06 Nov 2009 @ 9:55 AM 

A quick side note: This post is a contribution to The Session a monthly series of communal blogging. This month’s session, Session #33 is being hosted by Andrew Couch at I’ll Have a Beer. This is my first contribution to The Session, and I feel like I jumped in on a rather difficult topic. Please be sure to head over to I’ll Have a Beer and read what others have posted, it’s sure to be nothing but interesting.

The Session: Beer Blogging Fridays

I picked up a beer specifically for this Session. The announcement post said: “… drink a beer. Ideally drink something that you don’t think you will like.” So I went out and picked up something that I thought I wouldn’t like based on the packaging – how it was framed – and I came up with Werewolf.

Something about the label and the one-word name “Werewolf” has always turned me off about this beer. The level of detail in the art on the label combined with the catchphrase below the logo – You must be sure you wanna taste it – has always struck me as a little kitschy and maybe little too much like a warning. “Are you sure you want to taste it?” The art looks like someone was trying to make a cover for a teen fantasy novel rather than a beer. Maybe something is lost in translation from the Lithuanian, but I’ve always felt like the brewery takes themselves a little too seriously.

I’m sometimes amazed by the choices I see breweries make in terms of packaging and presentation. I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I often do. When buying wine, I almost always chose based on the aesthetics of the packaging. Simply put, it takes far more education about wine than I have in my head to make an informed decision on what I’m buying, so I buy what looks cool. In beer, I want more. Of course, I’m much more of a beer geek, so I tend to know what terms mean when they’re posted on bottles. I’ve said here before that I feel that beer labels should be as informative as possible, and I stick by it. Without information to educate the consumer – to frame their expectations – people will fall back on drinking what looks cool on the shelf. Breweries: Don’t let your graphic design be the (only) selling point of your beer.

As it turns out, if I knew something about how Werewolf tasted up front I might have picked it for this purpose anyway. It’s sweet and I am partial to dry beers. As part of this exercise I didn’t read any of the tasting notes on BeerAdvocate before trying the beer, so as to not have it framed for me.
You must be sure you wanna taste it.
It’s beautiful in the glass – a second frame that far surpasses the bottle. It pours a deep copper color and brilliantly clear; high effervescence rises through it gracefully to form a light ring of foam around the sides of the glass. The head dissipated rather quickly after the pour, but this ring of foam has been contributing to a gorgeous lacy veil down the sides of the glass as I drink it. Flavor-wise it is, as I said before, sweet and also a little spicy, with hints of biscuit and toast and a light fruitiness to it. It takes on a slight vinous character as it warms. There’s a warmness from the alcohol as it passes over your tongue, and it leaves you with a lingering sweetness long after you’ve taken a sip. Not really a beer I would drink more than one of. In fact, drinking the one has taken me quite a while.

But here’s the thing about framing – would I describe this beer differently to somebody else if I thought they would like it? I don’t think I would. That description is my honest experience with the beer. There are parts of it (the visual, the biscuit and toast) that I would find quite pleasant in a review, but I know that given this description I would not try the beer. Others might see, “sweet, fruity, vinous” and jump for it. Am I really framing the beer for somebody or am I merely supplying colors for the mental image that someone is drawing on their own?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Taste – in your mouth, not the fact that you didn’t wear plaid pants to work today – is highly subjective. So much of taste is based on smell, and so much of what you smell is tied to strong memories, that I am deeply convinced that two people can taste the same beer and have two completely different flavor experiences with it.

I have a good friend who does not like hoppy beers. He tends toward dark and sweet (and I bet he read the description up there and thought, “ooOOOoo. That sounds good.”). Since I’ve known him, I’ve tried to expand his palate – I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with knowing what you like and sticking to it, but I think that it’s also a good idea to occasionally reach outside of your comfort zone.

I think back to the first time I had him try a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA:

Me: What do you think? A little citrusy? Piney? Maybe a little grapefruity? Isn’t it wonderful?

Him (making a face): It tastes like my backyard!

Me: …What?

Him: When I was a little kid, my brothers used to shove my face down into the lawn in the backyard, and that grassy, vegetal flavor? It tastes like that!

Nothing I could have said or done would have changed his perception of that beer. No amount of framing or setup will overcome the associations that you have built into your memory.

What I’ve attempted to do when discussing beer with friends – especially those who are new at craft beer – is attempt to supply them with a vocabulary. A friend told me once, “There’s all this stuff going on in this beer, but I have no idea how to describe it.” It’s really stuck with me, and I’ve heard the sentiment repeated over and over again, even in experiences where people don’t like things.

“I don’t like this.”

“Why not?”

“It tastes like beer.”

“Well… it is beer. What about the beer flavor don’t you like? Because it doesn’t all taste like that.”

“The beeriness?”

Each person’s experience is their own. I can attempt to frame things for them, but in the end I will most frame them with three or four words:

“I like it.”

or

“I don’t like it.”

Any other description is subjective to my experience, my palate, and, to some extent, my imagination as I attempt to form my vocabulary around what I have in my glass. The best I can do for others is to lend them a dictionary of terms so that they can shape theirs.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 06 Nov 2009 @ 09 55 AM

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If you haven’t read this brilliant article that popped up this morning on Ad Age using psychographics to determine what your beer says about you, well.. hold on tight. This is hardcore science, ladies and gentlemen. Prepare to be blown away.

This chart shows the correlation between the number of pirates in the world and global warming.

This chart shows the correlation between the number of pirates in the world and global warming.


This marketing organization called Mindset Media “interviewed more than 2,600 people online in August and September” and created a profile that you fit in to. As internet interviews polls are incontrovertible truth, this is now a statement of your human condition and the results of this will now be used in every commercial for every sporting event you will watch for the next 6 – 8 months (or at least until a new internet interview poll has been posted or focus group has been convened).

Here’s the thing: I’m not about to say that there’s no merit to this kind of “study” but there is absolutely no merit to this kind of “study”. The results presented are the kind of thing that tends to get published by people who have very little understanding of how statistics actually work. They’re the type of statistics you see in baseball games when they’re trying to fill time.

“10 out of the last 16 meetings between these teams have included a hit batsman, so you can be sure to see some fireworks tonight!”

Nice try, but past performance is not indicative of future results and, even more importantly for this specific column, correlation does not imply causation. I might repeat this phrase again.

I hope they got paid well for this it because it is hi-larious. I’m almost tempted to cut and paste the entire article over here, but that’s bad form. Here are some “statistical” tidbits about people according to what they drink. So that I’m not dismissed (as some of the commenters on this column were) for disagreeing with the article just because I don’t like being pigeonholed (though I don’t), here’s commentary on the entire crapassery.

Budweiser
True to form, Bud drinkers are sensible, grounded and practical. They are the polar opposite of daydreamers and don’t easily get carried away. These beer drinkers also don’t like authority—can anyone say union?—and are emotionally steady people who live in the here and now. […] Budweiser drinkers are 42% more likely to drive a truck than the average person, 68% more likely to choose a credit card with flexible payment terms and 42% more likely to use breath-freshening strips every day.

“Can anyone say union?”

Is this suggesting that there’s no authority structure in a union? Can anyone say Hoffa?

Bud Light
Bud Light drinkers profile as lacking in carefulness. They are grounded like their Bud brethren, but respect authority. Bud Lighters can also have frat boy-like personalities, particularly when it comes to personal risk-taking. […] Bud Light drinkers are also 48% more likely than the average person to play the lottery every day and 34% more likely to never buy organic products.

So, if someone drinks Bud Light they are well-grounded, and carelessly respect authority by… binge drinking, if I read this right.

Have you noticed how much these read like horoscopes?

Michelob Ultra
Michelob Ultra drinkers rate high in superiority; that is, they think highly of themselves and can be a little bit conceited. They care what other people think about them and want to appear perfect. […] Michelob Ultra drinkers are 43% more likely than the average person to consider sustainability a priority, and 34% more likely to buy life insurance.

They want to appear perfect, but they’re more likely to buy life insurance. How can you tell what people want from an internet interview poll? I’ll give them the conceited part… but how do they measure this?

14. Are you conceited?
Not at all
A little bit
Quite a bit
A lot

Corona
“Where’s the party?” is probably an oft-asked question by Corona and Corona Light drinkers. They are busy and energetic people who are also extremely extroverted. […] But the life-of-the-party Corona drinkers also have an altruistic side; they care deeply about other people and see themselves as giving and warm.

Corona drinkers are 91% more likely than average to buy recycled products and 38% more likely to own three or more flat-screen TVs.

Turns out Corona and Corona Light drinkers do not differ as much as Bud and Bud Light drinkers do. Or maybe authority doesn’t come into the picture when you’re talking PAR-TAY and skunky beer.

Also: Three or more flat-screen TV’s and you’re drinking Corona!? You cheap bastards.

Heineken
There’s a slang term that could sum up Heineken drinkers: posers. These self-assured people believe they are exceptional, get low scores on modesty and high scores on self-esteem.

Ah, so they’re Michelob Ultra drinkers. Righto.

People who choose Heineken as their favorite beer are 58% more likely to have American Express cards, 45% more likely to be early adopters of new mobile phones, and 29% more likely to drive sports cars.

So are those the AmEx cards that you have to pay off all at once, or at the AmEx cards with the flexible payment schedules? Because I’m not sure I understand how these people are different from the previous “demographics.” It seems to me that they could be both Bud drinkers and Michelob Ultra drinkers. Maybe it’s the sports cars that set them apart.

The question I have is: If you’re more likely to be an early adopter of a new mobile phone, how many flat-screen TV’s (on average) do you own?

We’re starting to get into the good stuff, next:

Blue Moon
The personality traits of people who prefer Blue Moon, a Belgian style wheat beer, tracked similarly to the same type of people who prefer craft beers—which means Blue Moon drinkers probably don’t know it’s a Molson Coors Brewing Co. family product made in Colorado. […] Blue Moonies are socially liberal and usually quite willing to go against convention. They really hate moral authorities, and believe children should be exposed to moral dilemmas and allowed to come to their own conclusions. […] People who drink Blue Moon beer are 105% more likely than the average person to drive hybrid cars, 77% more likely to own Apple Mac laptops, 65% more likely to purchase five pairs or more of sneakers every year, and 32% more likely to not be registered voters.

To summarize: Blue Moon drinkers are godless socialist hippies. Thank god. I’m used to getting hit with that label because I enjoy good things. I love the suggestion here that if Blue Moon drinkers knew that their beer was made by Molson Coors that they wouldn’t drink it. That’s brilliant.

Craft Beers
These specialty made beers get lumped into one category both because there are fewer fans (and thus less statistically significant data) of them, but also because the personalities of one type fairly well describe another.

Or maybe craft beer drinkers are more likely to be savvy internet users and not take asinine internet interviews polls. There should be statistically fewer Henekin drinkers than craft beer drinkers considering that the import market isn’t that much bigger than the craft beer market and this is one beer out of the entire segment which also includes Corona and Guinness.

But, hey.. whatever. It’s your “statistics”, if you want to make market segment judgment calls without actually understanding the market, it’s all good by me. Good luck with “marketing.”

This group is more likely to spend time thinking about beer rather than work. They are more open-minded than most people, seek out interesting and varied experiences and are intellectually curious. Craft-beer drinkers also skew as having a lower sense of responsibility—they don’t stress about missed deadlines and tend to be happy-go-lucky about life.

Craft-beer lovers are 153% more likely to always buy organic, 52% more likely to be fans of the show “The Office” and 36% more likely to be the ones to choose the movie they are going to see at the theater.

Hear, hear. I am open-minded, intellectually curious, and pretty happy-go-lucky. But by god you will watch what I want to see IN THE DAMN MOVIE THEATER.

(ahem)

‘Scuse me.

Irresponsible?

17. Are you responsible?
Not at all
A little bit
Quite a bit
A lot

Finally:

Abstainers
It probably doesn’t take a psychographic profile to discover that those people who refuse to drink beer at all don’t like to loosen up very much. They are socially conservative and see many issues as black and white. Teetotalers honor tradition and authority and prefer a less-hectic social life.

People who turn down beer are 50% more likely to call themselves Republican, and are 30% more likely to never buy organic products.

This is the only one that I can’t pick apart somehow. You didn’t need to do a survey to find this out.

So, as I was saying earlier, correlation does not imply causation. The 2,600 people interviewed who took this poll may have fallen into later-defined “demographics” but these things.. these percentages? They have nothing to do with the beer that they’re drinking. There are a thousand other things that may influence these other decisions. If it appears to be unrelated to beer, chances are it’s unrelated to beer.

My point in all this? For the love of god please don’t take this kind of thing seriously, especially if you’re trying to create marketing based off of it. Give consumers a little credit, for crissakes.

After all, you’re one, too. But what do I know? I’m an irresponsible craft beer drinker, and so happy-go-lucky I could barely manage ire for this post.

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Categories: marketing, media, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Nov 2009 @ 08 16 PM

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