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When does it stop being craft?

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  • Glenn Harrison
    replied
    i think unfortunately we have this built in response in our minds that if a small/craft brewery becomes popular grows and makes money then we start to say they are not one of us any more.
    At the end of the day we are all in it to make great beer, make a living and hopefully grow.
    It is not a crime to make money and be successful

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  • liammckenna
    replied
    Originally posted by Bainbridge View Post
    The successful among us will brew things that other people actually want to drink.

    It's the balance between idealism and practicality. As an owner you are the the boots in the brewhouse and also the suit in the office. You have to make the tough decisions. Sometimes you have to face the fact, disappointing as it may be, that you're the only person that digs your music.
    Very well said Russell.

    Brewers make liquid bread. If a baker only made bread that people enjoyed a mere half a slice of a few times a year, do you think he/she would be in business for long? Perhaps if they shipped their unique bread halfway around the world to go stale on shelves? Ha!

    Pax.

    Liam

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  • Bainbridge
    replied
    You're drawing artificial distinctions, false dichotomies.

    Craft Beer is a Product.

    It is also an art, also a science, also what we do and therefore part of who we are. Just like anybody making a good product, be it a car, a dinner, a website, or anything. But if you can't sell it, very soon you won't be brewing it anywhere but in your basement. We all have a vision of what we want to brew. The successful among us will brew things that other people actually want to drink.

    It's all fine and good to say "Man, the customers just don't get it." But to quote Purple Rain:
    The Kid: That's life, man.

    Billy: Life, my ass, motherf____r! This is a business, and you too far gone to see that yet! I told you before, you're not packin' them in like you used to. No one digs your music but yourself.

    It's the balance between idealism and practicality. As an owner you are the the boots in the brewhouse and also the suit in the office. You have to make the tough decisions. Sometimes you have to face the fact, disappointing as it may be, that you're the only person that digs your music. But sometimes you stick with it and other people will start humming along. You will have to kill a favorite beer off, and you will have to promote beers you are less than happy with. And to find that out you look hard at your sales, your costs, your staff and customer's feedback, and so on, and your vision morphs to become one that more and more people can see. It's an iterative process, not a uni-directional statement of "This my Craft Beer. You will buy it and you will like it. I have a Vision."

    Comical self-righteousness doesn't get anyone a new fermenter or more kegs. (Ok, well maybe Stone...) Quality product, good sales, and sound management does. At the end of the day we're just adding flowers to boiling sugar water. Those who understand that will continue the privilege of being able to do so. And yes, that's kinda depressing. But personally, I find it to be freeing.

    Now, it's time to go make some kickass flowery sugar-water.

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  • scrubb
    replied
    And another thing: Art

    Is the beer brewed because it conforms to some perception of median consumer taste as garnered from a series of focus groups and taste panels, or is it brewed because the brewer had a vision of flavor and identity and then composed the beer from a palette of ingredients regardless of his perception of how popular the result might be?

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  • scrubb
    replied
    Will you die for it?

    To me the biggest difference between large industrial brewers and myself isn't so much the scale as it is the personalization. I make the beer I sell, for its own sake. It's not a "product" or a "line" or a "brand". It's me. I am actually willing to die keeping my business and beer alive. Somehow I doubt that a marketing/executive suit in an office far removed from the "production facility" has the same investment. To them it's just another corporate job. They can move on to another "brand" without a second thought. This is what differentiates craft from industrial and why craft will triumph.

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  • ChesterBrew
    replied
    Originally posted by LuskusDelph View Post
    The industry may not destroy itself, but it is definitely starting to get comically 'self important'.
    Yes, that's a more precise description of what I was intending to say. I worked at a software company during the dot-com days; now seeing many, many parallels to that point in time.


    Originally posted by LuskusDelph View Post
    Just make good beer. In the big picture, that's really the only category or descriptive that's important.
    Agree... Make good beer and be able to get it to market, whether it be through distribution or your own tap room.

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  • LuskusDelph
    replied
    Originally posted by ChesterBrew View Post
    ...I don't know what's going to pop the craft bubble first: American consumers' tendency to move on to the "next big thing," raw material shortages for so many breweries, or the industry destroying itself like an auto-immune disease.
    The industry may not destroy itself, but it is definitely starting to get comically 'self important'.
    Just make good beer. In the big picture, that's really the only category or descriptive that's important.

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  • ChesterBrew
    replied
    "Purity tests" ultimately lead to a circular firing squad.

    I don't know what's going to pop the craft bubble first: American consumers' tendency to move on to the "next big thing," raw material shortages for so many breweries, or the industry destroying itself like an auto-immune disease.

    Leave a comment:


  • nateo
    replied
    Originally posted by eoconnor101 View Post
    I think he is drawing a line in that the second the bean counters make a decision regarding recipe formulation or process such as to only carry 5 specialty malts and cut your hop budget and say you must choose 1 house yeast strain etc, it's no longer craft. In this respect the size of a brewery has nothing to do with it.
    As a bean counter, I take offense to that notion. No brewer in the world completely ignores cost, at any scale. Home- and Pro-brewers pick NA pils over the finest floor-malted Bohemian pils all the time, or over domestic micro-malted pils, because it's cheaper and almost as good in most situations. Does that mean it's not craft anymore? Does craft require you to run your business into the ground? I don't think so. . .

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  • eoconnor101
    replied
    From Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing

    paraphrasing....'when a homebrewer (current or former) makes the ultimate decision of what the beer will taste like it's craft beer'

    I think he is drawing a line in that the second the bean counters make a decision regarding recipe formulation or process such as to only carry 5 specialty malts and cut your hop budget and say you must choose 1 house yeast strain etc, it's no longer craft. In this respect the size of a brewery has nothing to do with it.

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  • panadero
    replied
    Originally posted by LuskusDelph View Post
    The real problem is that the term "craft" as defined by the BA is itself defective
    Agreed. Small or large, make good beer. That is what counts, though I admittedly am not a marketing whiz.

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  • LuskusDelph
    replied
    Originally posted by panadero View Post
    Briefly, I don't think the question was about quality. Just size. I think Sierra Nevada is one of the best beers out there, and has been for a long time, but it doesn't really fall into the traditional meaning of craft. Agreed that size is meaningless compared to quality. I guess if I were ever to run a huge brewery, though, I would want to consider it still my craft, though I never lift a bag of grain...
    2cents
    The real problem is that the term "craft" as defined by the BA is itself defective (and constantly bound to change so as not to exclude small brewers that get bigger).
    As has been said dozens of times (by me and many other observers of the industry), it's really just a marketing term anyway...one that has less and less meaning with each passing year.

    I guess "craft" was just easier to remember for marketing purposes than "artisanal" would have been (even though the latter is certainly more accurate and meaningful).

    Either way, the only real purpose of trying to put a label on it really seems to be strictly an effort to give the products snob appeal. That aspect is constantly proven by beer fans who seem to think that small brewers are in the game strictly for the love of it and not for the profits; such as when small brewers attain success in the mainstream, grow larger, or become associated with larger companies for a distribution advantage they are accused of "selling out".
    It's all rather silly, really.

    As long as the beer is good, brewery size is totally irrelevant. The game has been changing, and the next few years will be very interesting, likely bringing another revolution of sorts (and probably another big shakeout).

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  • panadero
    replied
    Briefly, I don't think the question was about quality. Just size. I think Sierra Nevada is one of the best beers out there, and has been for a long time, but it doesn't really fall into the traditional meaning of craft. Agreed that size is meaningless compared to quality. I guess if I were ever to run a huge brewery, though, I would want to consider it still my craft, though I never lift a bag of grain...
    2cents

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  • lijah
    replied
    its just a name in reality. but ill go with....when it becomes a regional.

    Ok. So i can already hear bottles flying past my head.

    I personally will answer........when it quits making beer and starts making money.
    Also who came up with this nano junk. I mean when i look at a brewery , I see equal effort from all the brewers no matter the size. Budweiser might not be some peoples idea of crafted beer. Bit let me tell you. They are just as crafty as these startups that someone decided to call nano. No brewery ever started as a250 system.and im sure some older brewers will agree on this..

    any size vessal still has to be finely crafted in orderto acheive your target gravity. And it takes just as much love to produce 1bbl as it does to produce 250bbl mashes.
    Nano-micro-craft-regional-----simply a name put by some indivisuals to be unique. Yet unique is recognizing the CRAFT love and pride that all breweries big and small equaly CRAFTED...

    Sorry if i offend any body that thinks the size of brewery defines the craftmenship.
    Last edited by lijah; 07-24-2013, 11:01 PM.

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  • kererubrewing
    replied
    I think when one starts reducing their grain bill to maximise profits at the expense of body and flavour that one is travelling down the slippery slope away from what many would call craft-beer. When shareholder value is more important than customer satisfaction is also likely to be a clue that one is moving away from craft and towards something else.

    Debt-driven economies of scale make this quite challenging and it is a testament of the vision and leadership within those larger breweries who make awesome, characterful beers regardless of the volume.

    2ยข from the antipodes.

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