Wednesday 12 August 2015

Craft Creep

Craft creep. It's a scourge. The c-word has been hijacked by clowns, hucksters, chancers, opportunists. Some actually care, but can't get right. Some can get it right, but don't really care. Some can't get it right, but don't care. The good ones get it right because they care.

It all started when I tried to buy beer from a continental European craft brewery. As a diligent importer, we pay duty on imported beers at the appropriate rate. If a brewer falls under the UK ProgreSsive Beer Duty rate, then duty is paid at the lower rate "Can you send me your volume certification notice?" I asked "I don't even know what that is" came the reply. "We don't have a brewery, we cuckoo brew at a few places. Just think of us as a wholesaler". A quick squint at Ratebeer confirmed this, but it was news to me. And they didn't have any beer to sell. Did I want to order off a production schedule? Err, not right now, I need to place orders with breweries who actually have beer to sell, who have committed themselves to a course, not just speculatively dipped their toes in.

An email from Brewdog (edit for disambiguation: to mail-order consumers, via their website - edited 14.04 13/08/15): "Stone Clearance Offer: We are offering a selection of awesome Stone beers at, or nearing their Enjoy By date (90 days old). These beers are all still absolutely amazing, but as they have hit, or are close to their Enjoy By dates, we are selling them at these rock bottom prices". Err, hang on, when Beer-Ritz Leeds knocked out a few bottles of on-date Stone beers a couple of years back, and mentioned it on Twitter, we got a personal tweet from Stone Greg saying that if we were selling his beers in anything less than perfect condition, he would see to it personally that we wouldn't get any more (I can't find that damn tweet anywhere, but it happened)[EDIT 14/08/15- this was a Twitter DM to Ghost Drinker, who runs the shop - see below].

Endless emails from new breweries who are contract brewing, or cuckoo brewing, or who haven't even brewed a beer yet, but would like to have a meeting and talk about distribution, or potential distribution, although no, they haven't got anything brewed yet. Can nobody commit to actually fronting the money, buying the requisite stainless, and let their beers do the talking? Or will they just continue to let their talking be the beers?

"Cans are the future of craft beer". Yes, done right but again, you need to pony up and buy the best tech you can afford. Commit to it, realise that you are on the bottom of the 10,000 hour learning curve, and you need to be in it for the long haul.

Craft beer. It's beyond me why people insist that it's not a marketing term. It's only use is as a marketing term, but until it is invested with some sort of meaning, then it will continue to be used to spoof the unwary. The founders of United Craft Brewers have a tough act ahead of them. Their job is to stop craft creep, to try and reduce the bullshit, and to act with commitment and integrity. Looking at the people who founded UCB, I genuinely think that there are enough various vested interests to make it a success. There's no shame in acknowledging that (as I've said before), the beer business is about beer, and it's about business, and these are equally important words. They key thing that needs to be clung to is that this is a business consortium, promoting the interests of businesses that are built on such old-fashioned virtues as consistency, commitment and quality. It's not a free-for-all arty-farty-disco-party, it's not devil-horns awesome, it's about knowing your shit, knowing what CIP means (and having the kit to do it), understanding the value of the 10,000 hour rule.

Stamp out craft creep.