Craft beer and business:
Any brewery who says "you can't define craft beer" is just worried they won't fit into the definition, and it might hurt their business image and their bottom line.
For craft beer to keep its integrity -- to stop the degradation and erosion of a beautiful ideal by Corporate breweries, attaching their tentacles to craft breweries all around the world-- it is vital that we draw a line on the battleground of commercialism vs craft.
Big Business has realized that there's a quick buck to be made off of craft beer, (or something that looks like craft beer) and it's eroding the ideal of what craft is. Craft is not market-led. Craft is about individuality, about creating, about pushing the boundaries, making something new, not about latching on to the latest trend.
The logical conclusion of making market-led beer is bland, safe, boring, corporate. It's the antithesis of craft.
So how do we define craft?
By volume produced?
Lack of automation?
Are they independent?
Do they have lots of wacky flavours with loads of hops?
The craft defines the craftsman and the craftsmen defines the craft.
Craft is an expression of the individuality of the craftsman. Craft is art as well as science. When an artist creates art, we are invited to experience what the artist wanted to say; with craft beer we taste and experience what the brewer wanted to share.
It's not possible to drink a mass produced product, dreamt up in a board room, created en mass to pander to “average” or “majority” tastes, and have that experience of understanding what the brewer wanted to create; the brewer didn't have a vision he wanted to express. A product was dictated to him, and he was simply the instrument. To him, it's just a job.
And there's nothing inherently wrong with that; just as there is a place for fast food, there is a place for fine dining. McDonald's and Michelin Stars. There is a place for IKEA furniture and there is a place for the carpenter making hand-made furniture. Mass produced, copied art, and one off masterpieces.
Beer is the same. There is space for mass produced beer and craft beer. But the problem comes when one attempts to masquerade as the other. Don't sell me an IKEA flat pack and tell me it's the same as the arts and craft movement. Don't sell me a printed poster and tell me it's a masterpiece. Don't sell me mass produced beer that is not an expression of the brewers individual style, and tell me it's craft!
Independence and creativity, making YOUR beer, is critical in defining real craft. Making a product that you believe in, that represents you as an individual, is real craft. Only when a brewer is free to make the beer that he dreams of do we see real craft.