I’ve put my finger on my issue with the craft beer movement: it can be insular and self-revering, and lacks the honesty and character we have been led to expect. This came into sharp focus when I was listening to some of the industry’s big names speak and debate at PUB17 recently.
There are incredible modern beers, beers that will be regarded for years to come and breweries that get better all the time. Boundaries are being pushed and (generally) standards are rising accordingly. However, I haven’t seen such blatant and unjust arrogance since I worked among gaggles of BMW-driving sales executives with six pints inside them.
Camden Town’s Founder – who claims to produce ‘craft beer’ while owned by AB-InBev, who brew for them in Belgium – said he makes the best lager in the UK. There were three better in the same room! If this lager was the UK entry in an international competition, I would tell people I was German. This brewery’s lager is irrelevant compared to the likes of Wild Beer Co, Cloudwater or Tiny Rebel, let alone the best among them.
BrewDog’s panellist looked to introduce a bit of anarchy with an impassioned and sweary diatribe about educating the consumer. As a consumer myself, I didn’t rally to the cry of ‘Peroni’s sh*t, drink this’. Not because I didn’t agree, but because I took issue with the fervent love he had for his own and other’s sometimes good, sometimes middling, sometimes bad products – all of them less than five years old.
I am angered by an advertising campaign by Meantime who – with a complete lack of self-awareness – claim to have started ‘proper beer’ in 1999. This isn’t tongue-in-cheek – they are serious. They are also bland and AB-InBevSABMiller-GloboBrew-owned.
It seems that some people have forgotten anything happened before they used mummy and daddy’s money to open a brewery in a railway arch and tried to mimic Stone IPA. Forget the US from the mid-seventies. Forget anything Belgium or the Czech Republic have ever done. Germany? What have they ever done for beer? It all started in Greenwich, 1999 – before that there was nothing. Real ale isn’t a craft. Lambic brewing isn’t proper. Blending is childsplay. Aging doesn’t take patience and skill.
If you want the best beers the world has ever seen, made by true craftspeople, then the choices are Camden Hells, Meantime Lager, or Brewdog Jackhammer. Seriously? There is pride in what you do and there is turning the entire scene into a pastiche of itself.