The authentic experience, the most real of the real, is for many part of the allure of drinking craft. Real beer with a real story, authenticity in a pint glass, but how authentic is craft beer?

Crafty big brewers are duping beer drinkers into thinking they are buying independent. Many beer lovers are currently unaware their pint of authentic craft fare is produced by the same people that made the barrel of cold fizzy lager any self-respecting beer connoisseur wouldn’t be seen dead ordering at the bar.

What makes a beer ‘craft’ is notoriously difficult to define, however the term definitely carries connotations of independence, small scale production, and above all, authenticity. The outstanding success of craft beer in recent years has not gone unnoticed large breweries. Like moths to a flame giant international companies have been drawn to the craft market, buying up majority shares in small breweries in a hope of cashing in on the current popularity of craft beer.

Some classic examples you may or may not be aware of include the American craft brand Goose Island which is owned by the beverage giant AB InBev. AB InBev also own Camden Town Brewery, which the giant bought in late 2015.

With the involvement of these industry giants it looks as though the term ‘craft’ is going the same way as ‘artisanal’. You may remember a wave of ‘artisanal’ bakeries and coffee shops popping up on south London high streets a few years ago. As soon as the big players caught onto its traction with consumers everything on the high street became artisanal, from your lunch time sandwich to your socks.  As soon as a term intended to add value is overused, it loses its credibility, after all exclusivity has become a type of currency in a world of immediate gratification.

In response to this situation organisations such as the Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) in Australia have voted out brewers that are more than 20% owned by large breweries or other global companies. By this logic one of the leading craft brewers in Britain, Brew Dog, would fail the craft acid test as they have recently sold a 22% share to private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. CIBA have even gone as far as to rename themselves the Independent Brewers Association, signalling that independence may be superseding craft as the most important attribute for the discerning beer drinker.  In America the Brewers Association has recently introduced the independent craft brewer seal in an attempt to differentiate what they see as true craft beers and those brands that are really owned by the big boys.