Just like with every new experience, the visit to Ferdinand's floor maltings has given me some rich food for thought, in this case about the nature of the so called "Craft Beer".
The floor malts from Benešov are an undeniably craft product. Tradition, dedication and attention to detail rule. Everything that happens during the process is allowed to happen for a reason, and the ultimate goal is quality. Quality that is backed by a lab analysis of each and every batch; figures and values that are very hard to argue with.
For better or worse, it's not that easy with beer. Yeah, a lab analysis might be able to determine that A is technically better than B, but since it is a consumer product we are talking about, the subjective quality will always prevail, and it doesn't often agree with the technical one.
In a certain way, this has an effect on the concept of "craft" and the endless debate around it. To me, "Craft Beer" is another label, not too different from "Premium", but at the same time, it'd be foolish to deny that to many people "Craft Beer" means something more or less clearly defined (or sensible).
What's interesting about this whole thing is that the debate doesn't go much further than the brewhouse, focusing mostly on things like volumes, ownership, adjuncts, automatisation or filtering/pasteurisation. But it should go beyond that, beer, after all, is the result of a series of processes that start in the maltings and end in the glass, with the brewer as an overseer. So, can a beer be considered "craft" if it's brewed with industrially produced malts that may or may not be good quality and that are often bought already ground? Can a brewery be considered "craft" if they don't care too much about what happens to the product once it leaves the facilities (including selling them to supermarket chains)? (and with all the attention to detail, aren't American Light Lagers in a way more crafter than many a "Craft Beer"?)
This doesn't want to be criticism to anyone. A brewery is, first and foremost, a business and as such, it must survive and make money, which can often mean making compromises and facing realities. On top of this, sometimes, good quality ingredients aren't easy to get and, let's be honest, there's many a very good beer that is made with mediocre ingredients and, at the end of the day, what you have in the glass is what really matters.
PS: Needless to say, a brewer that knowingly puts out a flawed beer has automatically waived their right to call themselves "Craft", their philosophy and respect for the consumer are even worse than AB-InBev's.
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