It’s been hard to miss the surge in craft beer consumption recently. Sales have soared over the past 18 months and with 1,113 breweries now in operation across the UK, it doesn't look likely to slow up any time soon. However, as with any trend, the latest re-birth of craft beer has not come without controversy and debate.
Much of the recent industry news has centred around the increasing trend for larger brewers to move in on craft; AbinBev taking over Camden Town comes to mind. Others include Golden Road and Elysian recently being acquired by the big boys.
This is a cause for concern for many craft lovers who are worried that parental oversight from larger breweries will go against the original values of craft beer - traditional brewing methods and independence. Some fans are concerned that this re-birth of craft could quickly become a distant memory.
But we have to consider how this has come about. We think it comes down to consumer habits - people simply love great tasting beer and that’s led to a demand for a wide variety of options. That variety means our understanding of what counts as craft is always changing. The term arose with one meaning in the 1960’s, stood for something quite different in 2015 and will have yet another meaning by 2030.
So what now – for 2016?
There is little doubt the craft craze is here to stay, but our definition has to evolve in line with the commercialisation surrounding it. If anything, craft has become a victim of its own success.
Yes, it’s a real shame that some of our best loved brewers have decided to "sell-out", but with the number of UK independent breweries increasing by a third last year, there’s certainly no sign of it all ending here – it’s just time for the next meaning of craft beer.
Ultimately the market demands choice, with locality and tradition both attractive. Even the likes of Brewdog are the first to admit that there’s a need to re-consider our understanding of craft, urging that “independence is becoming a much bigger phrase within the industry”.
With independence comes flavour and it’s clear that taste is the overriding factor here. Yes, it’s the end of the craft as we currently know it, but it’s a long road ahead for the future of individual, great tasting beers, standing alone.
If only I’d been quick enough to publish this last week…