The Craft Conjecture

craft

/krɑːft/

  1. an activity involving skill in making things by hand.
  2. skill used in deceiving others.
Pressing the apples by hand — is this true craft?

Craft is a term that has been synonymous with small beer producers for decades now, and one which has been connected to the small producers of Cider for some time now too. However, what makes a Craft Cider? What makes a Craft Cider producer? In fact, is it the producer or the product which should be described as Craft?

By definition, a product could only be described as Craft if it’s been made by hand. Therefore the involvement of any machine could then prevent a product from being craft. There are though no rules when it comes to naming a product, or producer, as Craft. It is one of the many terms used in marketing, not just in Cider, which is left open to interpretation and therefore also often abuse.

Premium is one of the top words to be branded on products that are anything but premium. Often, the only premium is the price.

The term Craft, in a drinks capacity, was first used as a differentiator. It was and still is for many a curious consumer, a way to easily choose a drink that has something else about it. It’s also about buying into the story, with the belief that the care, attention, and passion going into the creation will create a better experience than a mass-produced and heavily marketed beverage.

Moose — a Thai Cider brand from Siam Winery Family, the same family as Red Bull, have since dropped the “Craft” label from their Cider brand.

As with many of these terms, think “Premium”, “Finest”, or “Select”, Craft has been used by some of the world's largest producers to conjure up thoughts of handpicking apples in the orchard. While I don’t question the passion of the Cider makers at any producer, is it right to associate this term to Cider that is anything but handcrafted? A tell-tale sign that a Cider is perhaps not really Craft, is when they start sponsoring a Formula 1 team. I’m not sure we’ll be seeing “Wilkins Farmhouse Scrumpy” on the grid any time soon.

Dunkertons make some fantastic Cider, and could well be known as a craft producer, albeit one which utilises a variety of machines (on their scale it would be impossible not to) so as such the “hand” element is removed somewhat. In 2020 they came to market with their new cider, named “Craft”. What is it which is different about this cider from the rest of their range which does not carry the “craft” label?

In the end, does any of this matter to the vast majority? As long as the product tastes good, do we care how a product is named or presented? Is it deceitful from large producers to use terminology senonimous with the image those of a smaller scale?

I believe all producers, no matter what size, need to be transparent in their marketing and labelling. This should start with clear ingredient listing, which is as yet unmandated, which would allow a comparison to be made for those who wish.

I’m mainly going to talk about Cider, however there may be times where I would feel compelled to write on another topic.