Growing up, there was not much choice in terms of available beer in South Africa – there were a small handful of local brands and only one or two imported labels. That changed a few years ago as the “craft revolution” began and we’re now faced with the “so many choices, only one liver” conundrum when standing in front of the fridge at the bottle store.
Enjoying the odd tipple, I love tasting this diverse new range of beer and have, on more occasions than I care to admit, paid the usually exorbitant prices for these so-called craft brands. But therein lies my problem – “craft brand”. The term itself is a contradiction.
Two definitions for terms used when speaking about beer
Hanging out in any place that serves good beer, it’s just a matter of time before you hear someone utter the words, “I refuse to drink that mass-produced commercial stuff. I only drink craft beer.”
Craft; (noun) “an activity involving skill in making things by hand” or (verb); “exercise skill in making (an object), typically by hand.”
Commercial; “concerned with or engaged in commerce. Making or intended to make a profit”.
Craft and Commercial are mutually exclusive
These beers undoubtedly started life being lovingly crafted in someone’s kitchen. However there is a very slim chance that anything being made in a quantity that is sold in multiple bars, restaurants and stores is still being made by hand. Due to the volumes produced, there is no way around automating at least part of the process.
These now-mass-produced beverages are branded, marketed and sold with the intentional of making a profit, thereby making them a commercial product.
It’s excellent beer – it’s just not “craft”
In our world of commercially produced sameness, we are continually urged to be unique; to create and consume things that “have not had the soul sucked out of them”. That is where the magic of crafting beer (or any other product, for that matter…) comes in – it’s small, one-off batches of something truly special. Mass-producing that takes the magic away.
So that is my plea to beer aficionados everywhere. These days there are literally hundreds of delicious, excellent quality beers on the market, but call them what they are – commercial beers. If you want to drink craft, create it yourself.
Rant over! Feel free to disagree (or agree) in the comment section!