Craft Brewers are independent small-scale beer-brewing companies, or individuals, who aim to brew beer to the highest quality, in order to emphasise both its versatility, and the range of tastes and textures available. ‘Craft brewery’ has replaced the term ‘micro-brewery’ in recent years, thus emphasising the status of beer brewing as a conscientious skilled undertaking. Craft brewing emerged as a response to what was seen as a market saturation of poorly made mass produced beer. Medium scale breweries were simply unable to keep up with national and multi-national corporations, and thus either crumbled, or had to start reducing the quality of their products in order to stay afloat.
The Development of Craft Brewing
From it’s beginning’s in 1970’s Britain the microbrewery aimed to challenge this situation by making and sometimes selling their own products. However, it quickly became clear that it was very difficult to make a profit from selling beer, and large companies only managed this as a result of their massive output. In order to carve a market of their own microbreweries started to aim right for the top end of the market, producing rare, quality products. In this way they would not be coming head to head with large-scale breweries: Their production of quality, traditionally produced real ale appealed to an existing disaffected market which corporate breweries had turned their back on. At the same time, a new market emerged, identifying the potential of novelty beers as an alternative to wine, and as a viable food accompaniment.
These days, the term microbrewery, or craft brewery does not necessarily refer to the size of the enterprise, with some microbreweries able to supply on a national and even international level. For this reason, ‘craft brewery’ is a more accurate term, denoting a certain attitude and respect for tradition that accompanies the production of real ale (also referred to as ‘keg ale’).
Famous Craft Brewers
There are a number of established and emerging craft brewers in the U.K. all with their own specialities:
Founded in 1976, Abbey Ales are based in the City of Bath and produce just one award winning golden bitter – ‘Bellringer’, available in Bath pubs, by mail order, and in the house of commons (by request of M.P. for bath Don Foster!).
Black Isle Brewing Company:
Based in the Scottish Highlands, the Black Isle Brewing Company produce organic beers packaged in recyclable materials.
Godard’s Brewery: Based on the Isle of Wight, the family brewery ‘Godard’s’ produce strong traditional ales and bitters, distributed to pubs on the island.
Based in London, Meantime brew beers to a high quality, and distribute widely to pubs and restaurants. They are particularly keen to emphasise the possibility of beer as an alternative food accompaniment.
Based in Bury Leyden Brewery is a small, three barrel operation, operating in the side room of an old inn.
This is just a small sample of craft brewers: SIBA (The Society of Independent Brewers) estimate that there are over 400 microbreweries in the U.K.
Old Meets New
Whilst the craft brewery marks a return to traditional beer making methods, the variety of beers on offer has changed greatly from those offered before the industrialisation of the brewing industry. Chocolate bitters and fruit beers are both becoming popular as part of an initiative to market beer to a young affluent crowd. Beers such as these offer quality, healthier alternatives to mass produced ‘alcopops’, which are high in flavourings and additives.
Article Description: An introduction to the history of the terms ‘craft brewery’ and micro-brewery’ with some examples given. Keywords: craft brewery, micro brewery, brewing, real ale, keg ale, SIBA, The Society of Independent Brewers, Alcopops.