Everything that craft beer is NOT: dispelling the myths with Colonna and Corbo
Everything that craft beer is NOT: dispelling the myths with Colonna and Corbo
What is craft beer really and how to explain it to those who don’t know about it? We asked Manuele Colonna and Gianriccardo Corbo of MoBi for guidance.
Sunday for lunch, family reunion. Aunts, grandmother, cousins and boyfriend, all around the table, ready to go all out with the meatloaf. My uncle, who knows my passion for craft beer , passes me a 75cl black bottle of a well-known brand that you find in every supermarket and that makes a dull beer. “ I got it for you, it’s handcrafted ”, he says beaming.how to explain to those who do not know what a craft beer really is?What words would you have used to explain that this is not craft beer? How to tell what craft beer is to those who don’t have the faintest idea? It seems simple, but in a period in which there is a lot of confusion on the subject, even among those who consider themselves passionate about this drink, it is not so obvious to answer. I myself, in order to untie this knot, I preferred to first have a chat with Manuele Colonna , mentor of the Italian craft beer movement and Gianriccardo Corbo , president of MoBi, a consumer association that, together with Unionbirrai, has promoted the law that established what are the parameters that a brewery must respect to be defined as artisanal. I understood that to get to explain what a craft beer is , first of all, we must declare war on idols and false notions. Or more simply, saying what it is NOT .
It is not a better beer . Many people believe that craft beer is of fine quality, better than industrial beer. But they are only partially right and from an organoleptic point of view. Chatting with Corbo, he clarifies: “Those who exploit the concept of craftsmanship = better make an incorrect speech towards the consumer and misinformation. The raw materials that craft breweries use are not necessarily better than those of the industry. Many industrial breweries make use of good raw materials and carry out continuous quality controls on the whole process that a craftsman, in 99% of cases, does not perform or even ignores. The fact that the industry, very often, produces an organoleptically uninteresting beer is because that product is deliberately built to be like this. The added value of craft beer, on the other hand, is diversity and the declared and clear search to create a product of high organoleptic quality “.
Craft beer is also believed to be tastier, from a taste point of view. But the question of flavor is also to be excluded from this reasoning. Manuele Colonna says: “ From industrial beer you know what to expect, it is always the same, it doesn’t give thoughts. A craft beer that has a huge taste range, paradoxically, can do much more disgusting “. From an organoleptic point of view, and since craft beer is neither microfiltered nor pasteurized then and only in this sense can we say that it is better.
It is not a more genuine beer. Let’s remember: we are always talking about alcohol, to say that craft beer is genuine is pure speculation. Nor can we appeal to the use of better raw materials, at least not in an absolute sense. It is true, however, that there are many brewers of our peninsula who work on the concept of territory, taking with both hands what they can from the area of origin or from other artisans who know and love the products. There are craft beers really made with fruit washed and pitted by hand by the brewer, and we are talking about fabulous products such as Volpedo peaches, Griotte cherries (not pitted though!), Prickly pears from Sardinia or grapes that ends up in the IGA, the Malvasia di Cagliari or the Timorasso… but there are also craft beers made with syrups or pasteurized purees and many are also excellent.
It is not a good work . Although light years away from industrial businesses, craft beer is also a product, made to be sold and to earn money. The fact that the profit margin is small, if compared to the industrial one, is physiological: it is still small producers who have made a huge investment in the plant, borrowing from banks, and who – in fact – every time they put a new product on the market they play Russian roulette in an industry where competition is very high. Italian craft breweries encounter many difficulties but we must never, ever believe the fairy tale of the artisan who brews beer as a kind of gift for the consumer.
It is not a more bitter beer . Not always, at least. There are (many) cases where it could be but this depends on the style you choose, not on whether it is craft beer. There are plenty of craft beers that are sweeter than the first example of industrial beer that comes to mind.
It is not a harder beer to drink . Ditto, as above, is not always a valid rule. The industrial beer par excellence, that is, the first one that comes to mind when you say beer, is a lager. Low fermentation clear, low alcohol content, medium bitter, as we all know it. It is a beer that is drunk well, but this characteristic is not due to the fact that it is industrial but to the style. Pilsner, Kölsch, Cream Ale, Bitter, Altbier but also a not very acidulous Berliner Weisse are extremely drinkable beer styles even for an unaccustomed palate … and if crafted they give much more satisfaction.
What is a craft beer instead?
It is independent . The law approved last July specifies that: ” A small independent brewery means a brewery that is legally and economically independent from any other brewery “. It means that a craft brewery is considered a craft brewery if it is not controlled by another brewery, of any size. Can you even imagine what that entails?
It is not microfiltered and unpasteurized . Microfiltering and pasteurizing a beer means impoverishing it from an organoleptic point of view. By microfiltering and pasteurizing, the yeast that is naturally contained inside is inactivated or removed and the beer dies. Do you want to understand it better with a simple experiment? Put a craft beer in the cellar for 6 months and you will notice that the taste will change and even a lot, because the yeast will have continued its work. If you do the same thing with an industrial one, after 6 months it will be unchanged. If you have the foresight to wait a lot longer, the best you can get is an oxidized beer. Gianriccardo Corbo who wanted to put this distinction in black and white, however, tells me: “It is still necessary to clarify exactly what microfiltration and pasteurization means. We cannot establish it randomly, we must determine it on the basis of objective criteria “. To date, it is one of the limits of the law passed last year.
It is the work of a small company . ” This is fundamental: the industry is capable of making money, a craft brewery does not have the time of an industrial one, the raw materials are more expensive … in craft beer, the brand at this moment is the face of the brewer“. Colonna here is saying that craft breweries take another step than industrial ones. In the artisan world, in fact, there are people who open brewing cellars dedicated to refinement, projects that only involve barrels, with the resulting times, long maturations and often experimentations. And behind all this is the face of the brewer, the real brand according to Colonna, not a board or a board of directors. Furthermore, the law imposes a maximum ceiling on the annual production of breweries: to be considered artisanal in fact they must not exceed 200,000 hectoliters, including in this quantity beer produced on behalf of third parties.
It is another drink . In the sense that craft beer responds to other logics, compared to industrial beer, due to two factors: the first and essential is the size and independence of the brewery,craft beer does not respond to the same logic as industrial beer, due to the size of the brewery and because it is not microfiltered and pasteurizedthe second is that the beer is not microfiltered and is not pasteurized. “ Industry, a market sector that does not represent me, is another sector than the artisanal one that can bring beer into the market at absurd prices, which they already do. They apply special prices to pubs, super discounts that no one in the craft sector can do. The industry can intervene in the market with operations that would be an economic failure for any entrepreneur, aimed at opening a slice of the market and this can lead to the annihilation of other, smaller entities “. Starting from the assumption that it is another drink, for years we have been trying to distinguish them also from a fiscal point of view. Speaking of the three points of the law, Corbo tells me: “Those stakes were used to identify the small brewery which, as a small one, should have had access to excise tax relief “. Because yes, as far as markets are at the antipodes, from a fiscal point of view, industry and craftsman are equated. And he adds: “ We do not oppose the industrial sector to the extent that it produces a quality product and to the extent that it does not implement strategies aimed at destroying a sector. Now he is trying to confuse the waters, he is telling us that it is the same drink, even if only with the colored labels or with the 10 hops or with everything that is attributable to the industriousness of man, his work, manual skills and is creating false expectations “.
These are just ideas, I do not have the presumption that I have explained once and for all what craft beer is, even in antithesis to industrial beer. But first of all I want you to pass a message: if you like to drink beer, gathering a minimum of information about what we have in the glass can be very satisfying. If not to better understand this incredibly stimulating world of craft (as well as crazy people!) At least for the possibility of choosing what is most suitable for us.