The recent past is a funny thing. We never think to go find out what we were like 20 or 30 years ago and when we do it's oddly not just like, you know, us. Stan got me on this trail when he asked the simple question "Who first used the words craft beer?" Craft beer is actually a late comer to the phraseology after swell terms like designer beer, real beer, real ale, true beer and micro-brew. So I was really interested in finding this article in The New York Times from 1988 when I was a squeaky clean 24 year old so that I could remind myself what the thing we call "craft beer" now was all about:
By definition, a micro-brewer is one who produces and sells no more than 15,000 barrels of beer a year - although most micros turn out far less than that. A subset of micro-brewing, the craft brewer, is defined as one producing fewer than 3,000 barrels a year. The smallest of the micros are the pub brewers - tavern keepers or restaurateurs who brew just enough for their customers, usually only a few hundred barrels a year. Micro-beer prices vary among brands, but tend to hover somewhere above the midscale Millers and Michelobs and below the upscale Amstels and Heinekens. Getting space on crowded liquor store shelves is always a challenge, but micro-brewers generally find acceptance at restaurants and bars close to home.
That's the way it's worked out, right? Micro-brews still are small brewers with general acceptance at restaurants and bars near home. Amstel is still upscale. Maybe not, but I still think micro-brew is the best phrase around as it has that undeniable inability to be taken over by the PR suits who would have us believe that the "small" makers of millions or even hundreds of thousands of barrels of beer a year are. For me "small" has to have that characteristic of, for the lack of a better word, smallness that "micro" includes and "craft" just doesn't. I love how craft brewing is described as a subset of small more like a cottage level brewery. That term sorta flipped into a different dimension though the power of PR lobbying spin, no?
Things were so much clearer in the 80s, weren't they. OK, not my skin but, you know, things generally.