Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The family craft

Prompted by this post about Fuller’s on Eating isn’t Cheating, I asked which of the family brewers in the North-West, Yorkshire and the Midlands people considered to be in any sense “craft breweries”. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t “expecting” any particular outcome from this. But the result is quite clear – 28 out of 48 respondents (58%) didn’t think any of them were. Does this mean that people don’t feel any brewery that was trading in 1972 can be a craft brewery, or that they don’t think much of the concept in general?

This certainly contradicts the statement made by Boak & Bailey and others that most British real ale qualifies as “craft beer”.

Of those who did, Timothy Taylor’s were marginal leaders with 10 votes, despite the fact that they do not produce either seasonal beers or “interesting” bottles. Robinson’s, Batham’s and Hook Norton were joint second with 9, while, perhaps surprisingly, Donnington, who must be the smallest and most truly “artisanal” of all, were joint bottom with 6.

My personal view, which I’ve said before, is that the concept of “craft beer” maybe causes more problems than it solves, but if it means anything it means beers that are knowingly produced to have a specific appeal to beer enthusiasts, in a sense that standard cask and bottled beers aren’t.


  1. I missed out on the poll.

    I would have put none of these primarily because I I get to drink is the standard 4% brown beer that they all produce thousands of barrels of. I think this is because I live in South London and don't see these breweries very often and when I do it is their best selling and therefor probably most boring brown beers that I get to taste.

    If you had Fuller's, Sharp's or Adanam's on there I would have pick those as craft producers because I have had and enjoyed a good range of well made beers from each of these breweries.

    I don't think you can say "58% of people think no family brewers are craft" when you list of family brewers is a geographic subset.

    It would be interesting to do a geographical analysis of the 28 "none of these" votes.

  2. Well, there's the definition of craft beer we'd like to take, and then there are about 800 others...

    Personally, I think any brewery (including those I diss from time to time) that makes the effort to cask condition beer is engaged in a 'craft'. As long as they retain the skill and will to do that, they get my respect, albeit grudgingly in some cases.

  3. These non-enthusiasts, these people who are, I suppose, reluctantly drinking beer. Who are they?

  4. Most drivers are not car enthusiasts. Most people who eat sandwiches are not bread enthusiasts.

  5. I'll try again. Most drivers do so to get from A-B. Most people have bread on the outside of their sandwiches to keep the insides off their hands. Why do these not-enthusiastic (I guess you mean "most") drinkers chose beer?

  6. J. W. Lees have been producing Harvest Ale for many years and were producing intersting barrel aged versions of it before many of the 'cool' breweries existed.
    Robinson's Old Tom is surely a craft beer too.
    Thwaites now have a range of bottle conditioned beers with Old Dan also fulfilling my defintion of a craft beer.

  7. It's a bit of a loaded questionnaire though isn't it? I mean haven't you chosen these breweries to illustrate your point?

    Anyway, I know craft isn't a perfect term but it has filled a gap in twhe description of breweries and beer that was necessary. Only time will tell whether it's the right term ;-)

  8. P.s. I think Birkonian isn't far off the money with his comment. It's a combination of things that makes something craft.

    Just because it's a loose term doesn't mean people don't understand it.

  9. "I mean haven't you chosen these breweries to illustrate your point?"

    No, basically it's all the currently existing family/independent breweries within about 100 miles of Stockport. There was no conscious selection at all. I suppose I could also have included Theakston's and Bateman's, but I don't think that would have made much difference to the outcome. There's also probably one obvious one somewhere that I've forgotten :-|

  10. Craft beer is a term that only has any meaning to beer geeks, and even beer geeks cannot tell you what it means.

    It appears a snobbish term for good beer, loaded with qualities like brewery size and how much of a niche it is, and whether it is sold in Tesco or not.

    Good beer is no more snobbish than Hyancinth Buckets slim line phone. It is the people that drink it and think it says something about them that are snobs.

    And those types use the term "craft beer"

    What is good beer is no more or less than what you like, and someone else will like different. That neither makes you or them wrong or right.


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