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Why I’m banning the C-word

By Tony Leonard

- Last updated on GMT

"We have arrived at a beer scene that is 'post-craft'"
"We have arrived at a beer scene that is 'post-craft'"

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When we re-opened the Snowdrop Inn nearly six years ago, we were one of a tiny handful of pubs and bars specialising in what was termed ’craft beer’.

Industry opinion was largely dismissive of the emerging new wave of British brewers, pretty much summed up by an editorial in a forerunner of this esteemed journal entitled "Over-indulgent brews will only interest beer geeks."

While the pub trade stuck its collective fingers to its ears muttering "lah, lah, lah!", the beer blogging young Turks wrote endless posts trying to pin down an ever-elusive definition of ‘craft beer’, much in the manner of Mediaeval theologians discussing the exact number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin.

Big business

All the while, increasing numbers of consumers just got on with quietly enjoying a decent drink. Despite industry disinterest and lack of a clear definition, 'craft beer' has since grown to be big business.

But whatever the term may have meant in 2009, it certainly isn’t what it means today. 

'Craft' is as likely to be applied to a new product by Fullers, Greene King or even AB-Inbev as it is to a small-batch beer brewed under a London railway arch or in a barn in the Sussex countryside.

Debates and definitions don't stand for much in English; it is everyday usage which creates our language. Some words change or even reverse meaning; a 'hussy’ transformed from ‘housewife’ to ‘a woman of easy virtue’ over centuries. Some words just get neutured by indiscriminate overwork ('awesome', I'm looking at you!) until they collapse in sheer exhaustion and come to mean absolutely nothing at all.

Such is the case with the C-word, which is why I’m banning it!

Back to beer

'Craft' is so ubiquitous that it can say nothing of worth. The new (and old) beer styles that it once proudly referred to are firmly embedded in the pub landscape, we have arrived at a beer scene that is 'post-craft’. It's time to get back to the beer.

What are its flavours, textures and colour? What does it feel like in your mouth? Does it evoke feelings, memories? Does it make you happy? Where does it come from? What was the brewer intending? If you like it, what is it about it that you like? If you don’t, why not?

You don’t have to be an expert; you don’t have to know anything at all about beer, but the next time you are about to thoughtlessly throw in the C-word, just stop for a moment and try to find some words that express your own reactions to what you are drinking.

Whatever words you use, they are certain to be much more interesting and informative than 'craft'.

Tony Leonard runs the Snowdrop Inn in Lewes and the Roebuck Inn in Laughton with his partner, Dominic McCartan

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