A buddy of mine pointed me to this interesting article today, regarding the possibility of the British government mandating plastic pint glasses in pubs in order to decrease the possibility that a pint glass might be used as a weapon. According to the statistics that they cite, there were 5500 incidents last year in which somebody was attacked with a pint glass.
Mmmm... foam.
The article that I link to up there humorously points out that there are more accidents in Britain involving assemble-able furniture or even high heels, and wonders what they should do to make even their Cardigan sweaters more safe (1,000 injuries sustained from them), but the topic itself is interesting outside of its implicit humor.

Certainly, plastic or not, if somebody wants to use a pint glass as a weapon, they will. But will they want to drink out of it?

I can only imagine that CAMRA’s gonna have a field day with all of this.

There’s a short writeup over at the BBC asking exactly this question.

Neil Williams from the [British Beer and Pub Association] said he was concerned that drinkers would notice a drop in quality.

“For the drinker, the pint glass feels better, it has a nice weight and the drink coats the glass nicely. That’s why people go out for a drink, to have a nice experience.”

Of course, this quote really mischaracterizes the problem. I’m not convinced that this would mean drinking out of shitty red plastic party cups or anything. I am quite sure that plastic nonic pints can be manufactured that have the same general feel as a glass, that even have good heft to them (especially when they’re full of beer). I doubt that it would do anything to effect the flavor of the beer – after all, judging often happens in plastic just because it’s easier to manage. To be quite honest, I’m not sure that customer experience would be my first concern.

Another quote in the article points out, quite accurately, that we haven’t always drunk our beer out of glass.

“We could do something more radical, by looking at the whole shape and substance of the pint – we could come up with something that is completely different to glass.

“Remember that years ago people used to drink out of pewter tankards. It could be quite a significant paradigm shift.”

Indeed! If you think about it, this would be a great time to be able to change how people interact with their beer altogether. It has the possibility of being a really positive change for beer, in general. Eliminate the shaker pint! Introduce new drinking vessels: unshatterable glass, built to truly expose the wonderful qualities of a good beer. There’s only this one (enormous) catch: cost.

Can you imagine the cost involved for each pub to completely replace its entire stock of glassware? It’s an especially large consideration in England where pubs are generally having a difficult time keeping up with tax increases and a drinking population that appears to be underwhelmed with beer, anyway. It could stand to easily put a struggling pub out of business directly.

One could argue that closing altogether would effect customer experience more than having to drink out of plastic.

We don’t have to really worry about that particular problem in the States, right now, but what do you think?

How would you feel about drinking your Pliny the Elder out of a plastic pint glass? What if it gave us the opportunity to reshape drinking vessels altogether, dispense with the shaker pint and present beer more effectively? Would it make a difference if it were plastic?

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Categories: industry
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 30 Sep 2009 @ 06 39 PM

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 02 Apr 2009 @ 9:59 AM 

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a response on my post about the Bittersweet Partnership from what would appear to be Kristy McReady, Communications Partner, whose job it is to “engage with consumers via press and the website to help raise awareness of women and beer as an issue and ultimately BitterSweet Partnership’s aims to address it.”

Meet Kristy!

Meet Kristy!

Which, well.. well done, Kristy. Mission accomplished… sorta.

For those of you just tuning in, here is the text of the post:

Kristy from BitterSweet here – thanks for picking up on the story.

The BitterSweet Partnership was launched as we believe that the beer industry has ignored women for far too long. We know that lots of women already love beer, but our research showed that almost 8 out of 10 women (77%) say they seldom or never drink it,.

The ‘clear beer’ is a completely new, ultra filtered beer product which is still in development and has yet to be launched or even named. We’re listening to all women to understand what they want from a beer, so this is just one product that we’re currently testing – we’re looking at product developments to match a whole range of tastes, plus creating better buying and drinking experiences for women. We’ll also be working with Coors Brewers to help inform the way Coors brands generally engage with women in the future.

We’re about making beer an acceptable and stylish drink choice for women, not about encouraging women to drink more – we strongly recommend that women stick to government guidelines on safe drinking.

I want to say that I think it’s admirable that the Bittersweet Partnership has taken the time to search Twitter and respond to blogs about this. I do wish that the response didn’t seem so … canned. I really do hope that it was Kristy doing this and not some minion on Kristy’s name. That would make me feel good. Given that Kristy is supposed to be in the UK and the post came in at 5:07 PM EDT (or 10:07 PM GMT), I’m not so sure, but I’m willing to give them (her?) the benefit of the doubt. [Note: The IP address checks out to a UK cable internet provider, so.. hey.. cool.]

Dear Kristy,

Thank you. I appreciate your input. I’d like to respond to your post in a few ways.

First, I’d like to point out that stating research statistics without a reference or any sort of methods is a bit tough to swallow. I’m not disagreeing with the finding, as I don’t find it necessarily surprising, but I see nothing here about who you asked, how you asked it, or why said women seldom or never drink beer, or even if you were merely asking about Coors products or beer in general. As a counterpoint, my research clearly shows that 83% (5 out of 6) of women drink beer but that 40% of those surveyed would prefer more elegant presentation in pub/club settings.

Furthermore, I think we need to redefine your terms a bit in order to get the real message from your post. I’d like to change “brewing industry” to “Coors” and “beer” to “Coors Product(s)” to give the content a little more perspective.

I think that there are a lot of women in the brewing industry who would be surprised to find out that they’re ignoring (other) women. In fact, the brewing industry as a whole isn’t ignoring women at all. Within the past couple of years, women’s relationship to beer has been a constant topic in the craft beer industry. There have been articles about it in trade magazines and it has a panel dedicated to it at the upcoming Craft Beer Conference. Marketing beer to women is part of improving the image of beer as a whole, especially in its relationship to wine and cocktails.

If we can change that sentence to “…we believe that Coors has ignored women for far too long…” then I think we have something more specific. It’s something that I can’t really speak to, as I don’t know enough about the inner working of Coors, but it’s something that you can speak to. You’re in the position to change that!

I have issues with the ultra-clear tea-and-fruit-flavored “beer” because I think at that point you’re changing the product. You might be selling beer by a very technical definition, but rather than helping your market segment understand why they should be buying your product, you’re changing your product for your market segment. Again, if we change “beer” to “Coors Product” I have a lot less issue with this. You’re creating a Coors Product that will appeal to a market segment? Awesome. Good luck with that. But let’s call an alcopop an alcopop.

The one area that I think is a great point in this post is the brief mention of “creating better buying and drinking experiences for women.” As a commenter mentioned yesterday, it can be difficult to be elegant while swigging beer out of a bottle. While most of the beer bars that I frequent have rather elegant glassware to choose from, that certainly is not the case for most common establishments, especially if we are focusing on (as I think we are in this case) specifically pub culture. That is where Coors, and by extension, the Bittersweet Partnership has the power to change a lot.

Craft brewers, because they still only command a very small market share, don’t have the kind of influence to be able to say to your normal dive bar, “you will serve our beer in this manner in this glassware.” At this point it’s still difficult to get a majority of places to carry a product and keep their tap lines clean, much less serve beer in special glasses. Coors, and other megabreweries, however are in the position of being able to dictate these conditions to and through their distributors.

Mmm.. wheaty.

Mmm.. wheaty.


By now, I think we all know that Blue Moon is a Coors product, and word is that we’re about to see a huge spike in marketing dollars pushed at the brand. If you put money toward providing specialized glassware for it and distributing it to every upscale sports bar in the U.S. that carries Blue Moon, instead of some strained television commercial that plays alongside truck ads during baseball games, I pretty much guarantee that you see an uptick in sales.

In summary: Bittersweet, I don’t disagree with what you’re doing, or that there’s a problem with how beer, as a product, is related to women, but I do disagree with your tactic in addressing it. It is broad generalization of the beer industry, broad generalization of women, and borders on willful misinformation as a backbone for a marketing campaign.

I look forward to trying and reviewing your ultra-clear “beer.”

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Categories: industry, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Apr 2009 @ 12 38 PM

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