the CAMRA definition of real ale and the process they use to decide on what is and what is not real ale, so plus points from the start from me.
I completely agree with point 1 going.
Whilst 500,000HL isn't "big" it's not small, not if we are being honest - not in a range that can go down as small as a few hundred litres a year.
However, that massive range in size doesn't stop those bigger (but not big) breweries being craft, and also, being a small brewery doesn't make what you do craft either.
I think that the OG brewing is an important point, but probably needs fleshing out - the confusion with it on the comments demonstrates that it's a bit of a brew geek point, not a beer geek point to make, and if the point is to empower consumers, then it needs to be something that communicates with beer drinking types.
I think the adjunct point is important, but needs to be carefully considered - particularly in the context of styles for which adjuncts are important - does candy "lessen" the flavour of a Tripel? depending on what you might interpret "lessen" as, then, yes it could - and I think that it should be possible to brew candy including tripels and it still be craft beer.DougRouxel16.10.2013
- Strange that you're posting this so soon after the Williams / Tennents announcement. High-minded hatchet job there?
I don't personally see ownership itself as an issue. So long as the first 3 rules are adhered to, I'd be happy to let it slide.
Interesting that you've neglected to include a rule about actual craft or innovation - e.g. must produce at least one new beer every year. Following the same 3 or 4 recipes for a few years doesn't sound like craft to me. That's just workmanship.flange2316.10.2013
- Oh and Williams should no longer count as craft for doing a joint venture with Tennents.
I will never drink a Williams beer again.
Point 2 is not at all subjective.
High Gravity Brewing is an accepted and standard practice in industrial breweries. You can read more about it here http://www.brewing-solutions.com/productinformation/?info=High_Gravity_Brewing
We are simply saying if you do this, you are not craft.
On the 2nd point - Glucose Syrup (which is in most industrial beers) is used to cut corners and save cost. We are saying by using adjuncts (corn/rice/syrups) to save cost you are no longer craft.
Thanks for your feedback though - I agree with your other points :)
- I disagree with the ownership point. Cf. 'Harris and Hoole' coffee houses and Tesco. It's just not clear cut and the fact is investment will be needed and in most cases will come from large/faceless institutions.
Focus on intent and stay away from any criteria that relates to corporate structures and scale of operation as trying to limit these will just be a fools errand.Mike London16.10.2013
- The key thing is that these criteria must be objective and that's the problem with trying to keep things "craft" when defining craft.
1 to me is fine - a craft brewery should be small. And if the sector grows then you can just bump up this number like the US does
2 is too subjective. a) rules out any process of liquoring back, barrel ageing and freeze distilling. I think you need to make a strong argument about the impact on flavour of high gravity brewing. b) seems odd - at what point does something move from being out of the style towards reducing costs. Rice is a necessary ingredient of light lagers so it's not really a cost cutting measure to use it (and it's not really why light lager is made that way)
3) is fine to me - subjective stuff. I don't really care about the ingredients but the place of brewing and packaging should be stated (and each place should be craft)
4) again fine.
So once you remove the subjective stuff you end up with something which is basically saying that a craft brewery is small and independent. Which is fine, but says nothing about the beer.
I think a key distinction to think about is, and more relevant to the UK, what's the difference between a independently owned micro brewery and a craft brewery. Or what does the latter do (or not do) which the former does (or does not).brotherlogic16.10.2013
- Is the term craft beer always going to be relevant? Good beer is always going to be good beer and boring beer is always going to be so. I dont think people need to be told what makes a good beer and you need to have a stats table on the side of your bottle ticking all the boxes. If brewdog sold twice the threshold stated but stuck to their core values and were true to the process, should they no longer be allowed to be called craft?
I was comfortable with the term microbrew when it was cool, but that is no longer relevant, as craft is the new term. I even saw an AB store set up with microbrewed advertising bud light. its all just bollocks and words at the end of the day.
The flipside is that so many craft breweries promise so much with there eye catching labels, the liberal use of "american hops" and the names citra, simcoe, nugget etc. but just fail miserably in the process of delivering a good beer. There are big uk craft breweries who still over filter and all the promise of a hop beast are gone. Should a brewery who follows the craft code but makes shit beers be allowed in the club?
Personally I think everyone should sign up to the campaign for good beer and stop worrying that the big boring industrial machine will make craft beers. Peace.CStewart16.10.2013
- Surely the definition of craft beer is, fundamentally, that is has been 'crafted'. It has natural ingredients, it adheres to a natural process, it has a degree of manual attention (versus automation). Presumably the issue you have with Blue F**king Moon is that it is brewed by a multinational? But how do you counter that the beers in the range are for the most part high on taste, brewed with natural ingredients and adhere to a more crafted brewing process. After all, if scale is an issue in craft brewers, it's dooming them all to be tiny and firmly knocking Brew Dog out of the craft beer camp as you scale up and build your new industrial looking brewery.... I'm not saying a definition isn't worth it but I am saying (a) Blue Moon probably isn't your best target and (b) be careful what you wish for. @daptweet16.10.2013
- Love the point one of the comments made.
If you have a bar estate and most of what you sell is not craft, you are no longer craft!
So much of this is about intention when it comes to beer and that definitely captures intention.
Brewers with estates which sell industrial beers are doing it for purely financial reasons whereas BrewDog bars sell craft beers because everyone who works there loves these beers.PDiddy (not the real one)16.10.2013
- Interesting discussion and debate.
I am in favour of a definition - my friends always ask me what craft beer is and I struggle to explain it to them.
At least if there was an official UK definition it would serve as a great starting point.Mike W16.10.2013
- Very valid point very well made.
About time someone made a stand for this in the UK.
Well done BrewDog - makes me proud to be a shareholder.Equity Punk 5616.10.2013
- @Honest_Question - now all our beers are made in house. When we did make a small % off site we disclosed it fully and openly on our blog http://www.brewdog.com/blog-article/an-update-on-stock-our-new-brewery-and-our-partnership-with-meantime
Many brewers brew off site and try their best to hide it - we posted blogs about it!
However the packaging did not always reflect this and as stated above, the definition holds everyone to a higher standard of accountability going forward which can only be a good thing.BrewDogJames16.10.2013
- @ Pivní Filosof - apart from spiders, ghosts & clowns we are not afraid of anything.
We just want more people to enjoy craft beer and having an official definition is a step towards that.BrewDog James 16.10.2013
- Is it really necessary to find a definition for a brand? Because that is what "craft beer" is to me.
Grow up boys, if the beer you make is good (and I believe it is for the most part), and you know how to sell it (which you do very well), then why bother? What are you afraid of? Because that's the impression I can't help getting, that you are afraid of something, that you aren't all that confident of the product you sell.
Stop wasting yours and everybody else's time trying to define the undefinable. What people want is good beer at good value, all the rest is bollocks and all that bollocks will not get any further than the glass.Pivní Filosof16.10.2013
- For point 3 you highlight the importance of honesty ib craft beer, which I agree completely with. Transparency is the key to future education and the evolutionary step that will bring craft beer to the head of the food chain.
But should you not have practiced what you preached first, how many beers were outsourced to other breweries and not said on packaging or media? I can think of a fewHonest_question16.10.2013
- Great article guys! I believe that there should be a size restriction included in the definition. I'm sure Budweiser started out small and then grew to the be the giant bastards that they are now. I want to see breweries like BrewDog grow, but not to the point that they loose focus on making great beer and start focusing on making profit. I think the breweries should have to make a decision on if they want to stay small and keep being a craft brewery or do they want to grow larger and risk loosing the ability to call themselves a craft brewery?
I agree with being independant and there being a limit on the percentage of ownership by large breweries. I presonally think that a craft brewery should have NO OWNERSHIP by big bastard brewers, but sometimes to do something good/great, you have to sell your soul to the devil.Christopsy16.10.2013
- It's easy enough to draw a distinction. It's much harder to draw a distinction that appropriately fits the connotations of 'craft' (otherwise, why not just speak of type A breweries and type B breweries?).
Size is a problematic criterion because you inevitably introduce an arbitrary cut-off point. Can you say why 499999hl is craft and 500000hl is not?
I don't see how you can put restrictions on ingredients used in craft. Small breweries should be allowed to care about how much their ingredients cost and how much extract they get per tonne. And if displaying craft and artistry means displaying care and technical skill, surely it takes just as much skill to use maize or rice as it does to use malt. More seriously, maybe you can single out ingredients like rice or maize, but big brewers could get round that by using other ingredients like unmalted barley and a heap of enzymes, or other grains. It seems arbitrary to single out just those two. But on the other hand, if you laid down closed list of permissible ingredients like the Reinheitsgebot, you get marks for tradition, but that's massively at odds with the theme of innovation, which is just as important for craft breweries.
A small point: I think you mean to say craft beer must be brewed at SALES gravity, rather than ORIGINAL gravity (even high OG beer is brewed at its original gravity).
I think the ingredients labelling criterion might meet resistance from brewers who don't want to don't want to mention isinglass or put 'contains fish' on their beer.
The problem with the ownership criterion, is that it makes implicit reference to the definition of craft beer, because only if you know what counts as a craft brewery can you know what doesn't count and apply the criterion.
I do agree that where a beer is brewed should appear on the label, but that's not enough by itself to define craft beer.Andrew Jorgensen16.10.2013
- "Also, feel free to apologise in 10 years time when the brewery no longer exists and all their beer is made under contract with rice & corn at an InBev plant. The guys there knew exactly what they were doing when they sold to AB InBev and their beer no longer counts as craft."
Pretty much the only point in this post I disagree with. It's less that Goose Island knew what they were getting into; it's what AB InBev knew they were getting into - profiting off of a large regional craft brewer and turning it into a national brand. Blue Fucking Moon isn't made with adjuncts and it's been around for over a decade; there's absolutely no reason to believe AB InBev would use them in a decade with Goose Island, either.
As for brewing Goose Island at an AB InBev plant, though, they're already doing that, so no need for us to plan ahead for the apology in ten years.brewyork16.10.2013
- Thanks for all the great comments - keep them coming.
Based on all the feedback, and the feedback yet to come we are going to re-work the definition & I think point 1 definitely goes.
- Well put. I hope Camra jumps on board! I think there should be a world wide definition of what craft beer is. Camera British Columbia In Canada is doing a lot of fighting currently with our province to fix archaic liquor laws here and it seems to be working. Get them onside and it might just happen. mikescraftbeer.com16.10.2013
- Why are craft brewers worried about having their product bastardized by the big boys. They may try to copy some craft brewing elements but they can't steal a brewers style 100%. This panic to pigeon a craft brewing style to protect it seems pointless.
Is the fear that the big brewers will run off with the ball and not give it back??? Surely the cost cutting and price concerns they have Will stunt any such hopes they have of a craft element watering down their market share!!
I believe the consumer doesn't need educating. We're a pretty shrude bunch.hardp198016.10.2013
- I think point one should instead of being a strict number, should be a percentage based growth chart. You can not produce this much more than you did last year and so on.
This way if a brewery was to produce 10,000 barrels, then the next year they may only be able to produce 15,000. Hopefully with this growth chart they would not be forced to cut corners to 'maximize' production. It would also not stifle your production as every year you would be allowed more growth then the previous year. I think 15% is a good number to use.
Follow me on twitter @hdred88Heath16.10.2013
- For argument's sake then if, I don't know...Dark Star, were to be bought by on eof the major brewers but left completely to their own devices as a seperate entity they cannot be a craft brewer? MrGloverLover16.10.2013
- A few people are against Point 1 - and I'd tend to agree with getting rid of it. Given you aimed for 70,000HL in 2013 it's not unfeasible to think you could reach the 500,000HL cap maybe 5 years down the line. It also sounds like a brewery could just split itself into smaller pieces legally to meet the criteria and have all the smaller parts owned fully by a larger brewing company.
The most important part of the definition for me is the quality of what's produced - at a minimum the basics of what must and must not be used as ingredients and how they're sourced.Gaz16.10.2013
- I wish us all luck and judgement with this but I fear we will fail.
I agree about mending fences with the real ale lobby. However, CAMRA spent years trying to define 'real ale' and ended up with a definition they find satisfactory but which is objectively tatty, depending on words like 'traditional' - itself meaningless in the brewing context, allowing all ingredients and being largely inapplicable to bottled ales.
In the World Atlas of Beer Stephen Beaumont and I proffered: "It is the opposite of industrial beer". We were not being facetious.
Dan Shelton managed: "It is something in the heart of the brewer". This may be more accurate.
There are other pithy definitions but none would satisfy an exactophile.
Yes, dilution is indefensible. And there is mileage in the 'Honesty' stream that is being developed.
For Europe, some maximum %age of adjunctive sugars that varies with the strength of the beer is certainly justifiable but will never slip off the tongue. And do we say Japanese rice saisons cannot be called craft beer in Europe?
Personally I would have a minimum live yeast content for bottled ales but it would be hard to calibrate and those promoting the can for the future of craft beer would be obliged to object.
I am unconvinced that ownership is a legitimate distinguishing feature. If this 5 hl brew run comes from a brewery owned by a hedge fund and that one comes from one operated by MoCo is the first one legit and the second not? If so, why? And is company ownership really that simple anyway?
I am not convinced that the length of brew run is necessarily exclusive either. There are disgusting beers coming from enthusiastic small breweries all over Europe and in time I suspect the best organised, most ethically motivated successful craft brewers will be making their biggest brands in huge coppers and fermenters.
As for authenticity, this seems to me a hostage to fortune. How many centuries old does a poor brewing practice have to be before it becomes legitimately "traditional" or "authentic"?
I think I favour developing and promoting clear views on aspects of beer making over trying to define them as craft or industrial, and leave definitions to one side.
But I am open to all opposing views.
- I'm with you #craftbeer needs a definition for its own protection against the brewing conglomerates 64BottlesofBeer16.10.2013
- I for one would love to see a major trade organisation take this onboard. I think it's a great idea in principle, but as you have pointed out, the devil is in the detail. too much detail and you end up with so many exclusions that no-one will support it, not enough detail, or the wrong sort of detail, and the big companies will take advantage of loopholes and make the definition pointless.
I believe that point 1 is self defeating in a lot of ways. As breweries such as yourselves grow, and prosper, you do not want to drop out of the market you are helping to define purely on a technicality. I agree with others, that points 2 and more importantly 3, are the defining 'teeth' of the definition, and should be where the primary focus of this definition is placed. However, we as a community (I'm a home brewer thanks to being inspired by brewerys such as yourselves, magic rock, SWB, etc) have to be aware that CAMRA et al are so well established, that unless we can find a way to work with them, we will have to start our own, new body, to define and control craft beer, which is definitely not for the betterment of all.
- For me the key point in that article is about the ingredients. I personally class craft beer as beer that's brewed for the love of beer and with the aim of making a profit through supplying a quality product as opposed to beer that's created as a brand rather than a beer and the product itself is just seen as a factor in getting a brand's logo everywhere.
Size shouldn't be a factor. Companies can balk at the costs of brewing as they increase in size but if, as a brewery's output increases, they give the same care and attention to their increased output as they always have thus making sure that the beer is as good as it's always been, does that make them any less craft? I think they should be applauded for supplying increased quantity without decreasing quality. Saying a brewery isn't craft just because it's bigger than it was could be very pretentious as it's very close to saying that you don't accept them anymore purely based upon their size, rather than any decernable drop in product quality which, at the end of the day, is what it's all about. For me, anywayAlex M16.10.2013
- Yep 3 word 'Blue F£$KING Moon' Any drink that promotes you add slice orange or even lime to its beer... SUCKS Steve D S16.10.2013
- Hi Guys,
I think that you need to add a point about crafting consistent beers by natural means in spite of the changes in ingredient qualities (such as alpha content in hops or quality of malt), due to that year's climate for example. I've been to a lot of breweries that follow the rest of this definition of craft, but the problem is that they don't fully understand/care about their ingredients enough to know when they need to adjust their recipe slightly to create a consistent beer.
In the sort of breweries that high gravity blend you'll often also find a machine for 'adjustment' with hop and malt compounds that is located just after the carboblending unit and just before the filling machine. Growing up in the industry I talked to the engineering heads of these breweries and they didn't see beer as anything other than a measurable commodity and that is why all of the parameters capable of inline measurement will be completely consistent while the products lack any character. It's also why I am always grateful that I spend most of my career in smaller breweries where there is genuine passion about the beer itself and this passion is one of the reasons why 'craft' is so difficult to pin down.
I also think that the 20% is arbitrary and sort of unfair. If a big multinational fizzy drinks producer wants to make flavourful beer in the proper way then surely we (as beer enthusiasts) should applaud this as opposed to dismissing their efforts like mindless brand snobs? This also puts Brooklyn's new joint venture with Carlsberg in a grey area.
- We are a new brewery and planning to brew craft beer. We would welcome a clear definition. I understand that CAMRA do not like the term craft beer and a definition would help push craft beer forward in the UK. Ambridge Brewery16.10.2013
- I don't agree with a lot of what brewdog put out, but I definitely agree with this Noc M16.10.2013
- Few great points made. If it helps good beer readily available around the country its instantly worth it. Jim C16.10.2013
- It is a reasonable starting point if we absolutely need a non-US craft beer definition Andrew D16.10.2013
- James, Pete
As I understand SIBA have been debating a definition of 'craft beer' in their committee meetings here in Scotland, although no official wording has been released (to my knowledge), the base idea they have is:
1. Independently owned
2. Producing less than 200,000Hl
3. Adhere to code of good brewery practiceBeerCast Rich16.10.2013
- I personally think the craft beer should relate to the beer itself, as opposed to the brewery.
As has already been pointed out, most local, real ale, microbreweries would meet your definitions, which doesn't work when Craft Beer is trying to be diferentiated from Real Ale, although there will inevitably be some overlap.
e.g. your local microbrewer chucks some extra ingredients in the fermentation tank to add some new flavours and it no longer fulfills the definition of Real Ale. Does this automatically make it a Craft Beer.
Should the rules be defined by a minimum amount of time spent conditioning, say? Or a minimum amount of hops, even? (Though this would exclude beers such as International Arms Race, which was a true test of a brewer's craft)
I disagree that large breweries should be excluded from experimenting with a side range. Brains's side project has turned out some nice beers of a craft style. On the other hand beers like, Greene King's Yardbird was a travesty to American style ales and yet they had the audacity to call it craft.
The independent trade body seems to be the best solution and they should be able to decree a beer as craft or not and stamp it accordingly, without excessive attention to who ultimately owns the brewer.AleBeHonest16.10.2013
- I agree a clearer definition is needed for all the reasons mentioned. However does all this imply that the craft beer industry has a moral high ground over the likes of InBev.
Maybe we need to broaden the definition and have a bit more of a discussion about the increasing trend of shipping beer - which is mostly water - all over the planet. An examination of extremely polluting container ships - which are not remotely as regulated as other other vehicles for their ommitions - needs to be considered when we try to build defined craft beer small scale industry. Otherwise craft beer runs the risk of being but a very cashed in on romantic idea without true principles. The very thing people here are trying to stop the multi nationals from acheiving.S16.10.2013
- I read something about "craft brewing" being a state of mind and an approach to creating beers: The difference being that craft brewing says "we brewed this because we wanted to and we like it. If you don't, we don't care." very Stone/BrewDog. Whereas other brewing is "we have brewed this because we think you will like it". I think it is a good definition, but very hard to formalise and enforce. Brewer Sam16.10.2013
- "Brewery size: what will happen to the definition when Brewdog hits this size?"
Why, Brewdog will redefine the definition so it always stays just a bit bigger than they are...BV16.10.2013
- Fully agree in light of the awful news of this over the weekend!
- @An Anonymous Boozer
Boring brown ales can be pretty boring, but they are undeniably made in a craft way so for me they qualify.
And I agree, most of what Fullers sell in their bars is not 'craft' - it would be interesting to look to extend the definition for the UK to cover what breweries with estates sell in their bars.
5) If a Craft Brewer has a bar estate, 90% of all the beers they sell in their estate must be craft beer.
An interesting further discussion point for sure.
- Surely your definition is going to have to include all the brewers of 'boring brown beer' that you usually want to differentiate yourselves from? The definition provided applies equally to them.
One thing that marks the UK as different from the US is the pub estates that are often owned by breweries. Your bar estate is clearly very 'craft' but what of others? I guess people would class Fullers as a 'craft brewer', but their pub estate makes an awful lot of money off very non-craft products.An Anonymous Boozer16.10.2013
we would be really keen to work with SIBA and other trade bodies to have this endorsed and backed by them and agree that without the definition coming from a trade body it will not take hold.
For me it is about protecting the consumer and also protecting the fledgling category.BrewDog James 16.10.2013
- Don't think I agree with you here but I do admire the effort. It strikes me reading this that the reason the US definition is accepted is that it comes from an industry body. How about a UK Craft Brewers Association? I think your most compelling argument here is that you need a definition in order to help sell in to the trade. If this definition came from a trade body I think you'd be off to a cracking start. If not yet another new body, maybe you could work with SIBA to come up with a definition that has their blessing? Pete Brown16.10.2013
Understood about OG - makes sense.
I think one of the problems in defining craft beer is that, having had no formal deifnition for so long, each person will have their own subtly different idea on what "craft beer" is. Achieving consensus will obviously be hard, but definitely worthwhile.
I'm still unconvinced by the ownership thing. If my craft brewery was owned 20&% by Inbev, it wouldn't be craft, but if it was 40% owned by Coca-cola, Barclays, or some sovereign wealth fund, it would be ok? I'm sure there are better metrics which could be used to judge whether the ownership is having an undue effect, as opposed to a line-in-the-sand of 20%.
Also, there would probably have to be some overall body for coordinating this. would there be a seal that could be displayed on bottles to indicate compliance? Could and should this be assessed by an outside body? I'm just brainfarting here...obutterfield16.10.2013
- The difficulty is trying to make something which is almost intangible into something tangible in order to protect it.
A very worthy ambition though a well reasoned argument.
However it has as much chance of being accepted and implemented as BrewDog have of being allowed to attend the GBBF.krumpleton16.10.2013
- I think intent is the biggest thing for me. Hard to measure though! Ryan16.10.2013
1) Many large brewers brew beer at 10% then cut it back to between 4-5% ABV prior to packaging - effectively doubling their capacity. saying all beer needs to be brewed at Original Gravity excludes people who do high gravity brewing from our definition
2) I think if a brewery is more than 20% owned by a brewing conglomerate the beer is not craft for the reasons outlined in the paragraph above the final photo.
3) the size one is a difficult issue, point 1 is meant to be the starting point for discussion. Maybe we do not need size to be part of the definition?BrewDog James 16.10.2013
- I agree on this formal definition of Craft Beer. Perhaps we could even look at official certification: Think: "Certified Organic by the Soil Association Matty16.10.2013
- A good starting point I guess. I do take issue with a few points though:
OG - not sure what this means exactly. If it means that no additional fermentables are added during fermentation then surely this would preclude some European styles?
Ownership - Scenario: I own a craft brewery. I brew craft beer every day. I need some cash, sell 20% to an interested large brewery. Wake up tomorrow and the beer I'm brewing suddenly isn't craft. WTF?
Brewery size: what will happen to the definition when Brewdog hits this size?
- "Craft beer" my arse. There's only good beer (like yours) and bad beer (like Wadworth). Well you did ask... Colin F16.10.2013
- Still love the 'I am a Craft Brewer' video Paul J16.10.2013
- Agree with the US analogy and the need to help guide consumers, provide structure for retailers and also protect the category.
I don't think anyone will disagree with these aims. I think there will be a lot of disagreement in terms of how to achieve them.
However, given a definition needs to be tangible, the above is as good a starting point for that exploration as any.Hop Pup16.10.2013
- @Pete - thanks for your comment. All our Punk IPA is now brewed at our Ellon Brewery. In the past we have brewed some Punk IPA for canning externally but no longer do this.
As noted, the definition holds everyone in the craft beer industry, including ourselves to a higher standard of accountability to the customer which in our view can only be a good thing.BrewDog James 16.10.2013
- Interestingly that this definition would see all cask ale brewers count as craft brewers.
Maybe a good way to reconcile craft, cask & CAMRA too.
- Great article - I am sure it will promote plenty of discussion (and potential disagreement).
I agree craft needs an official definition. however, beers which do not fall inside this definition can still be good beers.Maxwell 16.10.2013
- What about.
1. Can't sell beers that are ever produced under contract elsewhere (Punk IPA...)
- I think you need to drop #4. That way it would make craft breweries really consider their position before taking the 13 pieces of silver Andrew16.10.2013
- Articulate, passionate and very well reasoned. A side of BrewDog we don't see too often. I like it.
The size issues is a difficult one, I understand the rationale for having this clause, the difficulty is deciding where to draw the line and why?
However, you could also consider dropping clause 1 altogether as pretty much everyone over that volume will fall foul of clause 2.
I think the original gravity clause is a really important one and a noticeable oversight in the American definition.Adrian S16.10.2013
- For once I find myself completely agreeing with BrewDog.
Looking objectively I think there are very strong reasons to have an official definition.
- well said, articulate and well thought out! Mr T16.10.2013
- PS: When we come to adding detail to (3) - the traceability and quality of supplies of ingredients may come into it, and we may need to think about the distinction between craft and organic .... ingredients and processes. psybertron16.10.2013
- Hi guys. Agree this is needed to manage market confusion, and I have some experience of definitions & specifications.
Firstly, yes, focus on the brewer - we don't want to artificially limit the range of actual brews.
Next, size and ownership independence (1 and 4) are connected - self-limiting, and I don't believe an actual limiting number in (1) will be helpful in the long run. Better to improve (4) to cover the "industrial" concerns.
(2a) Needs explanation, and maybe there are actually more rules here ? (again we don't want to limit whacky creativity)
(2b) is probably not a real rule, and is better covered under (3) Honesty in actual ingredients (and processes) used.
(3) is the key. It "raises the bar" as you say. Once 1, 2 and 4 are tidied-up we should come back to 3, and check it covers all the ingredient / process / location aspects relevant.
Finally - when thinking about definitions, you need to think about your objective - why have a definition. I use the adage "good fences make good neighbours". You have two purposes - to make a clear distinction between craft and industrial, and secondly, the more "neighbourly" aim to mend fences between craft beer and real ale. The latter can benefit mutually and they are not mutually exclusive.
Hope that helps.