Coming up with a definition of ‘‘craft beer’’ has always seemed like a pointless exercise to me. And yet the industry spends a staggering amount of time and energy trying to come up with what ‘‘craft beer’’ means.
And don’t even get me started on ‘‘indie beer’’. Okay, too late – yeah, people are having so much trouble defining ‘‘craft beer’’ that what we really need is ANOTHER vague value-laden phrase. Another phrase that is tied around ownership and fucking meaningless fluff like ‘‘spirit’’ or ‘‘a sense of innovation’’ and not around, you know, the actual beer itself.
I don’t bother with the whole definition thing – for me there’s ‘‘good beer’’ and ‘‘bad beer’ and that works for me. I know the difference between the two (which is answered by the simple question ‘‘do I like this beer?’’) and it’s a very effective guide for me when it comes to navigating the world of beer.
And, to be honest, I don’t think the general public gives a damn what ‘‘craft beer’’ is. It’s only those in the biz who want to define it, as a way of stopping the big guys from calling themselves craft. Which is, again, pointless. Say we all agree on a definition of craft – what’s to stop Coles from calling their Steamrail range craft? Absolutely frigging nothing. A definition would have no legal force. We’d have spent all that time coming up with a definition that makes us feel all soft and cosy but doesn’t actually do a goddamn thing.
But I get the industry would like some way of distinguishing itself from the big guys. How do they do that?
Well, they could do a whole lot worse than Ben Kraus at Bridge Road, who has come up with the Respect(ing) the Craft’’ idea. While I’m not a fan of the slogan – the brackets look a bit clumsy – the idea behind it is great. They’re tagging their beer with a few symbols (pictured above) that identify them as 100 per cent brewed in house and independently family owned. The ‘‘Authentic. Real. Honest’’ one I’m not so hot on – they’re vague and any big brewery could get away with using them (but that’s how Bridge Road sees themselves, so that’s fine). But it’s hard to see the likes of Coca-Cola Amatil with their Yenda range having the balls to call themselves independently family owned.
It’s a great idea because it’s not a definition of an entire industry – it’s just something that defines Bridge Road. It spells out to people the background of the brewery in a straightforward way. And it goes a long way to showing to the average person why Bridge Road beer is different and why it might be worth spending a few extra bucks on a six-pack.
People might not know much about beer, but I reckon plenty would associate something made in house by a family company as better than a beer coming from a massive factory owned by a multi-national.
It’s a campaign that uses words that the average consumer will understand, rather than some long-winded and hair-splitting definition of ‘‘craft beer’’.
After all, it’s the newcomers who need the message, not those of us already on board.