Craft beer captured almost all the bars of St. Petersburg and Moscow, but still few people can clearly explain how it differs from ordinary. In order to fix this, Life around, together with the founders of the Malt and Hops beer school - the main propagandist of craft in St. Petersburg Alexei Burov and its major distributor Ivan Shishkin - launches a series of materials devoted to craft brewing. In the first issue, the owner of the Beer Card, Minced and Barrel and Trappist bars tells about how craft brewing originated and what are its features.
general director of the beer distribution company "Fest Federation"
co-owner of the Beer Card, Stuffing and Barrel and Trappist bars
The phenomenon of craft beer
We, the founders of the school, introduced the phrase “craft beer” as a definition of an interesting author's product five years ago. Today we catch ourselves thinking that the phrase begins to take on a completely vague meaning, often appearing only in the menu. Everyone is talking about craft beer, but few can explain what it is. The same thing happened five years ago with the author's beer, ten years ago - with live beer.
The difference is that the last two expressions are a purely Russian invention, and craft beer is an international, quite professional term, which in some countries has a legislatively fixed wording.
Anarchy in its interpretations is banal to work and build the right dialogue with partners, beer lovers and industry participants. This, by the way, was one of the reasons for the foundation of the school. We want Russia to speak the same beer world audience. We must distinguish not craft beer from non-craft beer, but good from bad. And while the inscription "Kraft" in our country does not guarantee quality at all, unfortunately.
So what is craft beer? Among all the wordings, the simplest is legally approved by the Association of Craft Brewers of the United States, the founders of the movement. They believe that a craft brewery should be independent (that is, managed not by the board of directors, but by people directly involved in the business), have little power and brew beer according to a traditional recipe, where the ingredients are used only for taste and not for cheapening. The approach as a whole is true, but its digitization clearly indicates the conventionality of borders. Obviously, today the American craft market with a multi-billion dollar turnover has long become a platform for making big money with a very beautiful wrapper, but cynical content, in the spirit of Hollywood.
Thus, we accept the classic American wording conceptually, but we cannot agree with its absolute values (the more so because they are periodically shifted by the Association to suit changed capacities, owners' shares in certain breweries, and so on). This approach seems to us not the most logical. After six million liters a year, a craft brewery does not automatically cease to be a craft brewery. Is not it?
In our view, craft is high-quality beer with character and meaning, brewed not by the board of directors, but by a brewer
According to this, the liberal beer community of Europe. Therefore, they are considered to be craft any beer that is brewed by independent brewers and has special taste characteristics. The European definition does not have a legal framework, and therefore, each manufacturer and seller treats craft differently. This approach to us, in contrast to the American, on the contrary, seems too free. This non-binding definition in Russian open spaces allows you to start a “Russian business” with manipulating the term and sticking a fashion label on any mediocre product without a twinge of conscience and even an approximate understanding of the issue.
Criteria and History
We have developed the recipe for craft beer, which seems to us absolutely appropriate in order to become official for use in Russia. In our opinion, craft is a quality beer with character and meaning, brewed not by the board of directors, but by a brewer.
One of the first criteria for crafting is quality. This is the ability of beer to meet the declared characteristics (physico-chemical, biological, organoleptic) throughout the shelf life, and not the subjective assessment of "like - do not like." In this regard, for example, we categorically do not like it when craft beer is called only bitter (sour / strong / other) beer. Let's go back to the origins. Craft beer originated in the United States as a form of energy splash in the violent 70s, a new post-war generation whose parents were raised on the American dream with the same clothes, shops, music, food and drinks. Imagine what happened at that time with beer culture in the country, which was founded by representatives of the strongest beer powers in the world: the Dutch, English, Irish, Germans, Czechs (and where at the end of the XIX there were more than 4 thousand breweries)? Everything is very simple, in the 60-70s, thanks to the lobby and aggressive development in the country, there were de facto two huge producers of dull beer: Bud and Miller. The grin of beer globalism has reached its limit. Meanwhile, hereditary brewers still have memories of how different and multifaceted varieties were before Prohibition. The desire to revive the traditional recipes of their nation became the main engine of progress. In a simple way, everyone is tired of drinking light American bottom-fermented beer. People just wanted another beer, and demand creates supply. And in 1978, the ban on home brewing was lifted throughout the country. This spurred the development of hop cultivation in the southwestern states, whose terroir, in the terminology of wine, brought absolutely fantastic aromas to the final product (compared to the classic Old World varieties) and the IPA fashion that has become (by mistake!) Almost synonymous with us crafting. So, all first-wave craft beer was nothing more than a classic interpretation of old-world beer styles adjusted for the American climate and nature. Someone started with lagers (getting lagers in the Viennese style, in the style of California-commune), someone with ales (having made the first wheat ale in the style of the Bavarian Visebirs) or analogues of British bitters.
About any radicalism (such as 100% IBU (International Bittering Units or, literally, the number of units of bitterness) or 10% alcohol with aging in oak) in the era of the origin of crafting, there was no question. Already a table ale variety or unfiltered lager became revolutionary drinks for a country immersed in a light tasteless swill on rice, maltose syrup and maize, proudly called light american lager.
This is the problem of modern craft. For a bright hopping, aging in barrels, a game with a variety of ingredients and other products and technologies that hide the flaws of the basic beer very much, a very simple, but balanced and ideological beer is lost for every day - craft experts consider it to be insufficiently craft. For example, Fuller's iconic brewery, Smith & Turner is “ordinary”, despite the great ales of the highest quality.
Desire to revivetraditional recipes of your nationbecame the main engine of progress
Behind this lies absolute ignorance of the issue and the desire of amateurs (from production, trade, marketing and gastronomy) to speculate on the fashion trend. We observed a similar picture with pasta, pizza, sushi, steaks, wine bars. We see a similar thing now: people who half a year ago could not distinguish lager from lambic, today with the status of experts seriously discuss differences in the units of bitterness of one crazy "hype" (Indian Pale Ale. - Note ed.) from another.
What are we calling for? We believe that it is necessary to understand the issue from scratch. That’s why we teach people how beer came about, why it became the way we used to see it and how we lost touch with its other tastes, what tastes beer has and why they appear, and how to distinguish good beer from bad color aroma, taste and smell.
In the end, craft beer is just a designation of an author's approach and honest philosophy, according to which a number of breweries have perfected their brewing technology for decades (and some even for centuries) long before America offered the international community a fashionable definition of their product and principles of production .
Photo: Dima Tsyrenshchikov