The whole Craft debate has been going on over here for a while. The US captured a definition a while ago, but we have struggled a bit over here, and we have seen some use of the word by some companies which we might challenge, especially where “handcrafted” has been used, as we are not sure how close to the ingredients and brewing anyone’s hands may get. There have been a number of attempts at definition, and calls at SIBA conference for a definition. Then there was some acquisition activity, where some avidly craft brewers were taken over by bigger companies, so are they still craft? Of course size should not be a definer, as in simple scale multiples, this would just not make sense. 5 barrels, 50 barrels or even 250 barrels brewlength could still easily be craft, or not. It is too simple to say things like a craft brewery is one where you can speak to the head brewer, or its a function of scale. So what does it mean? It has to mean consistent beers. It cannot mean a brand which can vary in its properties, unless specifically designed to. I do admire the way one brewery brews the same beer style with different hops – that’s clever, and they are damn good beers. So its the brewers art as well as the craft, to have control of the process, have an idea of the implication of any changes to recipe or process, and enjoy the fruits of their labour
Oh, and it needs to be safe and wholesome. We can lament about the facts beer is intrinsically safe, it generally won’t support growth of harmful bugs, due to the alcohol and pH; and everything is boiled isn’t it? Yes this is true, and in the last two centuries was very relevant. But hey, this is 2016, we are producing food for human consumption, and we need to be able to demonstrate this, and prove we are responsible brewers. We need to ensure hygiene is managed, we shouldn’t be using aluminium beer casks, we should be managing glass. So the SIBA FSQ is a welcome and essential part of this. It covers a range of areas of brewing, and seeks to ensure a good standard on manufacturing is being followed. We recently had our audit, and now proudly have the logo on our e-mail footer. its not just a hoop to jump through, its an essential part of safe and responsible business. We are now working hard towards our SALSA Beer+ qualification, which is a recognised standard to demonstrate to our customers. A number of our retail and wholesale customers have said they will insist on this by the end of this year. I hope they do. It frustrates me when I hear some brewers saying they will refuse to go for the FSQ. The FSQ is good, honest brewing standards, and even if you are only supplying a small amount of beer, it is for human consumption, and just as we like to shout about ingredients, their provenance and so on, so we should shout about our high manufacturing standards, and be able to prove it.
In time, I think we will see the FSQ and SALSA Beer+ being pre-requisites to supply – this will include not just permanent sites, but temporary sites and festivals – it will be interesting to see if CAMRA insist on accreditation for GBBF – where thousands of drinkers flock to drink ale.
So to those who are resisting, why? FSQ is a standard we as an industry should be working to at the very least. And if not, serious questions need to be asked as to why not. Of course there is a cost, but this is where PBD helps the smaller brewer. Its a big tough world, and we should be proud of beer, but beer brewed to the age we live in, where it is consistent, flavoursome and safe.