Defining moment for beer?

• What’s in a name? Some craft beer producers want an official definition for the category.

SHOULD ‘craft beer’ have an official definition? Is there a need to set clear parameters for the category or criteria for the beers which can be described as ‘craft’? And if so, what should these be?

Producers, it seems, are split – not only on the finer details, but also on whether craft beer even requires an ‘official’ definition in the first place.
Late last year, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said it was consulting with its regional members over the prospect of changing the word ‘local’ on its logo to ‘craft’. The organisation stopped short of offering a definition, however, saying at the time that it was not its role to define craft beer.
But some producers say a clear definition will benefit the category.
James Watt, co-founder of Brewdog, suggested that rather than defining the term ‘craft beer’ a definition for ‘craft brewer’ should be in place, with a craft beer then defined as one which is produced at a craft brewery. Criteria suggested by Watt include that a craft brewery is authentic and brews all beers at original gravity; lists all ingredients and where the beers are brewed on labels; and that if the brewer has an estate, that 90% of the beer it sells must be craft.
Watt said a definition is important to “protect craft brewers and what we are all working hard to build”.
“Craft beer needs a definition, and that definition needs something tangible and solid,” he said.
“Everyone who brews, drinks and cares about great beer will be stronger as a result. We want a definition to be recognised by SIBA and also at a European level by the Brewers of Europe Association.”
Paul Miller of Eden Brewery in St Andrews said an official definition would be “helpful”.
“There are many good attempts to define it but everyone will have their own perspective ultimately,” he said.
“It could be of value for some tightening on production origins and batch sizes.”
However, Richard McLelland, director of sales at Williams Brothers Brewing Co, said there’s no need for a strict definition.
“I think people spend too much time worrying about that, when they should be focused on making the best beer they can possibly make, rather than worrying about other people putting labels on what you do,” he said.
“It’ll take the shine off it if people start trying to put too many regulations, rules and figures on it.”