Thank God you’re here, Captain Pedantic!

Craft beer means beer made for a more discerning audience than the mass-market beers that ubiquitously line bars around the world.

craft beer is beer brewed with the deliberate intention of appealing to “beer enthusiasts”

“craft” means “beer like what hobbyists and homebrewers make, except done more properly”

Craft beer is beer made for people who like craft beer. That’s not a tautology, it’s a feedback loop
me (18 months ago)

I’ve spent far too much time on this blog going on about the concept of ‘craft beer’, and I don’t want to spend any more time on it than I can help. But here’s a slightly different angle, suggested by some comments over at Tandleman’s. Four points:

  1. ‘Craft beer’ is an imported concept; it originated in the US.
  2. In the US it’s defined primarily in terms of the size and independence of the brewery and the use of traditional ingredients.
  3. This definition doesn’t work in the UK: applied literally it would mean that Holt’s RegalCrystal Lager is ‘craft’ and Worthington White Shield isn’t.
  4. We haven’t imported the concept of ‘craft beer’ at all; all we’ve done is import a two-word phrase.

Step 4 is the lightbulb moment. That’s why it’s so hard to arrive at a definition of ‘craft beer’ in the UK: in the UK, it has no definition. It’s got a hole where a definition ought to be – or rather, where the original definition used to be.

What’s happened as a result is what always happens when a group of people start using a term without any definition: it’s been defined by how it’s used, and especially by the people who use it. ‘Craft beer’ drinkers are the people who see themselves as drinkers of craft beer. ‘Craft beer’ is the kind of beer craft beer drinkers like, and ‘craft brewers’ are the brewers who cater to them.

And, er, that’s it. That’s all there is to it.


  1. Posted 1 October, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    After much thought: A UK Craft Brewer does *not* have a lab. That encapsulates the state of craft in the UK for me :-)

    • Posted 1 October, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink | Reply

      What if you’ve got a microscope and get a mate at a lab you used to work at to make you agar plates?

      • Posted 2 October, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Nope – must have a lab in house to graduate from being a craft brewery to being a beer brewery

    • Posted 7 October, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      So a UK Craft Brewer is a dilettante then?

      • Posted 7 October, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        A UK craft brewer is a brewer who knows what the fans want.

One Trackback

  1. By Craft Beer - Same But Different on 4 October, 2012 at 11:03 am

    […] at the end of last week, it has also appeared on a few of the blogs I read since then too (here, here, here and here). I was going to blog about it on Friday before it all blew up, but ran out of time […]

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