Our scientific age demands that we provide definitions, and well, so do our trade associations. The Brewers Association gives a very specific definition for a craft brewery and many hold to it — not these folks of course. If you want to be in a club, you have to be a member, you gotta pay your dues (literally) and you must meet the criteria. Now, a British trade association called the United Craft Brewers (UCB) is looking to do the same thing for the U.K. brewing scene. There’s a good article on London’s HITC website in its Lifestyle section.
This attempt by the new United Craft Brewers (UCB) to codify craft is essential in their mission to, “promote and protect the interests of British craft brewers, their beers and beer enthusiasts.” UCB has been established by the scene’s big guns — Brewdog, Beavertown, Magic Rock and Camden Town Brewery are among its founders — but, nonetheless, and despite the upbeat “Hey guys!” tone of their first public statement, I cannot help but think they have set themselves a thankless task, and a pointless one.
What is the point? Well, marketing of course. The “craft” title gives the consumer the impression that their buying the people as the much as the product — small, local-focused and privately-owned vs. big, multinational and investor-run. Is that the truth? Is anything 100 percent the truth?
Even those things which UCB should logically demand of its members (a ban on third-party contract brewing; no-membership for “small breweries” that are owned/funded by multinationals), would pose immediate issues for its founders. Brewdog is about to (albeit as a one-off stunt), effectively contract brew a beer in the UK on behalf of the US brewery Stone while fellow UCB founders James Clay distribute Founders’ beers, a company 30% owned by Mahou San Miguel.
We’ve preached some of the same things on CBB: The problem with definitions is that they tend to constrain. We’ve also come up with our own definitions. In the end, definitions are what people want and it’s definitely what trade associations do. And here’s a final thought: Perhaps that definition could provide the competitive advantage a smaller company needs, regardless if it’s 100 percent accurate.