'Craft' means nothing, says Chapel Down CEO

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

'Craft' means nothing: Chapel Down CEO on 'messianic' modern brewing

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A ‘messianic’ approach to making drinks separates modern brewers and winemakers from their more traditional counterparts, according to the leading English wine producer. 

Speaking at last week’s Taste of London festival, Frazer Thompson, CEO of winemaker Chapel Down, told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​ he didn’t think terms like ‘craft’ were worth using.

He said: “[The terms] mean absolutely jack s*** - absolutely nothing. What we’re talking about is a modern approach to drinks making. It’s not traditional, it’s not just about marketing, it is not about market research.

“And it’s very important that people understand that corporate babble and market research is absolutely out of the window.”

While the traditional brewers and big brands do what they do well, he said modern drinks makers' refusal to bow to tradition had made it harder for more traditional producers to get a foothold in the ‘craft’ sector with their own products.

New revolution

He said: “There’s a new revolution going on. [These producers] tend to be not traditional. Not in outlook and not in the way they go about things. And not traditional when it comes to the beers they’re making – this makes it very hard for traditional people in the brewing industry to do it.”

This, he added, was a contributing factor in the increasing number of independent producers to be bought by larger companies.

“If you stand in a field with a French winemaker, he goes ‘this is what I make, this is a fantastic wine’ and if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care. That is exactly the same attitude that most artisanal brewers should adopt.

“They’re trying to make things they love in the belief that they can convert others to do it. It’s messianic, it is religious. And that’s the big difference – it’s not ‘craft’.

“It may be ‘premium’ because it’s expensive but, if you look at the presentation of the brands, it’s hardly Louis Vuitton. So, in the way that we normally define ‘premium’, it’s not premium.”

‘Love and craft’

“It’s expensive because what you’re paying for is love and craft and passion and uniqueness and all those things,” he added.

Chapel Down recently raised more than £1.7m​ to build a new brewery for its Curious Drinks brand via crowdfunding, smashing its original target of £1m.

Some 895 people invested in Chapel Down’s campaign with investments ranging between £100 and £35,000. Thompson said he was happy to welcome those investors as new shareholders and “fantastic brand ambassadors”.

In April, Chapel Down also became the first wine producer to be named in the London Stock Exchange’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain​ for having “blazed a trail in England’s winemaking and craft beer market”.

Related topics: Beer, Wine

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