Factory beer, craft beer


I found this short piece in an old newspaper and it seems that beer geeks have been arguing over the same nonsense, with an equal ignorance of the brewing process, for well over 150 years, and probably longer. 

I do hope that today’s self-described “craft” brewers are not cheating by using metal vessels and artificially-generated power in their breweries.

The steam-powered breweries increase constantly in number and it seems they shall quite soon squeeze out the other breweries, or force them into imitating them. As in so many other [trades], the machine seems to make manual labour almost redundant in the brewery. The question must be asked: which beer is preferable, that produced by steam or by hand? Experienced beer conners prefer the latter. The reasons are:

1) In steam brewing much more metal is necessary, which cannot fail to have a deleterious effect on the beer. If the beer stands for some time in a tankard, beer conners believe they can detect a peculiar smell, or even cloudiness or sediment in the glass.

2) The power of steam processes all parts of the malt more heavily, so that the draff is without flavour or nutrition; all the reserves to be found in the barley and malt end up in the beer.

3) The steam brewing takes place too quickly.

4) Hand-made beer is supposed to keep good for longer, when the cask is open; steam beer becomes undrinkable more quickly.

5) Steam beer is supposed to be much lighter.

Why does the consumer seem to prefer to drink steam beer? Because the big brewers also control the retail outlets; because the beer is sold more quickly in larger towns; because the big brewers too use natural methods to make the beer pleasant and drinkable.

The machine shall continue its advance; the small breweries shall gradually disappear; only factories and beer-tappers shall remain. The soul of beer will disappear and with time become a myth, a lost paradise.

Such are the views and fears of the old beer conners.

Allgemeine Bayrische Hopfen-Zeitung, 23 March 1862 (My translation).

Sounds familiar.


  1. Speaking as an unregenerate Luddite, even I struggle with point 2. Using barley more efficiently is a bad thing?

  2. I suppose you might look at it the same way as not wanting every last bit of mechanically recovering meat to go into your sausages.

    Or possibly you might want some nutrition remaining in the spent grain if you were going to feed it to animals, or make small beer from it.

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