Does the term “craft keg” get on your nerves? It sure gets on mine… it seems to have surfaced out of corners of the industry where they’d not know “craft beer” if it leapt out of the bottle and smacked them on their suit-trousered backsides.
What’s more we now have a large number of publicans who’ve latched onto this to the extent that “craft beer” is, to them, defined as “non-mainstream keg beer”. Reasons for this are manifold. Certain larger distributors and breweries are now pushing “craft” strongly – but under that moniker putting forward nowt but a small selection of national/international beer brands that are in keg format only (i.e. Camden, Meantime, Sierra Nevada, etc). It is these salespeople who’re doing most of the “informing” across the wider industry at the moment – in my area at any rate. To back this up certain high-profile breweries have tried to jump on the bandwagon producing their own “craft” ranges – and we see things like Greene King Nobel Lager and Charles Wells / Dogfish Head DNA in keg pushed as their “craft offering”…. Then there is a very noisily vocal CAMRA minority – grasping for something to fight against they’ve targeted “craft” as clearly being the enemy – as being “fizzy bellywash”. There is also BrewDog, undoubtedly the UK’s most successful “craft brand” – who used the craft rhetoric back when they did mainly cask beers but have been a keg-only brewer for some time now so people looking to them see the “craft brewery” => “keg beer” link.
Finally there is us… those of us who fell in love with the craft beer ethos years ago. In a hipsteresque-fashion we jumped on the bandwagon before it was cool… for the fun ride… only to have let the wagon be taken away from us. We can’t see who’s driving it now but we know they’ve taken several wrong turns and sometimes we just wish they’d pull over so we could get off.
We’ve failed to protect the simple ethos that “craft beer” is all “good beer”, we’ve let our own terminology run away from us.
Can we rescue it? I’m not optimistic. Then again we do have loads of regional level breweries whacking “craft” on their cask pumpclips… maybe they’ll “save” it for us.
I currently find myself in the position of selling what I consider to be craft beer to pubs. I do avoid using the phrase myself, but inevitably when I talk to a new pub it will come up. Most people in the industry have heard the phrase “craft beer” by now and my experience is that for most of them it is about packaging more than it is about beer. I have convinced a few otherwise – but they come around reluctantly, as business owners the idea that craft beer is “non mainstream keg beer” fits a neat product niche and that is hard to shake. I come along and say that the cask beer is also craft and they look at me like I don’t know what I’m talking about… some flat out disagree, and say they’ve been told what “craft beer” is by so-and-so (big distributor or big brewer) and thus clearly I am wrong. I think it is that “neat product niche” versus “vague idea that some beer is good and some isn’t” that is the downfall here… the former requires no real further thought, the latter requires a whole lot more mental overhead on the part of the publican & drinker. (Any psychologists handy? There are probably psych papers on this sort of thing.)
I will continue to fight my corner on this matter… and I’ve decided to use the phrase “craft beer” more often in fact, making it clear that all the beer I sell is craft beer. No matter what container it is in. With and without my CAMRA hat on…
@StevenageDave I'll guarantee you most of the headline "craft brewers" themselves won't agree. Same beer goes in cask & keg in most cases.
— North Herts CAMRA (@nh_camra) August 1, 2014