|Doesn't look like a microbrewery to me|
However, things then began to change. One or two “new wave” breweries actually predated CAMRA, the Miner’s Arms in Somerset springing to mind, but after the organisation was formed the number slowly but steadily started to increase. What was at first a trickle became a steady flow and more recently a flood.
For many years we were happy to call them “micro-breweries” to distinguish them from the established independent breweries. However, as some grew bigger, this term became increasingly inappropriate. Some are now brewing considerably more than the smaller family brewers, and a growing number such as Castle Rock, Wye Valley and Butcombe have developed tied estates running into double figures. Many are now established and familiar features on bars up and down the country.
So clearly they’re not in any meaningful sense “micro” any more. Indeed, is there still any point in making a distinction between them and the pre-1970 breweries? Many younger consumers will perceive no difference in kind between Timothy Taylors and Saltaire on the bar or the PBA shelves, and would probably view Black Sheep as a long-standing Yorkshire institution.
To my mind, though, having lived through the history, there still is a clear difference. A brewery that has endured through several generations and has been rooted in a tied estate is not at all the same as one founded relatively recently and initially mostly depending on free trade for growth. I’m not saying one is better than the other, and in fact some of my favourite beers come from post-1975 breweries, but the distinction is still valid.
Maybe once some of these new breweries have survived changes of ownership or being passed on to at least one new generation it might be eroded, but there remains a big gap between “founded before 1900” and “founded since 1975”. And, if they’re no longer micro-breweries, but aren’t family breweries either, what are we supposed to call them now?
(And that’s without even touching on the thorny issue of whether they qualify as “craft”).