Is there a bitter taste is the mouth for craft beer in the UK or is it just evolving?
The craft beer in the UK market is seeing a new shift, a shift even further away from your grandads bitter than ever before. This is due to accessibility and the adaptation of mainstream, taking it from sub-culture to urban culture. The perception of beer is changing, IPAs are gradually winning over lager drinkers, there has never been so much choice. It wasn’t long ago that you’d struggle to find an IPA, it’s hard to avoid Brewdog these days.
The Scottish brewers recently hit the headlines with two campaigns, the ‘Pink’ launch (reaching out to women) and their 1 million giveaway, a ploy to target the Carling crowd. They hope that a free pint of Punk will turn them into paying customers. It isn’t just on paper where Brewdog have been dominating, you’ll find them in the unlikeliest of places, the bars and clubs that wouldn’t have entertained anything other than your standard lager just a few months are now stocking Punk. Music festivals were once a lager filled weekend, Carling used to sponsor Reading and Leeds, these days they are offering craft alternatives. This could be because they can charge more money or that tastes are changing?
Many will argue about Brewdog’s presence in craft beer. They are bit like Man City, they do the job flawlessly but they’ve done it with investment, lots of it. They still claim that they continue with the craft mentality, they continue to take chances, grow. They have been able to break into the mainstream which can only be a great thing for the whole industry. The more people who taste Punk are the next ones who will buy Jaipur, Gamma Ray or High Wire, once hooked there’s no turning back.
There’s a new hierarchy forming, it was noticeable at Sheffield Beer Week. Is it just about investment and marketing or is it quality and innovation? We’ve got the elite brewers (Brewdog, Beavertown, Goose Island), the local heroes (every city has them), the old schoolers, the breakthrough home brewers and the underdogs who are a bit left wing.
Bitter about bitter, or lack of? Real ale was, up until recently what your granddad drank, that murky, still, warm liquid in a pint class. It wasn’t sexy like your pint of Bud. Bitter is the reason beer gets a bad reputation. The pale ales have been changing that perception, the fruity aromas are much more palatable on the tastebuds making it much easier to convert lager drinkers, it makes brewing a better business model.
The UK craft beer scene might be growing but with all the focus on developing and twisting the IPA, the bitter has been forgotten about by many new breweries. The old men who spend their afternoons in the pub are finding it hard to jump on the craft beer bandwagon. They don’t care about the artwork, if it’s suitable for Vegans or made with ingredients sourced locally, they just want the bitter taste that they have always loved and change from £3. They don’t care for Man City’s slick techniques, forward thinking attitudes and big money innovations, they are happy with Burnley’s solid reputation, it might not be exciting but it works.
Is brewing becoming more about spreadsheets and sales figures or is there true love in that 330ml can that costs £8? They’ll always be businesses in any industry but it’s those who work with passion who will succeed in the long-term. What makes craft beer in the UK great in 2018 is that there’s a taste and budget for everybody.