Crafting A Community

Creating a community involves many facets of consideration. One of them being language and terminology.

One word the beer world uses is ‘craft’ – and I think it’s hamstringing those who use it. Here’s why.

Classic example: Having recently presented at the Nightclub & Bar Show, Las Vegas Nevada, I was paging through the program. Looking for who else I knew presenting, interesting topics to read up on, and making sure I had my info straight pre-talk. I did see a few familiar names (always fun) and new topics to investigate (good for the brain) and my info was straight.

What I also noticed was the page on their Craft Brew Pavilion. Here’s what I find odd.

  1. The Brewers Association has self-determinedly put forth their definition of what a craft brewer is, not what a craft beer is (they try to be very direct about this differentiation).
  2. The industry of ‘craft beer’ has embraced this delineation. I appreciate having guidelines and parameters in some areas of life (like when I’m driving), yet beer is for everyone – and the term ‘craft’ really has nothing to do with the consumer; everything to do with going to market and production considerations for brewers. Yes, some consumers want it yet all brands should be founded on their own merits to begin with, not relying on one word to make or break (that’d be foolishly shortsighted).
  3. The word craft is like the word Natural was in the 1970’s – at first it had some legitimacy; then everyone started using it thinking that consumers would flock to the products that advertised as much, however true or untrue the claims. And there was and still is (to my knowledge) a set global agreed upon by multiple bodies definition of the word. So why use it?
  4. If your beers are well-crafted, then use that in your marketing.
  5. I guarantee you that from my own data backed qualitative research the word ‘craft’ isn’t as relevant as the makers would want it or think it to be. Most consumers simply want products and goods they enjoy and can buy and share.
  6. The list of Companies in the NCB Craft Brew Pavilion wasn’t following the letter of the BA definition (which seems to be what most people go by – so is it moot to begin with?). They included: Black Tooth Brewing Company, Bootleggers Brewery, Boston Beer Company, Breckenridge Brewery, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Duval Moortgat, garage Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Odell Brewing Company, Pear Up, Squatters Craft Beers & Wasatch Brewery, The Dudes’ Brewing Company, Wild Tonic.
  • Are all of these actually brewed, first of all? Is tonic brewed?
  • What’s the technical definition of ‘brewing’?
  • Are all of these fitting to the limited definition of a craft-brewer? (no)
  • Who’s putting this list together and are they trying to get traction or simply inaccurately lumping vendors they could get signed on together?

How about a simple Beverage Pavilion for accuracy sake?

Accuracy is critical. If you’re going to do something, do it well and accurately. Seeing this list pokes holes in the idea that ‘craft’ is special. Most beer enthusiasts I know would be able to take a look at the list and tell me which companies in the line up don’t fit the aforementioned definition.

And really, who cares.

Call this area a Beverage Pavilion – by all means and for all vendors and visitors, that’d be accurate. To call it otherwise is inaccurate, a falsity that only perpetuates misinformation. Who’s to tell me – as a consumer – what is craft and what isn’t? We make our decisions on the moment we make them, with the immediate influencing factors already in place.

As a marketer it pains me to see any entity publish inaccuracies, especially in a very specific arena like this.

Marketing isn’t solely around to drive sales. Marketing is communication. And the world deserves and wants accuracy and transparency. Nothing chaps my youknowwhat more than marketers getting unjustly blamed for shenanigans others may have instigated and perpetuated. When you notice that info is wrong, speak up. Legitimate hard working marketers will appreciate the catch. At a minimum, a lively conversation will build bridges and new connections.

What’s craft? That’s up to each and everyone of us, our own definitions will work just fine. For the industry, it’s another story. Fine – use it in industry. But don’t mess with everyone else.

Well crafted products, owned by any entity and in any category, of any size volume, suits me fine.

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Rules of Beer Engagement

Craft is a hot, hot, hot word right now, particularly in the beer world. On the one hand, some care. Passionately. On the other, who cares? I don’t. I want a fresh delicious beverage I can sip to me delight. I don’t want to hear your rants and raves, your denigrations or high faluting opinions or judgements on high. So just call beer what it is: beer.

If you’re a buyer and consumer, I’d encourage you to consider your habits with the following Rules Of Beer Engagement:

1. Focus on flavor first, not style. What flavors do you enjoy, across beverage and food? Find those and get to know them, well. Identifying flavors at their base will help you move towards beer (and food) you enjoy. It’ll better enable and empower you to ask for what you want which is better for the breweries, retailers, and distributors as well. Specific is terrific.

2. Keep an open mind. Indeed, an open mind is the every best palate tool everyone can and should utilize. Saying you like this or that, saying that you don’t like that or this is closed-minded. Unless you’ve had serious repercussions of beer in your mouth very recently, then it’s time to try it all. Just as an open mind is a help, a closed mind is a major pleasure inhibitor.

Don't get upside down about beer - enjoy it for what it is.

Don’t get upside down about beer – enjoy it for what it is.

3. Enjoy what you like and support whomever is drinking with you in what they choose. In fact, try what they’re drinking and share what you’re sipping as well. If it’s been more than a month since you tried a certain beer your friend is now sipping, try it again. Our physiology changes in various ways as we age – so beer of days past will not taste the same as it does today.

4. Be a diplomat, ditch the snobbery. Diplomacy changes the world for the better. See number 3 above. Supporting beer includes supporting freedom of choice, reserving judgment (who the hell needs that anyway!!??), and fully embracing the moment.

5. Craft is 5 letters connected together. That’s it and that’s all. Any remaining parameters, lines in the definition sand, and boundaries are only on you to put up or leave down. I suggest not labeling your beer. If the product is well crafted, if care has been taken in the manufacture of beer, then it matters not the quantity made. Small isn’t the antithesis of big; it’s a sheltered view of the world and only encumbers your bee enjoyment.

Beer is meant to be enjoyed, shared, savored, and consumed. Doing so with an open mind and diplomacy will more than expand your taste buds – it’ll expand your world and make you a welcome member of society at large.

I want to hang out and get to know people who are open. If you’re one of them, give me a call – let’s go for a beer.

 

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What Does Craft Mean To You?

“Health is a relative term that means different things to different people – kind of like the term craft beer, right?” – Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director, Brewers Association

Words. They’re seemingly loaded with meaning and thrown around with no weight simultaneously. How do you handle words?

Exhibit A: Natural.

In the 1970’s in America, the word came on like a tidal wave. It was all the sudden on packaged goods and signs everywhere. Natural This and Natural That. What’s a consumer to do?! In a huge rush the shopping of food became a miasma of words, which at first felt meaningful.

Is a manufactured (intentionally planted) landscape natural? Is it crafted?

Is a manufactured (intentionally planted) landscape natural? Is it crafted?

Then, with everyone getting on the Natural boat, it began to get muddy. Muddy understandings, definitions, and meanings. What did Natural mean by 1980? Who was still using it and to what end? Here’s a thoughtful article on the term.

Exhibit B: Craft.

It’s the current counterpart to Natural. What does Craft mean?

Like natural and all labels and titles, definitions are somewhat elastic. They may be ‘defined’ by some organizational body or person, yet who gives them the authority to define a word that can mean different things to all different folks? And who’s to say we have to abide by them or adopt them as our own?

Craft is a buzz word in the alcohol beverage industry right now, and especially in the beer world. It’s a word I’ve used, questioned, and not used (in that order) since I got into the beer world professionally.

What’s in a word is up to the brain holder – you and I, our neighbors, colleagues, family friends and enemies. Who’s to say what a word can and cannot mean, as well as the sticky middle of “ya, but’s”….

To come up with my own definition of craft I look all around me, both at home and abroad. To me, well crafted is going to be more important than any otherwise-defined delineation of any word. It’s my word to use as I wish and I wish the meaning to be non-exclusive, though not necessarily inclusive. See my quandary? It’s neither here nor there, and it’s certainly not in between.

I’d encourage you to rethink your words and terminology. I’d suggest you focus on brands and what they are about, what they mean to you, and how they relate to your world. I’d recommend not using the craft word. From our research I can tell you that most women don’t have a universal singular definition of “craft” as it relates to beer. Size has little to do with quality (pun intended here).

Knowing that what is in your glass is well crafted with care is my go-to. What’s yours?

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Does Your Industry Need More Labels?

Does your world need more labels? More identifiers? Do you want or need more delineation of what makes this such-and-such or so-and-so? Do you prefer to fly with fewer labels and definitions, preferring to define what it is that’s important within your own world and contexts?

I recently read a thought by a long-standing and well-respected (me included) brewery professional. The words were part of a longer sentences to the effect that “craft beer” does need to be defined and identifiable.

I disagree. Here’s why.

I’ve talked about labels and titles before. Starting with WEB, I know for a fact and from our qualitative research, that female labels and titles can be helpful or harmful. This is true with any category.

  • Good: Women, females.
  • Bad: Chicks, broads, babes, girls, vixen.

Any labels in any circumstance that is denigrating in any way, regardless of a closed (non public) audience or not can and will have an impact. When we name things, when we assign them labels and titles, we need to be super aware of this fact: it’s not about what you think is clever or appropriate. It’ll always be judged by others, who may or may not have a vested interest or concern in the name.

Do we have male groups using: Dicks, Dudes, Well-hung and other references to the person’s physical make up? I’ve yet to see one.

No, beer does not need other delineations. As it is there is a reverse snobbery that is growing in the beer world, specifically the line in the sand is using the ‘craft’ label to do so.

My take: Let it go. Beer is beer. Yes, I agree it matters to be transparent and to know where your beer came from. Just as it’s important to know where the pooch you acquired came from (for care reasons) or the milk in your fridge came from (health reasons), or the car or bicycle parts came from (quality, fair trade). There are way more important things to concern ourselves with per beer. Like the fact that almost all beer makers still don’t understand women make 75 – 85% of all purchases across categories AND there are many brands that are still using sexism and gender based marketing. How about we enlighten ourselves on the majority global population and beer first instead of getting too far ahead of ourselves.

At the beginning of the day until the end, it’s all beer. If you want to judge, do it privately and without admonition of others for enjoying what they want to, can and choose to imbibe.

Are these "craft" hops or not? Who cares....

Are these “craft” hops or not? Who cares….

So you know, it’s not without internal dialogue with myself and talking with others that I came to this decision on how I choose to define beer. A comment from another long-standing well-respected member of the professional side of beer threw my nascent thinking over the edge for the better. Stating that all things are ‘crafted’. I can happily live with that and stand behind that idea, over a definition that leaves out perfectly qualified products that others have deigned outcasts.

Some would argue that labels can help the reader and learner better quantify what it is that they’re pursuing. I’ll give you a tiny bit of head way here, though very tiny. Labels are only helpful if they define facts, not opinions or variably definable attributes and characteristics. The whole idea of education is to learn, proactively and actively seeking the increase your knowledge in your own way and through the methods that best resonate with you.

Putting a box around a definition of something like beer that is truly universal can only be limiting in a not so great way, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s all raise whatever glass of whatever beer we want to drink in context and be happy for it.

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Beer: A Philosophical Review

Beer has always been beer. It’s been around as long as humans have been in one spot long enough to make it.

So why is there now *suddenly* a definition of what beer should be?

I speak of the word Craft in reference to its use with the word beer.

When I started WEB I’d use the word, as did the crowd I hung with – the professionals I’d come to know and enjoy. The longer I’ve been around the industry though, the more I chaff against it. Here’s why.

When I was teaching public school a number of years ago, and even when I was in my education program in college, I quickly saw that labels and identifying words could be damning. And permanent in a very negative way, with both positive labels and negative ones.

Beer is beer.

Beer is beer.

Ever been called stupid? Unique? Smart? How about ADD, ADHD, Special Needs?  Perhaps the titles originally were designed to help those who thought they were helping the student. Nevertheless, those same people conjuring up these titles ended up creating more damage than good. It works both ways: Champion, Winner, Title Holder. Pressure anyone?

People like to name things, because it helps us understand and go forward. Although for some, they become a crutch, a permission slip to not do this or that – or to do this or that.

I hated them as a teacher and simply wanted to see the student as the person they were. Yes, we all have qualities and talents and physical and emotional characteristics that make us who we are. They are should not solely define us or who we are and can be.

The same holds true with beer. To use one word to narrowly define what something “can” or “should” be is arrogant. Who gives whom the authority to create such a definition anyway? Or who decides to take the authority especially when it’s a universal item that most people on the planet have their own definition for already.

Yes, definitions change. It’d be impossible for something to not change. Mother Nature changes, people change, times change. My beer is like my body: it’s up to me alone to define what it is. It’s personal and to have someone tell me otherwise – that’s not beer – is ridiculous, disrespectful and unacceptable. They’re invalidating my opinions and beliefs.

It’s time to change “back” to no delineation. It’s time to recognize and work with all beer, tastes, flavors, recipes, and ideas of what beer is, can be and what people want their beer to be.

To create delineations in something as universal as beer is also anti diplomatic. Why create and drive another wedge into something everyone already owns themselves? Our energies and efforts are much better spent elsewhere. You shut out as many people or more than you bring in when you draw a line in the definition sand.

And no, don’t argue with me that one kind of business that makes one kind of thing is better or worse than another. It’s untrue. Along with that, ‘small’ is a word I also loathe when applied to business. There’s nothing small to an effort you put your entire life into. And all big/ger businesses started much smaller as well.

I could go on and on about this. And will pick it up another time. For now, here’s where I stand. Beer is beer. Let’s leave it that way.

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