So does size matter when it comes to brewing a craft beer?
It's amazing how the world of beer has turned on its head over the last few years, and here at Thirsty we are loving every minute of it.
The array of craft beers and ales available is providing us with a feast of flavours and styles in which to indulge ourselves – we beer drinkers have never had it so good.
We all talk about ‘craft’ and use the term as though its existence dates back to a pre-industrial era, perhaps a time when all beers were craft by default, but do we really know what we are waffling on about?
I remember late last century when micro-breweries started popping up and the word ‘craft’ started being bandied about, and, like a lot of people, I made assumptions about what this meant.
Fast-forward a few years and, thanks to the US Brewers Association, we all know that the criteria we are talking about are small, independent breweries using traditional methods to create a quality beverage. But how small is ‘small’ and does it matter? Given that many small craft breweries have been bought up by the big boys in order to add credibility and to buy into this sector, can we still call these brands ‘craft’?
To some extent the term craft is still subjective, despite definitions being placed on the criteria above, and is still a much-debated subject – far too broad to discuss in detail here.
Some, like James and Martin at Brew Dog, are very clear that definitions are needed to clarify and protect the hard work and dedication of these brewers, whilst others are more laissez faire about the whole thing. At times the definitions are so contrite it feels a lot like trying to squeeze something dynamic and exciting into a small box.
One thing is for sure: craft beers are now mainstream and, as far as we are concerned, these are made by lovers of beer, creating something they want to drink with a huge amount of passion and fun along the way. So, perhaps until a better definition has been agreed we can look upon craft beers as a state of mind and a very good one at that.
Interesting names and flavours abound, so tuck in, forget dry January and curl up on a cold winter’s night with a couple of beers – what could be better to chase away the winter blues?
Here are a few of our current favourites at Thirsty:
■ Steam Lager, Redwell £3.40 Reinvigorating the Norwich scene long famous for its brewing, top-quality local ingredients and top-notch brewers (both called David). The Steam Lager is referred to as a lager for ale drinkers – the freshness of a lager combines brilliantly with the hop and caramel bite of an amber ale. ■ Ale Primeur, Von Freude £3.30 The German craft beer scene has not yet exploded to the extent we have seen here, however we were blown away by these beers and had to get them over to the UK. Nathalie has a natural style and elegance which is reflected in the beers that she brews, the Ale Primeur shows a full-bodied maltiness with exotic fruit, caramel and herbal notes. Drink it around 10C to allow the flavours to show at their best.
■ Satisfaction, Bad Co £3.50
These boys from North Yorkshire really caught our attention early last year with great names and fantastic descriptions that really live up to the expectation, creating beers with flair. If you enjoy a brown ale then Satisfaction really lives up to its name. A complex and sophisticated malt base with caramel, raisin and biscuit, perfect with hearty stews and thick cut steaks.
wearethirsty.co.uk @thirsty_social facebook: ThirstySocial Voted one of the ‘Best Places to Drink’ and ‘Best Independent’ by the Observer Food Monthly.