Defining Craft Beer Take 2

Defining Craft Beer Take 2

Our previous blog which we posted here certainly generated a spirited discussion around firstly whether craft beer needs a definition and secondly how to go about defining it. Our position on this remains resolute: We firmly believe craft beer needs a recognised definition in the UK and we want to work together with SIBA and the brewing industry to make this happen.

There is also strong precedent for legally defining Craft Beer. Legal definitions are everywhere and are designed to protect a product’s reputation from poor imitations. ‘Bourbon’, ‘Whisky’ and ‘Champagne’ are 3 examples where they have protected premium drinks from cheaper imitations and helped both the consumer and the category in the process. Cheddar Cheese anyone?

BrewDog Bars Collab Fest

 We welcomed all the feedback we got on our proposed definition last month and have now taken account of this discussion by putting together a further draft for consideration. We again, would like to stress here, that this is a draft for discussion and would need acceptance and backing from UK craft brewers and from SIBA to have value.

BrewDog's Fraserburgh Brewery: Our new brewing lab

We believe a definition is important for the following reasons:

Firstly, to protect craft brewers and what we are all working hard to build. Secondly to help retailers promote craft beer and structure their offerings to enable strong growth in the category. Thirdly, to help guide consumers and ensure they are protected from being exploited by monolithic mega corporations masquerading as craft brewers. Fourthly to enable true craft brewers to charge a fair and sustainable price for their beers. Fifthly, to enable the category to grow as strongly in the UK as it has in America.

Jack Rutherford, Ale & Stout Buyer for Sainsbury’s agrees: ‘An official definition of craft beer from an industry body would help provide a more structured customer offering, and also enable us to do more to grow and champion the craft beer category.’

We 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. Our new proposed definition is as follows:

A European Craft Brewery:

1) Is Authentic

a) brews all their beers at original gravity.

b) does not use any adjuncts to lessen flavour and reduce costs.

2) 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.

3) Is Independent

Is not more than 20% owned by a brewing company which operates any brewery which is not a craft brewery.

4) Is Committed

If the brewer has an estate, at least 90% of the beer they sell must be craft beer.

BrewDog Bars Sunday Afternoon Focus Group (kinda) 

We feel it is very difficult to argue against any of these points individually and collectively they offer a strong definition of craft brewery. They would hold everyone in the craft beer industry to a high standard of accountability and prevent faux craft beers from deceiving consumers and bastardising the category in the same way mega corporations have bastardised the pilsner beer style over the last 50 years.

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 SIBA and also at a European level by The Brewers of Europe Association. 

James & Martin x

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hg14 16.11.2013 @ 9:13am
Are we defending a business or a product? This definition seems to be protective for a business model not for a creative and delicious beverages as craft beers.
GrahamF4 14.11.2013 @ 3:32pm
Somehow my previous comment got chopped in half. Any brewery true to its intentions should brew beer to original gravity. It is poor practice to brew a base beer then dilute and use adjuncts to create their range of beers.I was just reading the new post and the -craft- word came up again, describing a geuze. Does this use of craft refer to the beer style or to the brewery? If it refers to style, then craft would not apply because the style pre-dates the label of craft but if it refers to the brewery then it does. However, breweries who have produced a given style of beer for a hundred or so years have probably reached a state of perfection for that beer. Along comes someone who wishes to tear up the rule book and produces variation on said beer but insists on using the style to identify it. Does that qualify as a craft beer? Perhaps craft beer should therefore focus on one off special releases, especially since the new proposal does not mention volume.I no longer believe there needs to be a definition but If there is to be one it should be reached collaboratively with other like-minded breweries, who wish to be distinct from other breweries. It does beg the question that if a brewery such as Thornbridge would be defined as craft, especially as the support behind craft is for keg only dispense (not excluding bottles). Thornbridge brew for cask and keg. I think the separatism that is being created will also make people believe that non-craft brewed beer is of low quality since one of the defining concepts behind craft is beer of high quality. We dont want to create beer nazis now, do we?.
...!!!... 14.11.2013 @ 2:52pm
Craft beer is far too generic to be given protection under the same kind of regime as champagne or Rioja, in my opinion. Also cheddar cheese isnt protected, its a generic name, Feta however isnt so there you go. It is also notoriously difficult to do, and youd be going through Luxembourg for years before anything happened. Also I dont think theres any point in trying to define it, its boring and uninspiring, lets just make good beer which people want to drink. I dont want someone else telling me how to keep my integrity.
maulebrewingco 14.11.2013 @ 12:16pm
The big boys want their ball back!Having some control of how you are defined is no bad thing. Its already defining itself anyway and this is just the next step.If we dont do it be sure that it will be done for us and that will be far more damaging than anything we come up with!Good work! Looking forward to joining the debate.
Jeff@Lovibonds 14.11.2013 @ 10:59am
Dont know who said it, but craft beer is like know it when you see/taste it!
AB 14.11.2013 @ 10:50am
@ChristophyBreweries below certain capacities already have widely understood and accepted names: microbreweries and nanobreweries. No need to reinvent the wheel here.Attempting to (unjustifiably) conflate small size with high quality/ethos is just muddying the waters.Ultimately how much beer a brewery produces or how it raises its capital is completely and utterly irrelevant in judging the quality of the final product or the ethos and intent of the brewing team.
BrewDog James 14.11.2013 @ 9:03am
@brotherlogicgood point. Although our beers get stronger, not weaker! the practice it is meant to exclude is being at 9% and cutting back with water to 4.5% before packaging as most industrial brewers do. We could tweak the wording here to make this clearer.
Brotherlogic 13.11.2013 @ 9:48pm
Given that Brewdog makes a lot of beers (anything barrel aged or distilled) that arent brewed at original gravity then your definition excludes yourself...
Lbb 13.11.2013 @ 6:57pm
James, why dont you ask other Scottish breweries what they think of your definition?There is a good discussion to be had with other breweries who share your views and have the same levels of commitment to the industry here. Collaborating rather than dictating to the uk brewing industry could improve your realtionship with those in it.
Chris H 13.11.2013 @ 6:33pm
Im sorry, but I think there needes to be a size restriction. If Tennants starts a craft brewery, using old Tennants equipment and then sells off their shares until they only own 19.5% and this craft brewery can produce 500,00,000HL per year, how is that craft? Its not, its mass produced... I know the size thing got taken out from the last draft, but I think there has to be some size restriction somewhere.
CraftRebellion 13.11.2013 @ 5:50pm
It is great to see this definition move forward. I would agree with other comments that we should focus on the beer and how it is made. I know small brewers that rent time Im a brewery. They should still get to be defined as Craft Beer even if they borrow some mega corp. equipment.
Spa1 13.11.2013 @ 4:32pm
Beer that is brewed without managerial, historical or profit related constraints. Allowing brewers to have artistic control of their beer.Thats craft beer!
Jamesdwy 13.11.2013 @ 3:58pm
Its flawed to use craft within the definition of craft beer..self referential definitions are meaningless.Q.Describe a hoppy beerA.It tastes hoppy
jamietaylor 13.11.2013 @ 2:23pm
Point 4, the brewer is committed: If they are committed then shouldnt the brewery be producing 100% craft beer? This complicates the issue, its all or nothing.
Dr Hop 13.11.2013 @ 1:19pm
Perhaps one little loophole in that trying to define a European craft brewery, it leaves open the ability for non-European breweries to use the term within Europe. While the US has its own definition, what would stop Blue Moon identifying itself as craft beer in Europe, a non-US territory?
AleBeHonest 13.11.2013 @ 12:45pm
I agree with aseftel, the beer should be more important than the brewery making it. To use your cheddar cheese example, the brands of Dairy Crest (Cathedral City) and Muller Wiseman (Most others) still follow the rules to be called cheddar.The points from your list which matter are all of part 1, Part 2 a & b (some stipulation may be needed to segregate the craft arm of a larger brewer, but they may still be made on the same premises I believe.)The ownership and operations of the brewery are less important than the product it produces and wants to put a Craft Beer label on.One final point, is the idea that Craft Beer and Real Ale should be considered seperate categories of beer? As there is a lot of overlap between the two in the rules stated.
AB 13.11.2013 @ 12:42pm
What if a brewery fulfills all these criteria, but the beer they brew is utterly foul, like Fosters only worse.Is it still a craft beer?Surely the crucial differentiating factor between a craft beer and a non-craft beer is the way it tastes. Everything else is secondary.
Grahamf4 13.11.2013 @ 12:34pm
Point 1b is pontless as point 1a covers this already. Some breweries brew to a very high OG but then dilute to reach desired FG. By brewing all beers at original gravity means you would not be adding anything to increase the volume. Also no-one would use
Kristof T 13.11.2013 @ 12:17pm
@aseftel interesting that you mention Ardbeg. Since LVMH took over Glenmorangie/Ardbeg in 2004 the quality of the whisky produced has plummeted. Instead of rich aromas and flavours carried by a strong peat base, they turned to one-dimentional, ashy, peat-
makimoo 13.11.2013 @ 12:15pm
Many microbreweries have been brewing to this criteria for many years. I just dont understand the need to define craft beer in this country. I can understand why it was done in the US, but we have been able to find great alternatives to mass produced s
Kristof T 13.11.2013 @ 12:08pm
If you want to define craft beers, you can get tempted into dividing the world in good and bad beers, which is a slippery path.This definition steers away from that, it is easy to understand, and it allows both brewers and consumers to make clear choice
Omo 13.11.2013 @ 12:00pm
Shouldnt you start with a clear definition of what a craft brewery is as many of the points in your draft relate directly to this. E.g All their beer is brewed at craft breweries. - point 2c.
STUART R 13.11.2013 @ 11:43am
Point 3 seems contradictory... how can you be independent yet partly owned by a big brew corp?
Ben F 13.11.2013 @ 11:41am
Point 1b is surely mis-worded, I dont think any brewer uses adjuncts in a deliberate attempt to lessen flavour. To cut costs with the side effect of lessening flavour yes, but thats not the same.
FetMule 13.11.2013 @ 11:30am
keep it up!
Bob-the-tog 13.11.2013 @ 11:12am
Whats your thoughts on a big brewery owning a craft brewery, but running it as a craft brewery and only brewing everything on site on a small scale?
aseftel 13.11.2013 @ 11:12am
Still not convinced by the independence requirement. For example, Dom Perignon and Ardbeg create excellent drinks, despite their LVMH parentage.
Ben F 13.11.2013 @ 11:11am
There is no justification for point four being added in this revision anywhere in the article, and Im personally not keen on it. Dont cloud brewing issues with what a brewer chooses to sell in their pub estate.
Kirkio 13.11.2013 @ 11:02am
Will Sainsburys be planning on stocking more of the Brewdog range?
Lupuloopy 13.11.2013 @ 10:53am
On point 1b: Lose one of the adjuncts! (I know its just a typo...). Also, consider changing to simply does not use any adjuncts to reduce costs. I cant see any brewery admitting to using adjuncts with the intention of lessening flavour, as thats subj
Alex89 13.11.2013 @ 10:49am
I think this is a good definition of a craft brewery, but I think it would not be a good thing to define craft beer only as a product of a craft brewery.Say Heineken would create a hand-crafted, small scale RIS in one of their many owned breweries (ne
Mike McD 13.11.2013 @ 10:17am
@The St0w4w4Y most industrial brewers brew and ferment at twice the sales gravity and then blend with fizzy water and adjust the flavour with iso-hop and malt extract immediately before filling. It means that they only need to buy half the number of vesse
The St0w4w4Y 13.11.2013 @ 9:47am
Whats the alternative to brewing at original gravity? Im a n00b *holds up hands*
Beer Me Bitch 13.11.2013 @ 9:47am
Yeah, this works. Intrigued to find out where some of these thoughts came from!
Ste 13.11.2013 @ 9:43am
Good improvements on the last post, still needs work but getting there. Right behind you, boys.