Let’s start with the term ‘beer’. Forget what CAMRA tells you, real beer styles – and this is according to the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) – fall into three categories. These are ales (the hook on which CAMRA hangs its hat), lagers (yes, lager is beer!) and lambics (a sour beer style which is strongly associated with Belgium).
These three styles offer a fantastic diversity of flavour profiles, mouthfeel, and finish as well as a wealth of colours and aromas (important, as we all ‘drink with our eyes’ and ‘taste with our nose’ before the glass even reaches our lips).
The creativity and expression that these characteristics offer is what has drawn so many people to the products: – as brewers, as retailers, as restaurateurs (beer pairs exceptionally well with a wide range of foods), and as consumers. The craft movement has reinvigorated the market and, last year, accounted for 6.5% of total UK beer sales.
But what about the term ‘craft’, then? It is, perhaps, an overused term but the market has to be able to differentiate between products that are created by hand using traditional methods from those that are mass produced using automated industrial processes. The supermarkets have also been on the case using the term on a wide range of branded products produced in collaboration with larger brewers.
This is why, I suspect, lager has historically had such a bad name with the CAMRA brigade. Whilst kegged bitters have been ousted by far superior craft ales, the market for craft lagers is only starting to emerge.