Real Ale, Craft Beer, what?

So a while back I mentioned that I hated the terms “Craft Beer” and “Real Ale” but I would save it for another rant. Well this is that rant.

Hate is a bit strong, I don’t really hate them, but when I hear either of these terms used or see them written down I have a small feeling of disgust towards the person who has used it. I suppose it’s the same feeling women get when I say “moist”. So where to start? I guess “Real Ale” was coined earlier so lets start there. Why does having secondary fermentation make a beer real? I can go to a shop and buy a can of John Smiths take it home and drink it. Is it beer? Yes. Did I imagine drinking it? No. Is it real ale? Well it’s not really an ale, but that’s besides the point. Beer doesn’t have to be an ale to be a “Real Ale”, for example “Real Lager?” and yes it’s real, as I have said already I didn’t imagine it, it exists, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the Matrix. The can exists, the liquid inside it exists, the liquid inside no matter how shit it might be is beer, so in terms of being, it is “Real”. Maybe I’m looking at this wrong maybe it’s not about being imaginary, maybe it’s about being fake? What’s fake about it? The lack of secondary fermentation? Somewhere between 7,000BC and 3,000BC when beer was possibly first brewed did they use secondary fermentation? I very much doubt it, so I’m not having that something like John Smiths is fake either. It’s exactly what it says it is, it’s beer and just down to the use of English it’s real.

“Craft Beer” bugs me for a slightly different reason than real ale. The main reason “Real Ale” annoys me is that every beer that isn’t “Real Ale” must be fake and that’s clearly stupid. “Craft” is the key here and what craft brings to mind when I see or hear it. Craft for me instantly associates itself with Arts & Crafts which in turn makes me think middle aged women making some tat at home that they possible sell on to friends and friends of friends. For example they might knit, croquet, make cards, bake cakes or something else equally exciting. A few of them might create something amazing, the vast majority just make crap that their friends are forced to say is lovely or else risk losing their friend. If “Craft Beer” was a term that referred to say home brewers then I could get with it. In the same way people do Arts & Crafts some people will produce amazing beers, others might as well just have bought a pack of John Smiths. I can see that “Craft Beer” is really trying to associate it self with craftsman or craftsmanship, the art of creating amazing work that has had love and care and attention given to it that creates magnificent results. But as I’ve said this isn’t what first comes to mind and possibly that’s because it just isn’t true. There are plenty of shit “Craft Beers” out there that make you think the beer has been made in a smelly guys damp shed who doesn’t know what he is doing and is just experimenting. And then there are the “Craft Brewers” that make amazing beers but are as inconsistent as shit after a dodgy curry. These two points are why I don’t think “Craftsmanship” but rather “Arts & Crafts” when I see or hear the term “Craft Beer”.

Besides the use of English for me not liking these two terms its the discrimination that goes with it. The idea that people wont drink “Craft” because it’s not “Real” and people wont drink “Real” because it’s bland makes me want to blow up Robin Hood Airport (this is a shit joke to emphasise I don’t actually care).

Drink what you want, I know I do, now does anyone fancy a “beer”?

Until the philosophy which hold one beer superior
And another inferior
Is finally and permanently
Discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war – me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class beers of any derivation
Until the colour of a man’s beer
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes –
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to taste –
Dis a war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in CAMRA,
In Real Ale,
In Craft Beer
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed –
Well, everywhere is war –
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south –
War – war –
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The beer drinkers
Will not know peace,
We Beer Geeks will fight – we find it necessary –
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good beer over evil –
Good beer over evil, yeah!

(quite a big part of me just died inside for changing those lyrics)


About HystrixCristata

If you see the Tramp, FeeD the TramP View all posts by HystrixCristata

3 responses to “Real Ale, Craft Beer, what?

  • ABC

    I believe ’Real’ Ale refers to the fact the yeast is still alive in the drink as oppossed to mass produced filtered and pasturised beers in which fermentation has been stopped. As such, Real Ales are living beers, hence the term Real. Most Craft Beers also fit the ’Real Ale’ definition, but are produced by small independent breweries.

    • HystrixCristata

      This is my problem. “Real” has nothing to do with being alive. A rock, a banana, the absolute emptiness within a vacuum are all real. The definition of real is as such: true, existing as fact, being an actual thing, genuine. The only one of those that could fit with “Real Ale” is the implication that beer that isn’t “Real Ale” isn’t genuine.
      The definition of “Real Ale” is quite clear: “Real ale is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called secondary fermentation. It is this process which makes real ale unique amongst beers and develops the wonderful tastes and aromas which processed beers can never provide.” this is from CAMRA
      In a nutshell this says beer has to have secondary fermentation to be “Real” and this fermentation needs to be done in the container the beer is served from (usually Cask or Bottle). If I pour a “Real Ale” into say a flask with no yeast hence stopping the secondary fermentation and then a day or so later I pour this into a glass, has the beer stopped being “Real” as there was no fermentation in the container the beer was served from? Of course not, that would be stupid. If it was just about the beer being alive then why not call “Real Ale”, “Live Ale” or “Living Ale”, this would have made much more sense. I don’t have a problem with the definition, I have a problem with the use of the word “Real”.
      Yes, “Craft” can be “Real” and “Real” can be “Craft”. In the UK there doesn’t seem to be a definition, in the US it refers to “Small, independent, traditional”. I just don’t like the use of the word “Craft” as it makes me think of tat. The predominant UK “Craft Brewers” seem to be using Keg much more than Cask hence they are making “Fake Ale”. I haven’t said it in the blog but size does irritate me in “Craft Brewing”, size doesn’t matter (that’s what she said). If I start up a brewery and make five outstanding beers made with love, care, attention, using only the finest ingredients and traditional methods, the best beers there have ever been in their class and I sell locally I’d be a “Craft Brewer”. If I then expanded my operation without compromising any of the values I have instilled and become the number one brewer in the UK why wouldn’t I still be “Craft”. Equally if I took over the world with my beer at what point do I stop being “Craft”.
      Beer shouldn’t be about labels.

  • Nate

    I can’t believe I have only just seen this!

    Bloody awesome post mate, it made me laugh haha

    The terms real ale and craft beer are just crap. Pointless. Like sub-genres in heavy metal music…

    As I said on my Craft beer post – I JUST LIKE BEER.


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