What will the chapter after the ‘craft beer era’ be called?

Beer Lovers pub, Cartagena, Colombia
Beer Lovers, a pub in Cartagena, Colombia – part of a worldwide phenomenon.

“Historians love chapter breaks. COVID-19 will come to be seen as a chapter break.”
               – Robert Kaplan, American foreign-policy expert

“All history is contemporary history.”
               – Benedetto Croce, Italian philosopher, historian

Context is everything, so I think there is value in reading these two blog posts in the same sitting. I’ll wait.

How will we understand the craft era? – from Jeff Alworth at Beervana.

An expedition into craft beer – from Sarah in Dublin, a Nashville native in Ireland.

The first is a sweeping overview, so let’s start with the second. Sarah signed up for the National Homebrew Club of Ireland’s BJCP Tasting Course and wrote about the first of six classes. The result is a delightful, breezy read from somebody who enjoys drinking beer.

Exhibit A: “I also found myself being influenced by what someone else was saying they could sense. Is this more caramel or raisin? I’m not sure. . . Oh, well, he said caramel, so obviously I can totally get that now. Of course, it all makes so much sense. What fool would say raisin? Amateurs.”

Exhibit B: “I’m going to go ahead and be honest with you. I am overwhelmed at how many categories and subcategories there are of beer. The mind boggles. How will I ever remember all of this? I am happy to learn about the history of beer styles and how to decipher tasting notes, but the thought of me actually being able to identify a beer style blindly is beyond my comprehension.”

Jeff’s post looks back to 1977. He doesn’t point to Michael Jackson, but that is the year Jackson’s “The World Beer Guide” was published. In it, Jackson lists 23 “classic beer-styles.” Five years later, in his first “Pocket Guide to Beer” he included only 20 “types of beers.”

And Jeff writes, “In 1977, beer played a stable role in the US, one most Americans would describe in similar terms. The beverage itself was easily definable. In the following decades, our perceptions changed, fueled by an evolution of the beverage itself and the people who made it. . . . Beer once meant something straw-colored and fizzy and now it means something slightly darker, less fizzy, and probably hoppy. Once it was common and unremarkable, and now it is accused of being twee and over-elaborate.”


If we are going to “use 2020-’21 as a convenient place to divide the ‘craft era’ with whatever we’re about to inherit” who is in charge of coming up with a title for the next chapter?

14 thoughts on “What will the chapter after the ‘craft beer era’ be called?”

  1. Won’t the next chapter be anachronistically named by a future historian or journalist? I thought that was always the rule. Neo-craftism or post-modern craftist or some other such confusing title will suit just fine. We’re at the stage where craft breweries seem less focused on a particular beer style, than focused on ensuring that they have an appropriate craft portfolio of beers. Perhaps we’ll use some moniker to refer to the “standard” (jk) portfolio of 7 IPAs (if you are in New England, five or more must be very cloudy or an odd concoction), 2 dark beers, a lager (of any type), a tart/sour, a “belgian” beer, and something barreled/oaked.

  2. I sure did forget those seltzers, though – I have not been to a brewery that has one in the portfolio yet – but I read about it.

  3. My thought is that we have to look at (1) when did a term had ascendency not just existence and (2) that there is a measure of integrity associated with the term. Craft ended in 2015-16 as by then not only was it not small but it was being swallowed by the very not small for big lumps of money. It was also when adjuncts and adulterations really became the prime feature. Alcopops labeled as beer. That there is not term for what has followed speaks to its unimportance. When did it begin? About a decade earlier, when a response to “Sex with Sam” led other US small/regional brewers with a certain sort of ambition to reconstruct and then backdate another narrative. “Micro” was what existed before then, as contemporary records show. The remaining question is why folk gaze at craft like the long jilted boyfriend keeping framed photos of her around the house. Lack of imagination? Lack of confidence? Lack of an alternative?

    • Curiously, “micro” still works and describes almost all the 8,000-plus breweries in the U.S.

      Also, this 1998 statement from Greg Noonan remains timeless, and a reminder that there’s more to the business than business.

      “When the homebrewers stop entering the profession, and the backyard breweries are squeezed out, then it will become stagnant. You gotta keep getting the guys who say, ‘Cool, I can sell the beer I make. I can do it.’ ”

  4. It appears that WordPress does not want to thread our exchange any more. I suspect a conspiracy. Voter suppression by the powers that be.

  5. It could take a while for us to understand the contours of the next era sufficiently to name it. “Craft beer” came into broad use quite a long time after the actual era dawned.

    Should I make a prediction ?!

    • Of course. That would be grand. Particularly since you recently documented how good you are at predictions.

      • (Well, I was going to say.) And if I might add “craft” and “micro” and other labels like “independent” as slapped on quickly as possible – and with all the care that the combo of alcohol and money suggests. This isn’t history in the making. It’s the stuff of marketing committees and what is most telling is that the marketing committee has been silent since “independent” flopped. Jeff’s quiet use of “modern” is likely more accurate for the post-micro era as any I have seen. Does this make 2015-present “post-modern”? Dunno.

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