WINNER: BEST BEER BOOK, NORTH AMERICAN GUILD OF BEER WRITERS AWARDS 2020
The craft beer boom is the biggest thing to hit brewing and drinking for more than a generation. What started off as a small band of idealistic hobby brewers is now a multi-billion-dollar global industry, but even its most passionate fans can’t actually agree what ‘craft beer’ is, with some arguing that it’s simply marketing hype, and others claiming it doesn’t exist at all.
Award-winning beer writer Pete Brown digs into this decades-long argument and in doing so, creates a fascinating, complex and hugely satisfying answer. He dismantles the main attempts to define the term ‘craft beer’ and argues that it is, in fact, undefinable, before shifting emphasis from beer to the broader, older idea of craft in search of answers. He shows that arguments around craft beer have largely forgotten what craft is all about – if they were even aware in the first place. He explores the ever-changing nature of work, the meaning of knowledge, the evolution of language and the ways in which we engage with our immediate environment and the wider world. Arriving back at beer from such an oblique angle, he rediscovers the real reasons why so many people are so passionate about craft beer, and argues that situating beer in a broader understanding of craft shows that the term is rich in meaning, even if it can’t be pinned down to a measurable definition.
Written in Brown’s trademark pub stool conversational style, Craft: An Argument provides a new perspective on the biggest trend in global food and drink, as well as making you long for a beer.
BEYOND THE BLURB
I’ve always been as fascinated as I have been frustrated with the ongoing debate over the “definition” of craft beer. And then, one day in 2019, I picked up a book about “craft” which said nothing about beer but inspired me to look more broadly at the notion of “craft” in general. There were plenty of parallels with the discussions happening in beer, but lots of differences as well. It was those differences that I found most interesting.
As a book, this was far too niche for a mainstream publisher to pick up. I toyed with the idea of doing a “craft” book – getting handmade paper, block letter type and hand-stitched binding and so on, but it was going to be expensive, so I talked a lot about doing it rather than doing it.
And then Coronavirus happened.
Liz and I both work for ourselves, and I do so in the hospitality industry, which was shut down a week before everything else. Our work evaporated into nothing. With no income, and no structure to our lives in this terrifying time, I hatched a plan to write and self-publish this book within 13 weeks, with Liz working as editor, publisher and researcher. She’s always done the first read and edit on my books before I send them to my publisher, and this time she got to finish the job. When I shared the idea on social media, asking if people would be prepared to buy a book like this and what they might pay for it, the reaction was overwhelming. So, this is what we did during Coronavirus lockdown. And then it went and won “Best Book” at the North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards in October 2020.