Chatting with Jasper, Camden Town Brewery // Part 3

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jasper from Camden Town Brewery, London, when he was in Perth in May

As you have probably gathered from the title of this post, there is a part one and two, if you’re looking for it you can find it them here and here.

Jasper of Camden Town Brewery (London) was in Perth at the end of May talking beer and enjoying the sunshine. I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Jasper over a coffee and some breakfast.

We chatted for over an hour about how Camden came to be in Australia, the craft beer scene in the UK compared to here, the need for a definition on craft beer, the formation of a new association for British craft brewers – United Craft Brewers, Camden’s sour program and the new brewery Camden are building. In short, we talked a lot about some really cool stuff.

Big thanks to Sarah from Memorable Drinks and Jasper from Camden Town Brewery for letting me conduct this interview on such short notice and with such a tight schedule, much appreciated.

Jasper and I at Gordon Street Garage

Here we go with Part Three …

Does the definition of “craft beer” matter?

“Yeah. Absolutely. 100%,” said Jasper when I asked him this question.

It’s a question that is pretty loaded in the beer industry with opinions divided on whether a definition is needed, what it would achieve and what will happen to the industry without it.

“Defining it is the hard thing,” Jasper said. “But there’s a lot of shit stuff out there that ain’t craft but that is trying to call itself craft.”

United Craft Brewers

“We need to define craft because it’s not a fad,” Jasper continued.

“Craft beer is different but it’s not different as in alternative, it’s a different method of thinking and a different process and it has to be defined because without it lots of things that aren’t craft can snap on the back of it so it’s really, really important and especially for the consumer so they can understand what is the difference between me and Budweiser.”

Whilst it may seem obvious what the difference between Camden and Budweiser is, there are instances where the lines are blurred. For instance here in Australia the debate is normally around Matilda Bay and James Squire, both owned by foreign companies, SAB Miller and Kirin respectively. Are they craft or are they not?

“You’ve got a lot of what we would call “crafty beers” in the market, big brewers making beers to look like they’re small brewers but they’re not and ‘small’ doesn’t mean scale, ‘small’ means thought process. Sierra Nevada is massive but the way they think is tiny,” Jasper explains.

To grow and protect the craft beer industry Jasper along with James Watt from BrewDog, Logan Plant from BeaverTown, James Clay from James Clay importers and distributors and Richard Burhouse from Magic Rock Brewing recently announced the formation of the United Craft Brewers, an association for British craft brewers.

But how will the United Craft Brewers go about defining craft brewers? At these early stages, the announcement of the association was only made a couple of weeks before our interview, Jasper said it will include brewers making beer at true gravities and those not being owner by a major brewery. The ownership piece is important in terms of who gets to make the decisions rather than the scale of operations.

The association is an open group, meaning it’s not just for brewers,

“Without everyone it’s nothing,” Jasper added.

Well that’s almost it for my interview with Jasper, just enough content for one more post I reckon so keep an eye out for the fourth and last instalment.

Craft is the word

For me the word “craft” is still relevant and it still has meaning but its not what defines the industry, its not what it was built on nor what will continue its growth

“It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning”

For those playing along at home, yes I am attempting to channel a little John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in ‘Grease’ because hell yeah when it comes to the subject of beer, craft does has a groove, craft certainly has a meaning.

In recent years that meaning has been debated, a lot. It seems like every other week I am reading an article about the definition of craft beer, whether is it about an overwhelming need for a definition or a questioning whether its really such a big deal.

“It’s been a depressing spectacle this last couple of years watching people who share a love of great beer tear each other apart over trying to define what craft beer is.”

Pete Brown, 2013

Article – Pete Brown: Is anyone still interested in a definition of craft beer?

The argument for a solid definition of a “craft beer” and “craft brewer” can sometimes feel like a call to action, for all small and independent brewers to unite and take a stand to ensure that the big brewers, the giant corporations, don’t get their grubby mitts in the craft beer pie.

Article – Brewdog: Defining Craft Beer

Article – Brewdog: Defining Craft Beer – Take 2

“Legal definitions are everywhere and are designed to protect a product’s reputation from poor imitations.”

Brewdog, 2013

Those big brewers, giant corporations, like Carlton United and Lion Nathan have their craft beer range of beers, Matilda Bay and James Squire respectively and I often see debate in the social media world as to their credentials. The big brewers are too big, owned by an overseas company and produce too much for these beers to be labelled craft.

Or are they?

How relevant is the size of production or the ownership of the brewery? In relation to the current Brewer’s Association (US) definition its very relevant. It defines craft beer by how much beer the brewer produces, the ownership of the brewery and the method by which they brew. Read the full definition at the Brewers Association website here.

CBIA: A national body which represents the Australian craft brewing industry

A little closer to home we have our CBIA, the Craft Beer Industry Association, which defines craft beer in a much more simple but still meaningful way –

“Craft beer is borne of a mindset, an idea between art and science that inherently requires the skill of a brewer”

Article – Australian Brews News: On the definition of craft beer

Though I am sure many people would disagree with the above, calling for specific outlines and guidelines, it resonates with me because my personal definition of craft currently lies more with intention than it does ownership.

For me the word “craft” is still relevant and it still has meaning but its not what defines the industry, its not what it was built on nor what will continue its growth. Craft brewing means to me that the brewers are creating something they love and that they want others to enjoy, it’s about creating beer with the best ingredients they can get for the beer they want to create and whether they are trying to replicate a long respected style or create their own, the final product is something made with passion and integrity. Call it craft, call it small batch, call it artisanal, as someone who loves beer these words get my attention but my decision to drink these beers rests on so much more.

Article – Draft: The meaning behind craft beer

I read articles calling for a definition of craft beer and I don’t disagree with the argument, I think I just feel there is more happening in the industry, more pressing issues than a single word that require attention. Of course I say this knowing I am on the outskirts of this amazing industry. I don’t own a brewery, nor do I brew beer and nor does my income depend solely on the continued growth of craft beer. I am a blogger, a cheerleader at best and there is so much about beer worthy of pom poms and summersaults – brewing innovation, the diversity of flavour, the celebration of tradition and availability of international beers alongside beers that were brewed a few kilometres from home. Let’s celebrate all this and not get caught up in the little things like a single word. Get caught up in beer, it’s much more fun.

Article – Stone & Wood Brewing: Be good, not crafty!



Weekend Reading #28

I love lounging in bed on weekends and catching up on all my favourite beery reading. From blogs to articles from the American craft beer scene and the best local beer news, there’s excellent reading material out there so every Friday I’m posting a list of the articles and blogs that have excited me.

Craft Beer | Craft Needs a Definition

By now you might be sick of reading about this particular topic, the debate on the meaning of the word “craft” but perhaps you’re like me and enjoy reading the different views on this single word.

“Quibbling about terminology in an effort to destroy the efforts of small and independent brewers is a no-win proposition for every brewing company and every beer drinker.”

SommBeer | It’s OK to Enjoy Popular Beers

“I like your old stuff better than your new stuff,” sung Regurgitator and it whilst it is a feeling that is common in music it’s creeping into beer too. Being purchased by a “big brewery” or getting distribution in a national liquor store chain can spell t-h-e-e-n-d for a craft beer love affair.

Modern Times Beer | Read This Before Drinking Neverwhere

Although I am not likely to get to try this beer called “Neverwhere”, this is a nice quick read about the magic that is Brettanomyces and it’s pretty cool to read the workings of a beer and the thought process behind it’s creation.