22 Jan 2014

Pointless, needless, stupid


The eternal debate of what craft beer is or isn't is something I can't give any more fucks about, I've run out of them, and the bank won't lend me any (it turns out I have a pretty poor fucks-to-give credit record). Unless someone, someday comes up with a definition that will contemplate concrete quality assurance mechanisms, like, for instance, the ones I propose here, “Craft Beer” will be for me just a brand, not very different than “Premium”.

And please, do not bother to tell me what this brand means to you or not. I don't care, really. If you are a consumer, and believing in the fairy tale associated to those two words helps you have a better relationship with your favourite drug, who am I to complain? If you are a producer, and having those two words on the label can help you shift a few more bottles, good for you. As far as I'm concerned, the first and foremost thing beer has to be is good.

What does interest me, though, are the diverse attempts and ambitions of a corporate takeover of this public domain brand, be them from the Brewers Association, BrewDog and their mates, and others; but not because I support them, quite the opposite. In spite of my opposition, I do understand the movitations behind this. These people are selling an ever more popular – and therefore, valuable – brand, and they want to be granted the power to decide who gets to play in their sandbox, according to the rules that are most convenient for them.

I believe the owners of these companies will be very happy to know that someone has finally been able to give a certain legal framework to this fantasy. On Monday, Birraire tallked about (and wonderfully commented) the Norma Técnica Artesana de la Cerveza del Departamento de Desarrollo Rural y Medio Ambiente del Gobierno de Navarra (basically, a technical standard for craft beer from the competent authority of the Government of Navarra). There you have it, in black and white and with an official stamp, what we've all been waiting for: a definitive definition of Craft Beer!

It's a shame that the technical standard seems to have been drawn up by a beginner home brewer, who took as the base for the text what he remembered from web pages he'd once read.

It starts off really badly in Art. 2, the definition. According to this standard, Craft is the beer brewed following the traditional practices, which has carbonic gas exclusively of endogenous origin.

The traditional practices. What are they? What are they about? How are they defined? Those are things that are left to the judgement of each brewer (or, perhaps, they also need a technical standard to define them).

And this isn't the worst.

I won't waste any more time translating quotes from the text. To illustrate my point, what I can tell you is that, according to the words of this pseudo-legislative monstrosity, a Craft Beer from Navarra can not be a warm fermented beer; much less so if it's inspired by a Trappist beer, or that is brewed according to a style that requires the use of unmalted cereal, or any source of fermentable sugars that aren't malted barley or wheat; neither it can be a gruit beer, or any other kind of beer whose maturation is relatively long. No, according to this masterpiece of the highest degree of official nonsense, a Craft Beer of Navarra can only be a lager brewed with a boil lasting approximately 2 hours, fermented solely with saccharomyces carlsbergensis, that must be ready to be in the street in 4 weeks. A beauty!

To be fair, there is something positive in this document. It doesn't rule over production volumes, the size of the brewery or its ownership structure. Neither it seems to expressly forbid filtering and pasteurising.

But still. I don't think I've seen such degree of beer related bollocks in my life. The definitions of trade associations, wanna-be trade associations or other similar business interests; the ones proposed by marketers and over-eaguer bloggers can be considered absurd, dogmas of convenience, arbitrary and even hypocritical when it comes to the interest of the consumer, but they are, after all, rather harmless. Not this one, though, this one wants to have legal force – for the time being, it's not binding for beers made outside of Navarra and, apparently, it doesn't include any sanctions to those brewers from Navarra who choose to make their beer in any way the see fit and still sell it under the Craft brand, but this could change. In other words, this is perhaps the worst possible type of regulation: it's been written by ignorants who believe they are important, it gives the impression of wanting to solve a problem that doesn't exist, sets completely absurd restrictions, it's a failure as a (hypothetically) protectionist measure, and doesn't even pretend to protect the interest of the consumers, where it would surely fail, too.

Why the fuck does it exist then? Who thought if this? Who's the moron that wrote it? (I'm sorry, but I can't find any other way to describe someone who doesn't know the difference between “addiction” and “addition”).

Whatever the answers to those questions are, this Technical Standard is a good example of why there should never be a legal definition for “Craft Beer”, and why attempt to produce one should be resisted by anyone who loves good beer, regardless of the side of the counter they happen to be.

But it would be nice to know what the people who are most affected by this idiocy, the brewers of Navarra, think of it. Though, according to what a brewer from there told Birraire: in Navarra the craft certification is a very serious thing, no marketing.” What else can I add?

Na Zdraví!

3 comments:

  1. I am sorry to say that, but your blog is not fun anymore, it is just boring and repetitive, with all the rants about "craft beer" and "good beer" over and over. I would like the interesting, amusing articles you used to write.

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  2. The joke here is that a government agency could write a standard that no one actually met.

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