31, August 2020
The craft beer boom has become so influential that the descriptor ‘craft’ has become the most ubiquitous and hotly contested term in the world of food and drink.
Amid various attempts to provide it with an ‘official’ definition and increasing concern that the term is being co-opted by the big brewers craft beer originally stood up against, award-winning beer writer Pete Brown has written a book-length exploration of this decades-long argument, looking at craft beer from a different perspective, and ultimately, attempting to prevent the craft beer movement from eating itself.
In Craft: An Argument, Brown dismantles attempts to define the term ‘craft beer’ before taking a broader look at where beer fits into the context of other crafts such as wood turning, smithery and even macramé. He shows that arguments around craft beer have largely forgotten what craft is all about. He explores the ever-changing nature of work, the meaning of knowledge, the evolution of language and the ways in which we engage with our immediate environment and the wider world. Arriving back at beer from such an oblique angle, he rediscovers the real reasons why so many people are so passionate about craft beer, and argues that situating beer within a broader understanding of craft shows that the term is rich in meaning, even if it can’t be pinned down to a measurable definition.
Brown explains: “Feelings run so high around craft beer, and that makes it a fascinating area for an in-depth exploration. The term feels like it’s been encroached upon, and craft beer associations are rebranding as independent – it feels like they’re on the way to dropping ‘craft altogether’. While I argue that small, independent breweries are vital and need protecting, I think craft is a bigger concept, and one that can occasionally apply to bigger brewers too. If we abandon it in favour of talking solely about independence, I think we’ll have lost something precious. So this is an argument that while the term “craft beer” can never be accurately defined or owned, it is nevertheless valuable and worth fighting for”.
The book was written and self-published over 13 weeks during Covid-19 lockdown, with Brown’s wife Liz Vater acting as editor and publisher, as the pair were both without work and shielding due to health conditions. Brown adds: “We’ve really enjoyed working together on this, and it’s provided us with some much-needed structure and purpose. Given that Liz has edited the book and we’re still speaking to each other, we’re looking at more projects in the future, from me and possibly other beer writers.”
Craft: An Argument publishes on 25th June in e-book format from Amazon, Nook, Apple Books, Google Play and Kobo, priced from £6.99, published by Storm Lantern Publications. Print and audio editions will also be available.
Pete Brown is a British author, journalist, broadcaster and consultant specialising in food and drink, especially the fun parts like beer, pubs, cider, bacon rolls and fish and chips. Across nine books, his broad, fresh approach takes in social history, cultural commentary, travel writing, personal discovery and natural history, and his words are always delivered with the warmth and wit you’d expect from a great night down the pub. He writes for newspapers and magazines around the world and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme. He was named British Beer Writer of the Year in 2009, 2012 and 2016, has won three Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards, and has been shortlisted twice for the Andre Simon Awards. Pete is Chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers. He lives in London with his wife Liz, and dog Mildred.