Craft Brewing and New Brewers

I have just finished reading on of Tandleman's excellent blog (http://tandlemanbeerblog.blogspot.co.uk) on "mainstream" craft and what really struck me about the post was not so much the idea that people like Thornbridge and Brewdog or becoming mainstream breweries, but the criticisms in the post of a lot of the new small "craft" breweries. First of all I would like to say that a lot of the observations are justified, however I would also like to point out that there a lot of craft (and more traditional cask breweries) of a similar size to these new ventures that also have the same issues but are lucky enough to experience their learning curve outside of the London Goldfish bowl. I would also like to point out that I don't think there is a small brewery around that doesn't aspire to the consistency, quality control and professionalism that Brewdog and Thornbridge exude.

I am not sure if I consider Caveman to be "craft" or not. We are definitely a cask brewery and not "craft keg" brewery as yet. To be honest i'm not even sure what craft means, although I have used it in marketing as I think people associate it with the types of hops we use and styles we brew. We did however go through a series of issues in starting the brewery and those first few months of brewing that I think parallels what Tandleman is highlighting. Having come from home brewing, training, learning all you can, living and breathing it for a long period of time nothing prepares you for the different expectations, quality requirements and polish you need to be a commercial brewer. There are things they don't tell you. Like the the yeast doesn't do what its meant to, or the copper packs up mid boil or you have a regular beer that you suddenly can't source the hops for. I brewed some beers that were effectively a work in progress, some that were not consistent enough and some that were over-conditioned. I am not proud of these beers and I am ashamed that I let some people down who were very excited about our brewery and brand.I like to think that since then I have learnt a lot about our kit and its quirks, spent a lot of money improving it and spent a lot of time improving myself and my brewing knowledge and I am now proud of what we produce. The problem at the time was the pressure we were under to start making some money by selling beer, and also I think the excitement of finally be able to, meant we couldn't spend six months brewing beer, learning the issues and correcting them behind closed doors. That doesn't stop me wishing that we had.

Fortunately for us we made a lot of our early mistakes outside of the beer soap opera that is the London brewing scene, where a legion of pubs and beer drinkers want to be the first to get that beer from the latest brewery. I think this is where the comments in Tandleman's blog need to be put into perspective a little. There are breweries like us that started, made mistakes or didn't have the best beers, (hopefully) have learnt something, improved and then start to be more visible to the larger beer world. In London there is no place to hide. Open a brewery in London in a disused Tube station 100ft below ground under cover of darkness and someone in Shoreditch or Hackney will know the moment you mash in. Give these breweries and brewers time to grow, improve their products or consistency, whatever the criticism is and some may well grow be that usurper that topples the early revolutionaries at Brewdog or Thornbridge.