RUST #2: Homebrewing – Craft, Art, or Just Beer?

rust

In this second edition of RUST, I wanted to bring up a topic that creates some debate among people who not only brew, but this discussion applies to artists, knitters, woodworkers, bakers and others as well. Is your vocation or hobby sometimes referred to as “art”, while others are referred to as “crafts”? Do you feel you are one or the other because of status or ego? Does it matter?

Recently I become more aware that we, as a society, tend to refer to things that are normal in every day life in new ways that elevate it to a higher status, and thereby raising the cost or, to elevate our own status because we consume it. For example there is Bread and then there is Artisan Bread. The addition of the word Artisan implies that this is somehow better or more wholesome and artistic, hence you will pay double for it. But is it just bread, or maybe bread the way it is supposed to be baked? In the case of beer there are several different words being used like “microbrew” and “craft brewed.” A craft beer might be one brewed in small batches. But isn’t this just beer? Are you paying more for it because it has better or organic ingredients, more hops, better flavor? Or are you paying more for the pretty label and the aura that surrounds it and then you? Another case in point coffee. You go to Charsucks to get a cup of coffee, or a dose of ego boosting status elevation?

Lets look at some definitions of these words to get a better feel for what they mean. ( copied directly from Webster )

artisan

1 : a worker who practices a trade or handicraft
2 : one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods

craftsman ( craftsperson )

1 : a worker who practices a trade or handicraft
2 : one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts <jewelry made by European craftsmen>

artist

1a : one who professes and practices an imaginative art b : a person skilled in one of the fine arts

So now, we can apply these to the appropriate trades. You more than likely wouldn’t refer to a beer as artistic, in the same manner you would call a great oil painting a craft. Why? Because our society has already determined what is “art” and what isn’t. And by definition a craft tends to be more manual labor and less imaginative. These concepts then when applied to your special beer or bread give us a “craft beer” “artisan bread.” But why? Is this a way to make yourself feel better that what you are drinking is more than just a glass of beer or what you are creating is more than just a painting? I’m not sure. Have you ever heard of an “artisan doughnut?” Probably not. Mainly because somehow a doughnut is less special than bread. Its just a doughnut… or is it? A painting can be just a painting, and sometimes its not art. Is it music or just some people playing instruments? Does it matter only to the person viewing, eating or listening? Or does it matter only to the person creating it, and other opinions don’t count.

So is your beer an art form? A craft? Artisanal brew? Or is it just good beer or even just beer in the true manner of how beer should be brewed? I guess that’s for society to decide and to label for you by the definitions laid out for us. I see these terms and labels as RUST on our self expression. But remember.. the sound of one hand clapping? Yes, that’s the other side to this coin. You can ultimately bake, paint, and brew for yourself. But I think you should ask yourself why. And I think the answer for myself would be “self expression.” But others must be able to interpret that expression. Otherwise your point is lost. So to this I end the discourse with a last bit. Brew to your best, and brew for yourself. But also brew to share your vision of beer as you see it, no matter what the label is. There will be someone out there who will drink your brew, … and understand.

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