First use of Term Craft Brewery

Obeisance to St. Mike

Off and on over the years the question comes up, who first used the term craft brewery, craft beer, craft brewer, etc.

Until recently, the earliest citation I was aware of is from Paul Gatza on Stan Hieronymous’ Appellation Beer site in 2010, in response to his post inquiring who first used the term “craft beer”.

Gatza responded in part:

The earliest publication of the term “Craft Brewing” here at the Brewers Association that I know about is The New Brewer magazine, Vol. 1, No. 5, September-October 1984, pages 3-4 in Vince Cottone’s article “Craft Brewing Comes of Age.” The term is [sic] “craft beer” is not used in the article, but Vince used the phrases “craft-brewing scene,” “craft brewery” and “craft brewing” in the piece. I have a scan of the article available upon request…

Just the other day I was reading The Pocket Guide to Beer by the late Michael Jackson, published in 1982 by Frederick Muller Limited, London. This is the first appearance of a guide that ran to six or seven editions. They bore varying titles due to differing publication arrangements, but each was an update of the previous one. Each was sold on release in both the U.K. and North America.

On pg. 81, in the entry for “Timothy Taylor, Keighley”, Michael Jackson writes:

TIMOTHY TAYLOR, Keighley. A craft brewery down to the last detail. Very small, producing a wide range of all-malt beers on the edge of the moorland Brontë country. All the draught is cask-conditioned, and the bottled ale is unpasteurized…

In effect, with striking concision he defined keynotes of the beer renaissance for the next 30 years and coined its trademark phrase “craft brewery” (and by extension the derivatives craft beer, craft brewing, etc.).

He also made it clear the phrase applied in Britain to notable examples of the cask tradition, hence not limiting the term geographically, much less to the United States, as is assumed today.

The next edition, called The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer, came out in 1986. Jackson again praises Timothy Taylor but in different terms and the term craft is omitted. The 6th edition, entitled Pocket Guide to Beer, came out in 1997. It again praises Timothy Taylor and again omits the word craft. I have seven editions of Jackson’s guide. Only the first one, from 1982, used the term craft brewery.

There are two other uses of the “craft” in that first edition, once in connection with top-fermentation tradition at the Belgian brewery Dupont, and once to characterize the brewing of a Jackson selection of top-ranked breweries. While not on point as such, these reinforce the Timothy Taylor reference. They the term was on Jackson’s mind as a signifier of quality and (typically, or often at least) small-scale brewing.

See here, in Google Books, for all these various usages; just insert “craft” in the snippet box to see them.*

Therefore, the earliest use of the term “craft brewery” to date (to my knowledge) is by Michael Jackson. Jackson is generally acknowledged as the greatest beer writer of all time. Certainly he was was a huge influence on today’s craft brewing culture. It is entirely appropriate that he first used the term.

The reason it was overlooked is probably that the first edition of his pocket guide is relatively rare. To the extent the Jackson pocket guides are consulted today, usually a later edition is examined.

Note re image: the image above was sourced from the Wikipedia entry for beer writer Michael Jackson, here, and is believed in the public domain. If not in the public domain, the intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.


*Jackson in the same book also uses the terms “craftsman breweries” and “craftsman brewing”, the former in connection with small northern French breweries, the latter viz. the survival in Belgium of old brewing methods. Thus far, no evidence has appeared that Michael Jackson or anyone else used the specific term “craft brewery” before his 1982 usage in regard to Timothy Taylor, or set out product characteristics for this type of brewery, but see also my last Comment added below.







12 thoughts on “First use of Term Craft Brewery

  1. Somewhat Devil’s Advocate here, but, continuing the religious theme, is this not getting too close to Biblical interpretations? Who can know what Jackson had in his mind when he chose the word “craft” for that particular instance?

    • I had a couple of aims here. One was to show that the precise term, craft brewery, was used by Jackson before any American writer of the mid-1980s, and at a time small breweries in America had sprouted. Previously, that was not understood in the historical community.

      Second, by defining key attributes of a craft brewery as exemplified by Timothy Taylor’s, he helped chart a path and finally the key term for what is now regarded as the craft revolution.

      Certainly he used other terms in the 80s, microbrewery as I said, and boutique brewery as B&B have pointed out, but the term craft brewery clicked in the final result.

      I think it’s an important find Hugh.

  2. It was drawn to my attention that in Boak and Bailey’s (well-known U.K. beer writers) Brew Britannia of a few years ago, they stated that Michael Jackson in his 1977 The World Guide To Beer used the terms “craft-brewing” and “craft-brewers” in connection with surviving, French and Belgian small brewers. I checked and certainly on pp. 179-180 he uses these terms in that context.

    The earlier recitation of this background is useful, and part of the pathway clearly that led Jackson to the specific coinage in 1982 of “craft brewery”, a phraseology not used in The World Guide to Beer (or no one has claimed that as such, to my knowledge).

    Second, I would point out in 1982 Jackson used the term craft brewery in an anglophone context, to describe a small brewery viewed by emerging North American microbreweries as a model to emulate. This is especially so as he stated criteria later considered characteristic of craft breweries such as non-pasteurized bottling, all-malt brewing, and (in part) cask-conditioning.

    Sometimes, a coinage becomes a leitmotif – acquires a special resonance. Take the term “fab four”. Fro the start, journalists used “fab” or the “four” to describe the Beatles: the four lads, four boys, a fab band, the fab Beatles. But only one person came up with the term “fab four” and it acquired instant fame. This is broadly true of the term craft brewery, IMO. Other writers later used similar terms, especially in the U.S., that popularized the term “craft brewery” and variants, but I think it is clear Jackson originated the phrase. Relatively few copies of the 1982 edition were sold but they were influential in a small beer circle – brewers, home brewers, trade groups, writers, etc. – whose influence in turn was important to popularize the phrase in North America, whence it went world-wide. All in my considered view, of course.

    In 1988 Jackson issued his coffee table format The New World Guide to Beer. He uses the term “craft breweries” again, in fact in the eleventh line of the first page, in a chapter entitled “The Beer Renaissance”. After stating that traditional styles of beer are being revived in brewpubs and brewpubs are themselves “a tradition revived”, he adds: “So is the new generation of very small, craft breweries”. In the U.S. chapter later in the book, he uses the term microbrewery and its variants numerous times, and seems clearly to have preferred the term to craft brewery to describe the emerging American small breweries, at least in that year (1988). Of course in the result, his alternate term, “craft brewery”, won out to describe the type of brewery and brewing in question.

    So, the die had been cast for the fate of the term “craft brewery”. Everything has a history, and there are few straight lines to anything in human endeavours except geometry, but I argue that Jackson’s 1982 usage of the term “craft brewery” to describe Timothy Taylor’s in Yorkshire was a defining moment. It must be recalled that by 1982, there was actually a clutch of craft breweries and brewpubs in America, and many persons avid to start one. Reading what Jackson stated about Timothy Taylor’s would have impressed upon them what a “craft brewery”, in a tradition familiar to them (U.K. ale brewing), meant and what it did. In 1977 when The World Guide to Beer was published, that industry was non-existent except for the progenitor Anchor Brewing in San Francisco and tiny New Albion Brewing in Sonoma. With the legalization of home brewing in 1978 and entry of many home brewers into commercial small brewing ranks, 1982 was exactly the right moment to drop the term craft brewery on an America becoming (slowly) beer-woke.


  3. In a somewhat related sense, for a long time, even before Prohibition, brewery workers in the US were often organized into craft unions. Craft unions also included highly skilled workers like carpenters and stone masons, as opposed to labor unions, which tended to involve manual labor such as assembly line work, or service unions, which included hospitality workers.

    Obviously you can’t draw too much of an overlap with the modern sense of craft brewers, since this would have included craft unions at the big national brewers making beers similar to modern Bud and Miller. But it does give a sense of how long the two terms have been connected in some way, well before the 1980s.

    • Certainly and in numerous texts on or relating to beer going back to the 1800s one will find the word craft in there, as it is a general term in English to denote a skill applied to countless types of industrial, artisan, and artistic productions. Hence references to the craft of brewing, craft of brewers, and similar. See e.g. in this early history of Milwaukee industries (“giants of the craft”). But conjoining specifically the words craft and brewery, and the particular way Jackson defined what Timothy Taylor was and did, were novel in a work dealing with beer, especially a consumer book, and had evident influence.

  4. As you’ve noted, a lot of bitters in the UK have lost their bitterness. I think extremely hoppy beers were still something of a novelty in Britain ten years ago. I was homebrewing at the time and homebrewers were just getting obsessed with how to get the maximum hop flavour and aroma into their beer.

    This cross-pollination has spawned at least two new British styles: pale ’n’ hoppy, which – to me, in its classic form – is a cask-conditioned beer made with 100% lager malt, between 3.5% and 5% to suit British drinking habits and heavily hopped with US or New Zealand hops; and another discernible style which doesn’t really have a name, but takes the classic IPA strength of 5.5%–6.5% and uses US hopping techniques with new English varieties such as Jester or Ernest.

    • Thanks Rob and no question evolution is occurring, but at bottom traditional and “real” still have meaning and that was Jackson’s key insight. The beers you mentioned have a lot of character and I think he would have approved them as craft at their best.

  5. Interesting that he seems to use the term in the sense of traditional, doing things the way they have always been done – similar to the way the Belgians used “artisanale” (which is possibly where he got it from) – and in contrast to the factory-style brewing which in the 1970s appeared to be taking over.

    Some people today use the term to denigrate Timothy Taylor and similar breweries, which is quite different. For them “craft” means pushing the envelope with endless novelty beers, and old-fashioned bitter and mild are boring.

    I still find it very peculiar that the US “craft” pioneers wanted to emulate classic British and German beers, yet when the movement bounced back across the Atlantic it produced “craft” advocates in Britain and Germany who seem to despise those same beers.

    • I agree that Jackson meant traditional practices, but only where they conferred high quality on the product. In effect he created the understanding of modern craft brewing: small-scale, limited production, using traditional practices, e.g., no pasteurization, cask conditioning if possible, and all-malt which characterized much early craft brewing and still does.

      As to the meaning U.S. craft brewing assumed in the U.K., it did diverge from the North American meaning which was strongly influenced by ancestral British brewing. This happened IMO mostly because the craft hop taste differed from the British norm, so people assumed the traditional taste of bitter could not be craft, when it was simply a question of how hop types performed in U.S. soils.

      Also, the all-malt focus in the U.S. had an impact in U.K. where so much of the bitter had 20% sugar. Timothy Taylor did not, evidently, hence Jackson’s particular admiration.

      A foreign-inspired trend often gets turned around, we see it all the time.

      A reverse case is the high status of Watney Red Barrel in North America as I discussed recently.

      Net net, Timothy Taylor is arguably the first modern craft brewery in terms of the etymology of the expression. And Jackson came up with the term, it couldn’t be clearer.


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