When frequenting a London drinking establishment this year or inadvertently getting drawn into conversation with a craft beer wanker, you might be confused as to what the deuce is craft beer?? Craft beers are here in London and are here to stay. This is a bloody good thing for your whole beer drinking experience.
Born in the USA
The Craft Beer movement was born in the 80’s, conceived by our cousins in the States. Since the closure of most US breweries during prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s the American beer market became plagued by the dominance of a few mammoth breweries peddling weak, tasteless, ‘light’ lager, marketed for refreshment over taste. The craft beer movement was pioneered by a few brave souls who began brewing traditional beer recipes on (often stemming from original British recipes) on a micro scale and chucked in extra natively grown hops and other tasty goodies.
Getting to the point
So although there is no overall definition of what really makes a beer ‘craft’ the guys at Brewers Association in the States have defined US craft breweries as:
Nice and small – Brewing less than 6 million barrels per year
Independent – Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer
Natural – 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavour.
Craft beer is also associated with:
Innovation – Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
Proper ingredients – made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
Community – Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities
Love their customers – Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
If you’re going to take one thing away, let’s just stick with well-made, interesting beer with great flavour, using quality ingredients especially no rice and corn!
Meanwhile in the UK….
The battle continued throughout the latter half of the 20th Century between traditional cask ales, full of flavour and complexity against the invasion of strong lagers from the continent, far detached from the flavoursome pale ales, IPA’s and Stouts which made Britain the home of the beer.
The cask ale never quite escaped its stuffy image reserved for the country pub drinker and continental lager was marketed effectively to the masses, promoting refreshment over enjoyment.
Incredibly, in a city which used to supply most of the worlds’ beer the number of breweries had been reduced to merely TWO by 2006. The past few years have seen the beer landscape in the UK completely explode with craft breweries popping up all over London. The remarkable return of brewing to London is extraordinary with more than 40 independent brewers in existence at time of writing… And growing!
This is marvelous news for the already vibrant pub scene where we can now see pubs that specialise in craft beer (e.g. Craft Beer Co and The Draft House) with pumps being occupied by exciting and ludicrously tasty locally brewed beers. We are finally benefitting from our own brewing history as well as cashing in on the skills of our pioneering counterparts from America (American Pale Ales and seriously hoppy beer), Germany (try classic Bavarian Hefeweizen) and Belgium (literally hundreds of styles and flavours). The beers fermenting away in archways and industrial units across London are some of the tastiest beers around!
Don’t be surprised if discovering incredible craft beer turns you into one of those ‘craft beer wankers’.
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