My Thoughts on “Craft” Breweries in More Than 140 Characters

The other day I took a small break from the job fun and hopped on the internet to see what was buzzing in the Twittersphere. One of the first tweets that caught my eye was this one from Doug over at Baltimore Bistro and Beer.

Now normally when I’m at work I don’t jump onto Tweets that look like they could potentially lead into a conversation because I’m not likely to be sitting in front of my computer for very long. But this question was of interest to me because I do have an opinion on the subject, so I replied. Below is what happened next.

To which I replied

And true to my word I failed miserably. Sadly, I found that I wasn’t able to adequately convey my point in a tweet. Hell, I didn’t even do a good job using three tweets.

I was more than a little frustrated. After all, wasn’t this an opinion I should be able to articulate with brevity? But in the case of the adjective ‘craft’, that just wasn’t the case with me. So here I go, in much more than 140 characters….

And then I went. About 1000 characters worth. IT WAS AWESOME! Full of analogies and funny stories and amazing put downs. Suck it ‘beer is beer’ people!

And then I read it back to myself. And I came to a sad conclusion.

I was wrong.


I could see their point. But after thinking it through for awhile, after tossing it around in my mind, and yes…after drinking a few beers it all came together. Why do I not like the word ‘craft’ used to describe breweries?

In the end, the answer was far less than 140 characters: Because I don’t.

Artisan farm making cheese?
Custom luthier making guitars?
Craft brewer making beer?

No, to me the adjective always seemed better in front of the product.

Italian restaurant preparing food.

Ok, maybe that doesn’t sell my point.

The way I see it, we already have lots of other words that can adequately describe a brewery, macro-, micro-, family owned, wholly owned, farmhouse, contract, brewpub, nano-. And probably a few others that escape me at the moment.

Add on to that the fact that the Brewer’s Association has established a definition for craft brewery that seems to me to be full of arbitrarily chosen criteria, and -self-serving definitions. One of which has to be changed every few years just so Samuel Adams can continue to play in the sandbox with all the others.

No, if you’re going to come up with a word whose purpose is to elevate something above the established norm in people’s mind , it always felt more correct to me that the word be associated with the product being made – not the place its being made.

A farm making artisan cheese.
A brewery making craft beer.

And back long ago not long after the ‘beer bang’, that’s exactly what the word ‘craft’ as part of the phrase craft beer was meant to do, elevate it above the norm. Traditional European ingredients – malts of different varieties and hops used beyond just bittering a near tasteless lager to around 12IBUs. The beer was better. The beer was more traditional. The beer was – craft.

And of course by extension, craft beers are made by craft breweries. Except there’s nothing ‘craft’ about a brewery. Sure they’re small, privately funded and have a different philosophy about the type of beer they want to make. But except for size, and maybe a reduced level of automation in the smaller breweries, it’s still mash tun, filter, fermentor and torpedo.

Ok, again, that last one’s probably not proving my point.

There’s nothing overly special about the brewery, in fact I’m willing to bet that many of these small breweries today enjoy a far better level of functionality than Bud or Coors did when they were only 10 to 15 years old.

So having said all that, I just believe that if  ‘craft’ is going to be continued to be used to describe anything about today’s growing tide of small beer producers it should be applied to the product.

But look, I get the ‘beer is beer’ movement. I’m actually all for it. But understand, I come from a time when the liquor stores were filled shelf to shelf with nothing but mass produced American lagers, a time when the term ‘craft beer’ was used by small, emerging breweries to distinguish themselves from the plethora of mass produced swill that passed for “beer” in America.

And I can see how the younger generation of beer drinks (who have grown up enjoying shelves full of quality beer) might see how that term has become less necessary today. Much like they probably don’t understand why people my age still insist on putting ‘color’ in front of TV or ‘stereo’ in front of sound system.

For the most part they’re really not needed anymore, are they?

Maybe the time has come to retire the word ‘craft’ from in front of the word beer. But there was never I time when I thought it was needed in front of brewery.

The Final Sip: While I was writing this post the craft beer world was rattled to find out that industry favorite Elysian was purchased by craft brewery grim reaper Anheuser-Busch. I’ll pull this news item into my next post as I take a further look into ‘craft’ breweries. (PHOTO: The Dogs of Beer)

Buddy Avatar 50   OWWW! A series. How ambitious.


Shut up. And I thought I told you to lose the avatar.

Author: Ed (The Dogs of Beer)

Beer Blog focused on Delaware & surrounding area. Drinker of beer. Writer of stuff. Over user of commas. Dangler of prepositions.

7 thoughts on “My Thoughts on “Craft” Breweries in More Than 140 Characters”

  1. You’re the first person I’ve seen to discuss the placement of the adjective. I (of course) think it’s super important. For what it matters, I’m in the “apply the adjective to the product” camp 🙂

  2. Another great post! I don’t agree personally but it is well written and well argued. I like placing craft in front of the brewery. Maybe it is because the craft beer boom here in Vancouver Canada is much younger than the US explosion.

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