Last week I described how the craft beer movement had, in Europe, to a large extent ended up making its pitch against established, indigenous beer styles rather than the international brewers. This is a theme that is echoed in this recent blogpost by Will Hawkes:
What is important is variety and regional diversity: craft beer is making everything the same, everywhere. It emerged to challenge industrial pale lager’s hegemony by allowing customers to access a whole world of other flavours - but it appears to be on the way to creating a market that is almost as monocultural. I appreciate being able to get what I want to drink in London, from IPA to witbier, but it’d be better if there was more that spoke specifically of London.All too often, craft’s appeal seems to be that you can now have a Five Guys and not just a McDonald’s, while conveniently ignoring all the chip shops that have closed down.
What is the point of craft beer if what you get in Strasbourg tastes largely the same as what you drink in Glasgow? Mikkeller is opening a new bar in Paris later this month; Brewdog has dozens already. This is not exciting. Regional variety is exciting.
He reckons that the bubble has now well and truly burst:
The shine has decisively gone off craft beer, and its previous calling card - It’s innovative! It’s new! - is all used up. (That’s why the scenesters are moving on to natural wine: it’s exciting and new and when it gets dull … well, there’ll be something else along in a few years.) The interesting stuff is happening at the fringes - coolships, barrel-aging - and the obsession with intense hop-dosed beers is dragging what remains away from the mainstream, deep into trainspotter territory.He suggests that part of the reaction is “the fetishisation of ales like Landlord and Sussex Best”. However, I’d argue this is very limited and in general tends to be no more than paying lip service to tradition. “Oh, I really like some of those real ales”. But the trail rapidly goes cold beyond a few familiar names, and I see precious little evidence of enthusiasts actively seeking out these classic British ales on their home turf, in the way that CAMRA members did in its early years.
As he concludes, “in a world where everyone is doing the same thing, going back to where you began is the only sensible thing to do.”