Craft beer: beware the pigs with lipstick

With the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards last Thursday night followed up by Beervana over Friday and Saturday the spotlight shone brightly on an industry in the midst of furious evolution.

With a record crowd to Beervana to Westpac Stadium in Wellington, a record number of entries to the awards, big money sponsorship from Liquorland (Beervana) and Super Liquor (Brewers Guild under its Craftology brand) along with unprecedented media attention, you’d say that things would be looking pretty damn good—and for most part that’s correct.

But amongst all the optimism and success in terms of category growth, there is a developing concern about the industry’s ability to maintain its quality story and integrity of the product.

Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing hit out recently at what has widely been described as a publicity stunt by Josh Scott from Moa when he called for standards to be established around what “craft” actually means. Moa was having a crack at Lion’s launch of Crafty Beggars, which it describes as “faux craft”.   

“I have to agree with Moa that Crafty Beggars is a bit shit,” said Nicholas. “Then again if they break a few other budget/value brand loyalists and change them into curious craft beer drinkers then that is good for beer. It might be five or ten years but the term ‘craft beer’ will be lost to history. It is just BEER. There are good beers and bad beers, made by both large and small brewers. Is a faux craft beer worse than a faulty, badly-made beer by a small independent ‘craft brewer’? What does more damage to the ‘craft beer’ industry?” 

And after the last few days I reckon he has a point. There does appear to be a bunch of new entrants making some pretty average product, getting a local corner design agency to brainstorm an ironic name and creating an ‘edgy’ label and calling it a brand. Call me old fashioned but I reckon at the heart of a good brand is good product and all the good work done by the pioneers like Tuatara, Emerson’s, Epic, Renaissance AND Moa, and more recent entrants like Parrot Dog, 8 Wired, Liberty and Garage Project is more likely to be undone by some of these new entrants than Lion, DB or Independent. I am afraid there are a few pigs getting a makeover. 

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