Crapft beer

I know I’m going to be in trouble for this one. And I fully recognise that I will be ridiculed for being horrendously uncool (again), but someone has got to say it, and it looks like no-one else will dare to can be bothered.

Craft beer is overrated. MASSIVELY overrated.

What started out as a fight back against the big breweries and produced some really lovely beers, became a huge movement – fuelled by hipsters and society’s sad need to be seen being achingly trendy – is now past its sell by date. We were out at the Devil’s Peak Brewery last night, and while I’m certainly not suggesting that they are any more at fault than anyone else (and while we had a wonderful evening) the beer was crapft.

The food was really good. Feisty chilli poppers and excellent (if a little small) burgers.

But when people – beer drinking men – are choosing to leave their beer because it tastes so awful, rather than finish it before ordering something else, well, you’ve got a problem.

The issue here for me (and let me be clear: others agreed last night), is that the craft beer market is now saturated. It has been for a while. And in order to find a niche in a very busy space, crapft beer people have all gone a bit bonkers. They are brewing with weird hops from Bolivia, Moldova and the Antarctic. They are adding wild and wonderful ingredients to their brews in order to make them different: oranges, cloves, honey, wood from wine barrels, port, jack russells, mangoes – the list goes on. And yes, it makes your beer taste different, it makes it taste wholly individual.
But it also makes it taste like kak. The object can like to be defeated.

Let me be very clear here, crapft brewers. There is absolutely no need for any further forays into experimentation.
Our longing for something simple like a Black Label or (perish the thought) a Castle Lite draught, expressed while we were in the HQ – the flagship establishment – of one of the biggest names in crapft brewing in the country clearly indicates that this has all gone too far now and actually got a bit silly.

And you can argue that this falls into Uber Cash and Halal Hot Cross Bun territory. It only affects me if I allow it to. I can simply continue with my mainstream beer drinking and allow others to endure enjoy the latest crapft beer. And yes, you’re right. I’m just disappointed that something that started so well and with good intentions has clearly gone right off the rails.

Am I concerned that crapft beer will push SAB and the like out of the SA market? No. Because – much like the Noakes diet, owning a sodding beagle, and gluten intolerance – crapft beer is merely a fad for the rich to enjoy.
It’s just that if the current trends continue, they’re going to have to put on a bigger and bigger act to pretend that they actually are enjoying it.

ADDENDUM: The Tall Accountant (for he was also present last evening) has requested that I add that the prices for the crapft beer last night were overly reasonable, being of the order of R22 for a half measure of crapft beer and somewhere around R32 for a full 500ml measure of crapft beer. This I am happy to do.

14 thoughts on “Crapft beer

  1. Personally I’m not a drinker anymore, but all “new” fashionable things like markets, craft beer, home grown honey etc, all points to one thing. Most people seem to want to be making something, they want to somehow have a direct participation in the market place and stamp their little mark on the world.

    Is there a place for home brewers, markets, etc. I think it is pretty clear off course it is. The problem is that most people go for mainstream things, the stuff they know. Wine making, beer making, biltong making etc. Some people are good at it and some are shyte.

    I say make your crapft beers, make your homegrown vegan schnitzel and sauerkraut as long as there is someone to buy it. Allow the market to speak for itself, if your crapft beer is actually pretty good, chances are it will develop into something a little bigger. Those who make shit beers, could maybe turn their attention to upping the alcohol content and start making alcohol based fuels or moonshine, there are customers for every product.

    Hopefully honest feedback will make these “brewers” realize they either need to improve their product, or see what kind of business there is in the “hipster meth” business, I am sure the clientele wouldn’t bee too fussy.

  2. I share your concerns wholeheartedly. Handing over wads of cash for cidery, faulty beer is nobody’s idea of fun. I’ve never had a bad beer from Devil’s Peak. So what I’d like to know is which beer was it? What was wrong with it. I fear that you are close to delivering the baby onto the curb along with your bathtub full of crapft.

  3. Werner Weber > Thanks for reading and for the comment.

    I agree. I bake my own bread, I make my own biltong, I even brew my own beer. In fact, pretty much anything beginning with a B is fair game.
    And yes, there’s “something” about doing it yourself. The simplicity, the return to basic ingredients, the time invested.

    You can see that people appreciate this approach from the 74,316 “Farmer’s Markets” each weekend in Cape Town.

    Maybe where this falls down then – and this is a bit of a stab in the dark – is the need to make money from this approach? Crapft beers were fine when they first started, but, as I say in the post, it’s all gone a bit wrong, IMHO simply because they all want to offer something different, as a unique selling point. But different doesn’t always mean better. In fact, in the crapft beer arena, it seems to mean quite the opposite. However, they (the brewers) are propped up by a clientele that is willing to endure all sorts of shite just to be seen to be drinking something new and “different”.

    So yes, maybe move onto a new product, but let’s not expect it to last. Crapft beer is a fad. As whatever comes next will be.

  4. Harry Reginald Haddon > Look now. I’m not claiming to speak for everyone here. And, granted, it was an unusual choice of venue if I’m going to write something like this about crapft beer. I didn’t choose the place. I was told that the chilli poppers and the burgers were good there. And they were.
    My comrades in arms went wholeheartedly for the Pale Ale, save for one who decided on a tasting platter thing. That’s Lager, First Light Golden Ale, IPA, Woodhead and Kings Beaglehouse.
    The Pale Ale proved simply too much in flavour terms for 3/4 of them. Two drank it anyway, one couldn’t. (The fourth one was knocking it back with limited problems, although he was the one who claimed to be longing for the Castle Lite draught).
    Having the range of beers in front of (one of) us allowed us to have a quick run through of the alternatives. I have to say that even the First Light was just overpowering in terms of the flavour. Simply too much.
    In the end, everyone plumped for the lager. Simplicity was the order of the day.

  5. I totally get it. And of course you can only really speak for your own preference. Handing over 40-odd bucks for something you don’t like is always a shitty transaction.

    There IS a big problem with people selling ‘craft’ products (beer, food, wine) at high prices that are not justified by the quality of said products. A problem worthy of many posts, rants, comments, discussions, and table bashings.

    But is too much flavour a bad thing? Does it mean if you prefer slightly quieter, less boisterous beers, that the craft* scene is overrated?

    I for one love the King’s Beaglehouse. I think it’s consistently been my favourite SA beer. I like flavourful beers. And big-ass IPA’s (Riot’s Valve, and Woodstock Brewery’s are also great) give me huge flavour value for money. If I paid 40 bucks and got a Castle Lite I’d be upset. There is nothing wrong with Castle Lite.

    I hate it when producers of wine/beer/food rail against people who drink or eat products they think are inferior. It’s terribly boring. It’s almost as bad as coffee snobs telling me I shouldn’t put sugar in the COFFEE I JUST PAID FOR. Fuck off it’s my coffee. I’ll do what I want.

    For me the fact that there is a craft** beer scene is positive because it brings more choice. I want all types of beers. Lite beers, heavy beers, IPAs, Lagers, Sour Beers, whatever. I reckon the more choice there is the more chance there is of finding more beers you like. And having more things you like in the world is a good thing. What we don’t want is shitty beer. And I think we should be calling out the shit, not calling what we don’t like shit.***

    *I think the term is silly. Nothing more than a vanity plate on a large bandwagon.

    **I hate it more every time I type it

    *** Not sure where this all has come from. I haven’t written anything for a while, so maybe that’s it.

  6. Harry Reginald Haddon > Several or more points here, so allow me, if you will, to address them in a disjointed and probably somewhat incomplete manner.

    Of course it’s a matter of personal tastes. If you are of the mind that – and I’m generalising hugely here – more flavour = better beer, then this runaway train of desperate ingredient flingage is working towards some sort of crapft beery utopia for you. Because you’re going to have all the flavour you desire, then some more flavour, topped off with some dangerously flavoursome flavour. Those flavours might be a bit too much for the average punter though, and the brewers presumably lose a percentage of their beer-enjoying clientele for each additional layer of taste that is applied to your beer.

    To that end, perhaps DPB could have found some sort of middle ground with their offerings. You have the lager, which is plenty nice enough, but if you don’t fancy that because it’s a bit on the bland side for you, then suddenly, your only choice is for your face to be physically assaulted with citrus and bananas. You try to turn and escape, but you find yourself waist deep in bold roasted malt. And the only exit to this nightmare is through strands of imported hops which look like something that has broken free from a cage in the Little Shop Of Horrors.
    It’s all – literally ALL – or nothing. There’s no ‘some’ here.
    It’s so off-putting.

    The choice thing… Well, ok. More choice sounds like a good thing, but when it’s a choice between several really rubbish things, it’s not really better at all. If anything, it just lessens your chance of finding something special.

    And the snobs. Oh yes, the snobs. I’m surprised at the support that this post has received. I was expecting a lynch mob. Not even an online one, an actual lynch mob (and that may still be on its way, because these things are notoriously difficult to organise at short notice. Especially on a Friday. In Cape Town.), but there has been a decent amount of agreement.
    I thought I’d be told how shallow and naive I am.

    But it seems that I am not alone in feeling this way. I was just the only one to stick my shallow, naive head above the parapet.

    But yes. I too am fed up of being told what I must think and what I must do with stuff that I have paid for.

  7. I think we are agree on most things here. Especially with regard to:

    “More choice sounds like a good thing, but when it’s a choice between several really rubbish things, it’s not really better at all. If anything, it just lessens your chance of finding something special.”

    Right on. I haven’t had and DPB in a while as I am living in Geneva. I was speaking of the

    I made a horrible misstep suggesting simply MORE flavour is a good thing. I guess what I meant was more complexity. And, as you say, if you are simply being bombarded by BIG flavours without the complexity, then, well what’s the point. Then you’re on a pothole covered road toward coffee Pinotage.

    It really comes down to quality. If the majority of small breweries are not producing good, complex beers in a range of styles then I agree with you Craft beers are overrated. But in my experience, I don’t reckon that’s the case. But then, maybe I am the one being naive?

    I wonder if all the support is people saying, “yeah, I don;t like these beers” or “Damn, these beers actually are quite shitty”?

    Not surprised with the support either way, as Cape Town is the place where the Emperor buys all his new clothes.

  8. Harry Reginald Haddon > First off… Careful now. Have you seen the Emperor’s New Clothes? That thread. The appliqué. The sheen. The massive EPI count. Superb.
    No. Don’t knock the contemporary accoutre for sovereign rulers of an empire (or other type of imperial realm) business. It may yet be Cape Town’s saviour.

    That disappointing snipe aside…

    Again. OK. I accept what you are saying. But complexity only works if it is complementary complexity. It’s no use my red wine having blackberries, tobacco and pepper if they’re then going to make it more complex (and therefore ‘better’) by giving it ‘elements of egg’.

    Yes. Many small outfits producing a range of differing tastes is just fine. But that has been and gone. It’s now many small outfits competing for the most weird and bizarre “complex” “big” tastes. Variety gone mental, innit.

  9. Going to have to disagree with you on this one 6K. “Craft beer is overrated” is a MASSIVE generalisation. I love my craft beers and they aren’t all over-rated. OK, I agree with the over experimentation (who the hell wants to drink beer made with spit! but you have to love the various additions to the stouts (coffee, chocolate, honey) or the hoppiness levels of the different IPAs.

    Maybe they just haven’t learned how to brew a good beer in Cape Town yet?

  10. Agree with what you say. It’s all too much. Most of these beers are undrinkable overpriced vinegar & the couple that I have found agreeable, they either blow your head off or you can’t drink more that a couple of pints because of the over-hopping.
    Beer should be 8 pints of Hansa Draught on a Saturday afternoon talking footy & other kak with your mates.
    Cheers SAB..

  11. Del > Hmm. It is very much like me to generalise. I do it in all my posts.
    I appreciate that you are a crapft beer fan, but I must point out that your own generalisation that I “have to love the various additions to the stouts” is wholly inaccurate. A bit of coffee, chocolate or honey here is like a gateway drug and quickly leads down a dingy, poorly-maintained path to toying with mustard, beard yeast and newspaper. As I said in the post, things started out ok, but it’s got wholly out of hand now. And it’s all rubbish.

    Bloubergman > That’s a good point on the volume thing. It’s SO strong and/or thick and/or over-flavoured that it’s actually unpleasant to try and have more than a couple (if you even wanted to). The good news is that it’s too expensive to buy more than 2 anyway.

  12. There seems to be a bit of a split going on in the UK, between “Craft Beer” and “Real Ale”.

    The craft beers are as you describe them here, overpowering, a bit too funky etc. The Real Ale on the other hand is generally just a normal beer, just quite a bit nicer!

    I think the CPT scene could do with a bit focus on just making nice beer, rather than trying to be the most *anything* out there.

  13. richardatuct > Thanks for the comment and the link you sent with it:
    For me, ‘Real Ale’ has always been a specific sort of beer – described nicely here:
    “In the early 1970s CAMRA coined the term ‘real ale’ to make it easy for people to differentiate between the bland processed beers being pushed by the big brewers and the traditional beers whose very existence was at that time under threat.”

    Which, yes, sounds awfully like the definition of Crapft Beer, doesn’t it?

    I don’t think that there’s a huge difference, save maybe for the fact that ‘Real Ale’ isn’t a term used much outside the UK. The sudden necessity to call beer brewed by small, independent breweries “Crapft” is indicative of the whole system though – let’s be different for the sake of being different to that we can appear to be new and cool. Just like adding sawdust and carpet fibres to your brew will make it ‘different’ and ‘cool’.

    And kak.

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