Monday, February 2, 2015

Musings on Macro

Ok, I'll admit it, I payed absolutely no attention to the Superbowl this year at all.  I know, I'm the only person in the country who didn't care about it.  Having missed big show I discovered some activity about a Budweiser advertisement this morning.  I watched it on YouTube.   My bile has risen and a red veil of anger has dropped over my vision.

For those who haven't seen it: check it below.  I hesitate to give AB-Inbev free publicity, but you won't understand it if you don't see it.

Ok, so my craft beer fan tail feathers are up.  My impression is this: AB-Inbev/Budweiser is basically saying people who want to taste, smell and enjoy their beers are stupid.  But beechwood aging is super special.  Here is some info for those who don't know: beechwood adds no flavor to the beer, it just speeds up clarification of the beer so they can speed up the fermentation process and get more out the door faster.  And faster turn around time means more money!

And let us talk about Pumpkin Peach Beer.  Yes, we craft folks sometimes take things too far into territory that doesn't work.  On the other hand, AB-Inbev just spent Millions of dollars to purchase the craft brewery Elysian.  Elysian's head brewer Dick Cantwell is known for trying out unusual ingredients and every year hosts the Great Pumpkin Beer Festival, where they release 10-15 of their own pumpkin beers as well as many more guest pumpkin beers.  Last year's included Elysian's own Gourdgia On My Mind Pecan Peach Pumpkin Amber ale.  Yup, AB-Inbev you just slapped your newest acquisition right in the nads on national TV in front of millions of watchers.

One can see the desperation in this advertisement.  Realizing that the craft beer market is growing exponentially while the Big macro brews are staying flat or even dropping off, the big beer companies are starting to get scared.  This advertisement smacks of fear.  Let's make fun of this "fad" of actually paying attention to beers and enjoying their flavor and aroma.  It's all about drinkability and the ability to put down a 12 pack during a game!

I can see the trend of the big conglomerates continuing to buy out craft breweries.  For years they have tried to break into the market, but they have failed to understand what motivates the craft beer drinker: taste!  Remember the Budweiser American Ale debacle?  Millions of dollars spent on branding, advertising, focus groups, and in the end the beer was a flop.  Why?  Because it lacked any distinguishable character!  After that they did a brief foray into a wheat beer and a pale ale.  I actually got to try those when they were in the testing phase.  They were bland and not surprisingly didn't do well when they were released to a larger audience.  Again, Macro was trying to break into the market with the mentality of "People like this wheat beer, we should make one.  But we can't make it too flavorful because the average beer drinker won't like that." They just haven't understood that it isn't about how much money you can throw at something to advertise it.  Beer isn't just a commodity, but something we enjoy tasting, smelling, talking about, and sharing with others.

Then they bought Goose Island and the craft beer world held its breath.  And lots of cursing and smack talking ensued.  I have said it before and I'll say it again: as long as my Bourbon County Stout doesn't change, I'll still buy it.  But I don't have to like doing it.  I noticed in the past two years that the Goose Island 312 wheat beer has really received the Budweiser treatment, getting a makeover and tons of advertising and distribution across the country.  Named for the 312 area code of Chicago where the beer used to be made, I find is sad that the beer is now made in New York (at least according to most recent account I could find on line.) And then they released 312 Urban Pale Ale.  This beer tastes exactly like the failed Budweiser craft trial version I had several years ago.  But now they have a respected craft beer name to attach it to.  Well done Budweiser.  Well done.

So at the same time the AB-Inbev mocks us, they try to sneak into our pocket books.  I recommend that my readers continue their efforts to buy craft, buy local, and buy according to taste and enjoyment.  I also recommend that you avoid drinking beer from a brewery that mocks you and others like you.  Get to know where the beers you drink are made, and if they are true small businesses or are owned by faceless corporations.

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