Craft beer: Big can be beautiful, but independence is key

By Justin Hawke, owner and brewer at Moor Beer Company

When TLE editor Jack Peat wrote that we’ve got to stop thinking “craft” means “small” in response to BrewDog’s ascension into Britain’s 100 Biggest Alcohol Brands I, as someone often referred to as a ‘craft brewer’, tended to agree. There is however a ‘but’.

Being small is not necessarily a sign of a brewer that is uncompromising in their approach to producing a quality product – something well-made and full of flavour. But I think independence is a really good indicator.

My experience and that of many of my peers is that independent businesses have a focus on quality, integrity and authenticity.

With that at the heart of what they are, as they grow, absolutely producers can retain the principles that earned them a reputation that was merited.

Look at Sierra Nevada – they are very big in volume terms, yet they don’t compromise at all on quality and on ingredients and they continue to innovate and drive positive change.

I am clear that once you lose independence decisions are made for you.

And when global corporations get involved then the bottom line becomes the primary consideration and issues around integrity, quality and authenticity are marginalised.

That is why I am so positive about the launch by SIBA of the ‘Assured Independent British Craft Brewer’ seal – something that consumers heard more about at the Great British Beer Festival.

When drinkers see this mark, they will know the product is a truly independent craft-brewed beer and not a mass-produced brew.

They might not always enjoy it, but they can be confident that the brewer was not compromised by a parent business.

At Moor Beer, we will remain an independent family business that will always look to make natural beers, packed with flavour from the finest ingredients. If something delights us, then we know there will be an audience that will also be delighted.

We are enjoying a golden age for beer. There has never been so much variety and much of it available from local producers.

If we remain good at what we do, by being faithful to our principles then we have the opportunity to grow and to develop new markets – and we are doing just that.

However, we are at an interesting time in the development of the ‘craft’ beer market – not just because big corporations are buying up smaller producers or launching their own faux craft offering.

Innovation has done much to drive interest in the sector – introducing people to styles of beer not encountered before and pushing the boundaries in terms of the brewing process itself.

Though we have to be clear why we do it – to produce something to drink and enjoy, rather than to marvel and something never seen before.

When producers get distracted by the pursuit of something novel for the sake of championing innovation they risk turning off drinkers – yes, a small proportion of people endlessly crave something new.

Though these consumers are transient and move on to an entirely new category – so should be of limited interest to producers serious about supporting a vibrant and sustainable beer sector.

The answer of course: Drink Moor Beer!

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