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OPINION: WHAT EXACTLY IS CRAFT BEER?

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By the CBIA’s Peta Fielding

 

Two questions:

1) What is craft beer?

2) Are the “big guys” killing the “little guys”?

These – and all manner of variations of them – seem to be recurring themes in media inquiries at the CBIA.

At the risk of being quoted out of context, I’d like to say, “Who cares?” to the first, and, “Consumers will decide!” to the second. And then move on. However I am sure further explanation would be wise!

I have commented before that perhaps something so rich and creative as “craft brewing” is truly beyond definition.

Yes, there is the question of regulatory application. Should laws or regulations apply differently to brewers of different sizes, domestic versus national ownership, private versus public ownership, brewers with their own equipment or not … or any other potential ‘factual’ point of differentiation? There are certainly arguments to suggest they should. But if so, let the application be based on those relevant facts. It seems artificial to try to force a definition of ‘craft’ to meet that need.

Craft brewing is about many things – and of course different things to different people. As an organisation, the CBIA adopts the broadly inclusive approach that “craft beer is born of a mindset, an idea between art and science executed by the dedicated skill of a brewer.”

The details for each brewery may differ slightly, but in broad terms, craft beer may be authentic, it may be local, it may be part of the community, it may be interesting, it may represent quality, it may use only certain methods or ingredients, it may be adventurous, it may be innovative, it’s almost always fun. Overall, the consumer move to craft beer is a shift that is echoed in various parts of the Australian market – a consumer desire for more meaning in their product choices, beyond brand alone. But within that, which elements are important? Clearly the ones that are important to individual consumers – and individual consumers alone, will determine that for themselves.

The bigger question is, how will they know? Only through transparency. Transparency in labelling, transparency in marketing and transparency in market behaviour. If there is a place to direct more questions, perhaps this is it. Ensuring consumers can know the answers to the questions that matter to them will enable consumers to make informed decisions in selecting their beers of choice.

The consumers who are interested in trying and buying craft beer (however they choose to define it) are speaking pretty clearly! Let them ask the questions. And let the questions be answered openly and honestly.

 

 

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