06 Apr 2009 @ 3:01 PM 

Beer Wars. Heard of it?

Hah!

From the amount of hype it’s getting, you’d swear it was Snakes on a Plane 2. I’ve seen this damn thing pop up on every beer-related blog and twitter feed on the interweb at least once, usually multiple times. Here: take a look for yourself. You’d think that everybody was getting kickbacks.

(Am I missing a kickback? Is that what’s going on? Because… I mean.. everybody has a price.)

I kinda can’t wait for April 16 to come so all this can stop, already. I can only imagine what the Beer Wars traffic is going to look like next week. Ugh.

I'd kill for a non-snake beer right now!

I'd kill for a non-snake beer right now!


You know how it is: that new movie comes out that you maybe sort of wanted to see because it’s supposed to be good, but you think it looks like it has the possibility of being kinda stupid and you were totally busy opening weekend so maybe you’ll go see it later and then your friends keep talking to you about it – DUDE! You haven’t SEEN it!? What’s WRONG with you!? It’s like the BEST movie EVAR!!1! And then the last possible thing you want to do is see that movie?

That’s me and Beer Wars.

Sure. It’s probably great and has a lot of merit. It certainly appears to be striving to make a solid point: That craft brewers have a lot to struggle against in the beer market due to over-regulation and the existence of a few large mutlinationals with deep pockets. That’s great. To me, it looks a bit like a fanboy documentary about craft brewing that is targeted at craft brewing fanboys overlayed with a big gimmicky kind of release that has the balls to be on a Thursday evening. I can’t go see it even if I was buying into the hype. Why? Because it’s playing in a theater 40 minutes away from me on a Thursday evening. I mean.. sure.. I also have to go pick a relative up at the airport and play in a softball game. You know why? Thursday. Shit happens on Thursdays and then I have to work on Friday morning.

Anyway, what I, or most people, know about Beer Wars, is pretty much summed up on the synopsis page of the Beer Wars site. A little more, perhaps not very complimentary, is available by reading through a review by the Boston Globe’s Alex Beam.

As far as I can tell, what I noted above pretty much sums up the movie. Watch the trailer, it’s well edited and carries the message quite well. The little guys fight the big guys. That’s the premise. As the poster children for this fight, Ms. Baron has chosen the one of the most successful craft breweries in the country, Dogfish Head and media darling Sam Calagione (man, do people love Sam Calagione), and co-founder of the largest craft brewery in the country (Sam Adams), Rhonda Kallman, now of New Century Brewing. Both are fascinating choices, given that they have each been quite successful in carving out their niche and can actually compete with the megabreweries in ways that many small breweries can’t even fathom. Kallman is an even more interesting choice as Edison Light, the main product of New Century, is one of a very, very small list of beers that actually competes directly with what the megabreweries make. She, unlike Calagione, really is trying to sell against Bud Light.

The unfortunate part of this movie, I think, is the choice to portray this as a battle, or a war. Here’s a reality in small business, regardless of product: There is a large multinational out there that you will have to compete against. They make their product in a way which will maximize profits, that is how they became a large conglomerate. You, as a small business, actually do not directly compete with them. You cater to a niche market that appreciates hand-crafted or personally made products. You will never be able to do this AND compete with said large company. Why? Because in order to compete, you will also need to make your product in a way which will maximize profits, and you will then no longer have hand-crafted or personally made products. This is a phenomenon that is not unique to beer in any way. It is a point that I feel is missed by portraying this is some sort of fever-pitched battle. It is a “war” that cannot be won, because it cannot be fought; as soon as you are in the position to really fight the battle, you’re fighting on the wrong side.

The plight of the craft brewery, as far as I’m concerned, is much more about getting out from under the heavy thumb of distribution and neo-Prohibitionist laws, but that doesn’t tell a very good story.

Greg Koch of Stone posted a small excerpt/concept of his upcoming keynote address at the Craft Brewers Conference on his twitter feed.

“If you intentionally serve beers that you do not respect, you are an enabler of keeping people in their uninformed comfort zones. “

Hear, hear. Maybe they know more about it than I do, but it seems like all of these breweries throwing their weight behind the unmitigated hype of Beer Wars, but not also throwing a bone at, say, Beer Pioneers (which I am really excited to see), feels like a bit of a contradiction. I just hope Beer Wars lives up to the hype and is truly awesome. I’ll apparently never get to find out.

As a personal aside: I’ve actually been struggling with posting this. What kind of reaction is this going to garner? If I don’t hop on the Beer Wars bandwagon am I going to get blackballed by the very industry that I’m attempting to be a part of because I find this level of hype distasteful? Let’s hope not. Admittedly, there have been others that have seriously discussed the film, or what it means to the industry instead of just re-trumpeting blind calls to go watch it (Andy Crouch comes immediately to mind, I’m sure there are others), but they have the advantage of being well-known and respected voices in the industry. I may well be the jackass that tried to pop in on everybody’s radar just in time to try to shoot down their favorite pet project. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll have a beer.

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Categories: industry, media, news, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 06 Apr 2009 @ 03 01 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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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Apr 2009 @ 12 38 PM

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 01 Apr 2009 @ 7:15 AM 

Word around the intertubes is that Coors is developing a clear beer to market to women. It is reportedly flavored with green tea and dragon fruit, and is apparently going to taste more like an alcopop than the lager that it supposedly is. It’ll be launched in the UK first and then in US markets, the first release of the BitterSweet Partnership.

OMG!  Shopping!

OMG! Shopping!


I’m not a woman, but I feel fairly insulted by this on their behalf.

A quick snippet from their website, under the section “Shopping?”:

What if bars served beer in smaller glasses? What if beer came in sexy easy-to-carry boxes? What if it had fewer calories, would you feel better about drinking it?

Wow. Could we stereotype a little bit more here? Here’s a what-if: What if you didn’t portray women as objects in your commercials?

Shit, aren’t you just painting a similar picture with this marketing campaign?

“Girls don’t want drinks that are ICKY. Here, try this! It tastes like fairies!”

Are they really playing the “girls are fragile” card? They might as well be printing “Math is HARD” on pink fuzzy Hello Kitty bags. Those girls that they’re marketing to? They’re all 16 years old.

I’m also a little astonished that this partnership and this Partnership is helmed by five women. Kirsty, Kristy, Helen, Sarah, and Emma (all from marketing or sales, I think). Ladies: You are all successful business women. You have probably had to claw and scrape to get a decent amount of respect in the corporate world. I hope you’re getting compensated equally with your male peers.

But, look: I, too, have noticed that there are not as many female beer drinkers, but I know my share. In fact, lucky man that I am, I’m married to one. I can’t see any of the female beer drinkers I know putting down a well-made craft beer for an alcopop that’s marketed to be cute and girly. You wanna talk sexy? Let’s talk about girls who drink stouts and IPAs.

Most of the women I know who drink beer do tend to shy away from more hoppy brews. From there, though, there’s a pretty wide variance between those who gravitate toward more fruity beers (fruited lambics other fruit beers are popular), darker beers (porters and stouts are also popular), or light, somewhat sour beers (Belgian wits and geuzes are very popular). I can’t think of any woman I know that doesn’t drink beer because she is offended by its color. The color? Really?

I have an idea on how to get women to drink beer: educate them about it as you would any other human – they’re not a different species, for crissakes – and give them a place to drink beer that doesn’t feel like a dirty frat house. You want to get women interested? Sell them a beverage that they’re drinking to enjoy, one that pairs well with food, one with complexity of flavor, and varieties to explore. This “Partnership” is nothing but a desperate appeal to the “drink to get drunk” contingent.

Women out there – and I’m pretty sure I’ll only get beer drinkers here, but I could be wrong – how do you feel about this push by Coors? What kind of beer do you and don’t you like? What attracts you to a beer?

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 Apr 2009 @ 07 15 AM

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 30 Mar 2009 @ 8:13 AM 

Found a couple of interesting maps via the twitternet, and since maps and beer cities have been on my mind, I thought I’d pull ’em out.

made by lyke2drink.blogspot.com

lyke2drink.blogspot.com


The first (on the right and clickable), is GABF winners by state over the past 20 years. Fascinating. Again with that furrow down the middle of the country, and yet another case for Texas in the poll for Favorite Beer City. I should say that this map represents an enormous amount of work. I’ve been working on a little side project for a while that looks at breweries that have won medals at the GABF and just sifting through that information is hours and hours worth of work, to say nothing of the attractive graphic design. Mike Wirth over at Lyke2Drink: Kudos. That’s pretty.

North Dakota and Oklahoma both have 1 medal. In my heart of hearts I’d like to imagine that it’s because there’s some fantastic tiny brewery squirreled away somewhere in each of these states that are one some sort of “Best Kept Secrets” list. I hope that’s true. Is it strange that the states with the most space for farmland where they can (and do) grow thousands of acres of barley have very few breweries?

Anybody else feel bad for West Virginia?

http://www.sloshspot.com/

http://www.sloshspot.com/


The second (on your left and also clickable), lists the Top 50 Craft Brewers in the Country by Sales Volume (Brewers’ Association press release) and mapped by sloshspot.com. This one sheds a little bit of insight on some of the choice of cities in the Favorite Beer City list in my last post. Take a look at the cities popping up here: Missoula, MT! Fort Collins, CO! No wonder they’re there. Too bad they have a collective 67 votes between the two of them. It kinda under represents Big Sky and New Belgium in terms of popularity.

Even more interesting are cities on the Beer City list that don’t show up here: Cincinnati, Albuquerque/Santa Fe, and Asheville, NC (the current leader in the poll) among others. That makes you want to take a trip to see what’s going on in these cities that got them on this list, doesn’t it? I can personally attest to Asheville being a great beer town.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 30 Mar 2009 @ 09 04 AM

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