"Craft Beer" is Dead

We are on the eve of the Great American Beer Festival, a celebration hosted by the great champion of "craft beer"--the Brewers Association. That organization, more than any other, has been responsible for promoting and defining the term "craft beer." But in case you held the faintest hope that the term had any positive utility left, I'm here to tell you to abandon it. "Craft" is dead. And buried. And decomposing:

CHARLOTTE, NC — In honor of National Coffee Day, Dunkin’ Donuts and Catawba Brewing Company partnered to create a cold-brew, pumpkin-flavored beer, utilizing the Dunkin’ ingredients everyone loves, so it oozes with authentic taste down to the last drop.

I could have continued with that paragraph, but let's stop and luxuriate for a moment in the through-the-looking-glass notion that the artificial goop that goes into a national chain's fast-food doughnuts has been laundered and reintroduced as "authentic." In case you didn't fully grasp the nature of the crime, the brewery repeats it for you:

Dunkin’ Punkin Brown Ale is the first-ever and only beer in the country to include original Dunkin’ Donuts flavoring ingredients.

Flavoring ingredients....mmmm. 


For maybe two decades now, the marketing department at Dunkin' Donuts has been trying to convince (principally) New Englanders that their coffee is the reason to come to one of their nine million donut huts. It is without a doubt some of the worst stuff sold in America, so you have to give the company credit for its chutzpah. Remarkably, it has apparently been enough of a success that they have upped the ante:

‘Craft coffee is at the core of our business so we like to brew up something for National Coffee Day that really delights our customers. That’s when we hatched an out-of-the-cup idea – combine craft coffee and craft beer — the perfect pair!’ states Meaghan Duff, Field Marketing Manager.

(One does love the exclamation point, though--it helps communicate the perkiness with which that amazing whopper was served.)

This has all been good fun, but just to make the actual serious point: we have reached peak meaninglessness for the word "craft." Many of the early pioneers of the small-brewing movement were inspired by an anti-industrial, anti-"flavorings" fervor. They wanted to bring quality and craftsmanship back to beer, and reconnect with the long lineages of brewing technique and style that existed in traditional brewing. There was never a time when the word "craft" perfectly aligned with those goals, but the term has been slowly appropriated over time such that, as we see in this example, it has become another positive buzz word in a marketing team's arsenal. An arsenal used to sell the kind of dreck the original small breweries once assailed.

Have fun in Denver everyone--