First use of the Term Craft Brewery (Part II)

This is a follow-up to my Part I. In their 1975 book Beers of Britain (Cassell & Collier Macmillan), Conal Gregory and Warren Knock noted that the old brewing firms of Watney and Truman had been absorbed by Grand Metropolitan Hotels, and Courage by Imperial Tobacco. They then added, at p. 10:

This is all some way from the small craftsman brewer.

The authors also used the term “craft” to contrast old regional firms with the large national breweries. At p. 9 they note that “… brewing was – and is – a master craft, and each area, even each town, had its own distinctive beer”.

The above are noteworthy, as the authors’ declared purpose was to taste the beers made across the country by the dwindling, independent, regional firms. There were no craft breweries then in the modern sense, except for Litchborough Brewery near Northampton, set up in 1974 by an ex-brewer of Phipps/Watney’s, Bill Urquhart, with another partner. Traquair House in Scotland, revived in 1965 on a noble estate, had another claim.*

Hence, while noting these atypical examples approvingly, Gregory & Knock focused on regional, old-established firms. Three reasons for this appear from the book. First, they brewed cask ale. Second, the beers represented distinct or regional flavours vs. the standardized beers of the large groups. Third, the nationally distributed beers often were pasteurized and “finely filtered” whereas cask ale was neither.

In his 1982 The Pocket Guide to Beer (Frederick Muller), Michael Jackson used the term “craft brewery” in relation to Timothy Taylor, and “craftsman breweries” in another connection. These usages may well derive from Gregory & Knock. It is inconceivable to us that Jackson did not know of their book.

This would apply equally for the cognate terms Jackson used in his 1977 The World Guide to Beer. See the Comments to Part I for all this background.

As I stated there, “craft” and its variants used in relation to brewing go back to the 1800s at least. But by the mid-1970s, the term was taking modern shape.

Jackson’s specific 1982 formulation “craft brewery” was new, grammatically. Together with the attributes he laid down for such breweries, this helped shape the future course of an industry. Indeed I would argue it was a defining moment.

Gregory & Knock’s usages persuade me as well that the French term artisan probably had little influence on Jackson. Certainly their book shows no evident Continental influences, it is thoroughly English in tone.

It seems, therefore, that they were a proximate influence on Jackson. Their book had few sales in the United States and Canada, to my knowledge, but had some writ in the U.K. as part of the 1970s cask beer revival. Gregory & Knock did not write again on beer, as far as I know again. In contrast, by the mid-1980s Jackson was internationally known for his consumer beer writing.

Final observation: Jackson’s early works, crowned by the 1982 Pocket Guide, set on its head the notion that gleaming mega-plants would replace small, technologically backward breweries to the last kettle. That was conventional wisdom in brewing for 100 years.

He wasn’t alone in advancing that notion but no other writer did so with the same élan and influence.

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*The few home-brew houses operating were also noted by Gregory & Knock, and with these others may be considered proto-crafts. Yet a further example in their book: Selby Brewery (Middlebrough), a revival in 1972 of a brewery that had ceased operating 20 years earlier.

 

2 thoughts on “First use of the Term Craft Brewery (Part II)”

  1. Gary,
    This article is going to cause a spike in the online price of used copies of “Beers of Britain”.

    The book sounds interesting. The status in 70s Britain was in stark contrast to the situation in the US. Anchor Steam had been brought back to life with new equipment and technical expertise by Fritz Maytag, but little else existed. Many of the older brewers did produce products of excellent quality, but, with few exceptions, were limited in range to pale lager. Also, some brewers were handicapped by outdated facilities. I spoke to one regional brewer in the late 70s who said his nearby competitor had inadequate equipment that produced infected beer. Even in the 90’s, a craft brewer acquaintance complained that an older brewery he had evaluated for contract brewing had a plant that was so deficient that it couldn’t be trusted to brew good beer.

    • Thanks Arnold. It’s actually an excellent book, written in a restrained style typical of an earlier time in Britain (as I’ve mentioned in other contexts), but full of information. One can tell the authors were continually comparing tastes of beers although they don’t use much the adjective-laden style popular now. They also give good details of the towns and pubs in which they found the beers. Many of the breweries don’t exist today, but some still do such as Timothy Taylor’s, Marston, Theakston, Donnington, Shepherd Neame, Adnams.

      They continually insist on the merits of cask-conditioned beer: as much as good taste, what interested them was a naturally-produced carbonation. They consider that the true character of beer is altered with excessive pressure, although they seem good with a maximum 5 lbs psi (top pressure or blanket). Of course “craft keg” today will normally exceed that. So, as usual, history is both informed by such pioneers of beer appreciation but also takes its own path.

      For some of the regional U.K. breweries, especially those that don’t exist today, some likely were technologically deficient, but then too it is that kind of situation that conferred unique tastes. This is something that characterized top-fermentation brewing historically in Belgium and northern France, especially for stored beers including lambic and its family.

      The U.S. small brewery history (pre-craft) is interesting to compare. Given, as you noted, that things were pretty much down to one style, defects would be more apparent, to the detriment of the small brewer. Whereas the U.K. had numerous styles of comparatively malty, top-fermented beer. I suspect local idiosyncrasies for British beer were less apparent or considered a kind of terroir.

      I tasted many of the beers they mention on early visits to Britain in the 1980s. Some were great, some average, some sub-par. Indeed the authors acknowledge this but they state that at least one is tasting something local and characteristic. They saw value in that, and that part of the British 1970s beer revival is still with us at least in mouth service, yet contradicted to a degree by the tendency for a new style to be copied everywhere a la Mondo Vino. So again, history evolves in its own way.

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