Why "Craft" is a Meaningless Term

I got an email this morning that caught my interest. Since my flight has been delayed several hours, I find myself with the time to blog about it. The email comes from the consumer research firm Canadean, and in it they proudly trumpet a new definition for "craft beer."  Since they're located in the UK, Canadean notes that "Whilst [the Brewers Association] definition has worked well [in the US], transferring it to other markets can prove problematic."  Indeed. And so this was the solution:
Canadean presents a definition of “craft” beer as a segment primarily made up of Premium and Superpremium priced speciality beers – excluding flavoured beers, super-strength lagers and Stout. This would include products made by microbreweries, but would also encompass products like the Belgian Abbey &; Trappiste Beers; the French Biers de Grade; Premium English Ales; Wheat Beers; and Seasonal Beers.
You see the problems, right?  What do these terms mean: "premium," "superpremium," and "super-strength?"  I sent an email back to Ida Kloster,  who got back to me with these clarifications. 
We define the categories by looking at the prices of beers in supermarkets and/or liquor stores.  We index the price of the leading brand as 100 and then index the price of all other brands relative to that brand.  Premium is defined as being 110 to 149 and superpremium as 150+. We don’t exclude all superstrength beers – and trappist beers are definitely included.  However we exclude brands like Tennents Super and Carlsberg Special Brew, as well as malt liquor in the States. 
This is less the opening of a can of worms than the flinging them around the parlor.  I think the thing that amuses me the most about their effort is the use of strength as a metric. This is a telling cultural artifact, one that highlights the uselessness (particularly in an international context) of trying to define "craft."  Poor Ida even admitted as much: 
The definition is subjective (and has to be) as the whole concept of craft is in the mind of the consumer, and it is impossible to come up with a rigid definition that makes sense.
I couldn't agree more.

(Note: I typed this on an iPhone, so excuse my errors.)
Jeff Alworth8 Comments