23 Feb 2010 @ 9:00 AM 

Not long ago, in a private conversation about what makes a Classic American Pilsner different than a Standard American Lager, I was accused of getting caught up inside the box of style guidelines. While everything was civil I thought it would be a very interesting topic of discussion, so I present it to you here.

The thing is, he’s right. I DO get caught up in the details of style guidelines. It’s probably the years I’ve spent doing database management that makes me like to see things neatly filed into their own little boxes. Of course, if that were entirely true perhaps my desk, office, and closet wouldn’t be such an enormous disaster area. I would probably have things neatly filed away and labeled in really clear ways: “Non-pink-and-scoogy paperclips.” “T-shirts that still fit me.” and “Pants without holes in the crotch.” That kind of thing. And I don’t. Getting dressed in the morning or reaching into any one of my desk drawers is still a game of Russian Roulette that my co-workers have to pay for on a regular basis.

So, if I can’t figure out where my pants are, why should I get so caught up in Style Guidelines? They’re moving targets, at best. Just this weekend I was discussing with a friend where his beer might fit within BJCP style guidelines for an upcoming homebrew competition. Fact is, it could really fit into a few of them given the width of ranges of most of the style definitions.

Here, take a look at these stats which I have cut and pasted directly from the BCJP site:

OG: 1.056 – 1.075
FG: 1.010 – 1.018
IBUs: 40 – 70
SRM: 6 – 15
ABV: 5.5 – 7.5%

OG: 1.050 – 1.075
FG: 1.010 – 1.018
IBUs: 40 – 60
SRM: 8 – 14
ABV: 5 – 7.5%

Just off the top of your head, which one of these is English IPA and which one is American IPA? The primary difference between the styles is where the hops are grown. From a technical standpoint, it’s also when the hops are added. It’s not like one is a lot stronger than the other or more bitter or significantly different looking or anything, or even different in strength.

As an aside, my favorite one to do this with is Saison and Oatmeal Stout:

OG: 1.048 – 1.065
FG: 1.010 – 1.018
IBUs: 25 – 40
ABV: 4.2 – 5.9%

OG: 1.048 – 1.065
FG: 1.002 – 1.012
IBUs: 20 – 35
ABV: 5 – 7%

(I’ll hold the color measurements and let you decide on your own.)

Now, obviously I’m over-simplifying this. The numbers don’t do any sort of justice for what’s really in the style descriptions. Which are things like:

Color may range from rich gold to very dark amber or even dark brown.

Or

High fruitiness with low to moderate hop aroma and moderate to no herb, spice and alcohol aroma. … A low to medium-high spicy or floral hop aroma is usually present.

(I like the “low to moderate hop aroma” followed by “low to medium-high spicy or floral hop aroma” – so low-to-medium that they had to say it twice!)

Barleywine and saison, if you’re wondering.

My point is not that the style guidelines are weird or wrong or too wide or anything like that. If anything, I think they speak volumes to the wonderful variety that is present in beer and what makes it such a superior beverage, especially when paired with food.

No, my point is that getting stuck into style guidelines is:

1) Difficult, since the style guidelines range so widely.
2) Easy, because style guidelines range so widely.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little bit of an asshole, too.

Here’s the deal: The guidelines overlap like CRAZY. I have a chart that I built of all the numbers for all the styles and most of them are practically identical. If you put together all of the “low-to-medium-high” flavor descriptions it’s almost ludicrous how much they sound alike. But I’m here to say that style definitions – and getting stuck in them – serve a huge purpose in craft beer:

They manage your expectations.

Look, the casual drinker on the street doesn’t know or care about BJCP, World Beer Cup, or BA style definitions. They care about being able to pick up something in the store and being able to reliably identify what’s in the package. You want to know why BMC is so popular? Well, go back to the beginning of this paragraph and start over again. Craft beer can learn a lot from this.

So, yeah, I’m stuck in style guidelines. That’s not to say that I don’t do something wildly different every once in a while – I made my own Black IPA recipe up before people started clamoring for this whole “Cascadian Dark” style. I regularly play outside of style guidelines. I love playing with non-traditional ingredients. There’s no other way to move forward than to experiment, play, and indulge in creativity. In fact, that might be the single most important characteristic of the craft beer industry: creativity.

(Honestly? I can’t get behind “Cascadian Dark”. Yes, Black India Pale Ale sounds stupid. But “Cascadian Dark” has the following problems: 1) It suggests Cascade hops. 2) It’s ridiculously regional and totally ignores that 48 other states have breweries and the ability to make dark, hoppy beers. 3) It sounds like it’s made by elves or centaurs or some shit. I could – and may – write a whole column just about this.)

But you need to manage expectations. If someone comes to my taproom/kitchen and pours a beer, I want them to enjoy it. If I made a porter, but I ramped up the roasted grain, gravity, and hop bill through the roof, then I didn’t make a porter. I may have even made an Imperial Stout. But if I give it to people saying, “This is my porter!” then they’re either going to think the wrong thing about porters or think that I’m not very good at making beer when in reality what I suck at is telling them what they’re drinking.

This past weekend, I “judged” at the homebrew festival that I was at. There were no style separations and no information about what kind of beer it was I was drinking. Many times, when I was tasting the beers I was given I found myself thinking: If I knew what style this was supposed to be, I might really like it, but without an expectation built in it’s almost impossible to be able to tell if someone did what I was tasting on purpose or by mistake. It’s hard to tell if something is well-crafted if you don’t know what they were shooting for.

So, touche, sir. You were right. I do get stuck inside guidelines. Constantly. But only so much as I want to tell people what they’re getting. Information helps people enjoy my beer. Part of that information is a concise definition of what they can expect when they raise that glass in front of their eyes, to their nose, and to their lips. If you’re not stuck inside the style guidelines then your customer – the person drinking your beer – has no easy way to appreciate the beautiful thing that you’ve crafted for them.

I’ve heard it said that style labels are a very American sort of thing. That before we started building up all of these style guidelines people just drank beer and they didn’t care if what they were drinking was a porter, a stout, or a brown ale. Style be damned!

I’d like to posit that Americans need to create style definitions because of the breadth of styles we make in our creative marketplace. We’re not bound by regional specialties that are based on what ingredients were historically available in a given area. The American craft beer market is dynamic and exciting and without style definitions I don’t think we’d see nearly the amount of variety we do. Further, I think it’s the very presence of the definitions that allows our customers to appreciate just how dynamic and creative we are, especially when we do play outside the definitions.

Do I think we have to stick to them and get stuck inside of styles, making only beers that meet a certain numerical specification? No. But we need to promote them and use them, because they are the definitions of our success.

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Categories: Brewers Association, homebrew, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 23 Feb 2010 @ 09 01 AM

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 21 Jan 2010 @ 10:39 PM 

Back – way, way back in internet years – just after last year’s Craft Brewer’s Conference, I wrote a little piece about why and how breweries should be using Twitter. It was originally a bit of a followup from watching the internet panel at the CBC. I wasn’t confident that the panel really convinced people why they should be using social media. In fact, I’m not even sure if left people with a favorable impression. So passionate was I about this, that I got together with a couple of great people to put a panel together for this year’s conference.

I’ve been planning on writing a few columns in support of the panel this spring as I work through collecting my thoughts for later discussion. The first was going to be what I perceive as the effective differences between Facebook and Twitter, built for a craft beer business perspective. That’s still coming, but via the magic of the internet, I was pointed over to a thread on ProBrewer that kind of got me by the short hairs.

Let me see if I can summarize this thread for you:

“What’s this Twitting thing? Is that on the Google? I can’t understand what those kids are saying without my ear horn!”

It makes me want to slap people. There is nothing in this world that pisses me off more than willful ignorance. The idea that you can’t understand something because it’s new is a one-way ticket to stagnation and failure. In the end the real issue is that you’re scared. Grow a pair. It’s a plastic box with electronics in it. We call it a computer. You use several every day, probably even to make beer.

I’m sure that all of the guys that posted to this thread are smart. You have to be smart to brew beer and run a business. You have to know a good deal of chemistry, physics, and biology. You have to have business sense and be at least relatively decent with numbers, you have to be savvy enough with people to know your customers, know what they want, and know how to get them to buy your product. And then you put something out like “I could really give a s#$t if those who read our company tweets consume my beer. If they would take guidance from a simple message from a stranger, they’re idiots.”

Shit, man. You just described marketing. You ever watch a commercial? They’re on the television now. Oh, right- that’s another plastic box with electronics in it. Forget I asked.

Nevermind, the lovely irony of asking “Has everyone willingly given up privacy?” on a public message board using your real name as a username. Liam, buddy: Misdirected ire. You must have been having a bad day that day, eh? I hope I can get up to Yellow Belly the next time I’m in NL to try your beer, regardless of that fact that you’ve completely written me off as a customer. Hey – does that mean I can drink for free?

And I don’t really mean to take the piss out of Liam here, it’s just to easy to troll and be snarky when people give you such opportunities! Moving on:

Allow me to address a few of the points that I’m going to summarize out of this thread (and countless freakin’ others out there):

Social Media is for “young people”

Almost 40% of Facebook users are between ages 36 and 65.

60% of Facebook users are over the age of 25.

Those damn kids. They’re probably planning your 30th high school reunion using the Facebook. Maybe you should get in touch.

Social media is a fad.

Facebook reported hitting 132 million users in December 2009. MySpace reports almost 50 million. Twitter reports 23 million. They’re not all overlapping users, though many are (there’s the followup column I’m writing, see?).

Allow me to translate that into math:

If every drinking-aged adult in the country (~200 million) buys beer (they don’t), and craft beer makes up ~5% of the market share (they do), then more people over the age of 26 use Facebook (79.2 million) than drink craft beer (10 million) by a factor of a whole shitload. Fad. Sheesh.

I don’t have time for social media

I don’t have time to promote my business! I don’t have time to get people interested in my brand! I don’t have time to sell my product! I don’t have time to interact with my customers! Waaah!

Really? You know how long it takes me to send out a tweet? Like 25 seconds. To be fair: I type fast. Let’s say it takes you TWICE as long as me to type – no! Three times as long! Finger-pecker!

Ach! My aged fingers can not stand typing for over a minute! I can’t take 75 seconds out of my incredibly busy day to interact with my customers just once!

If you’re that busy, you’re probably at a point where you could consider hiring someone to help you. If you make the point of hiring somebody who’s not an anti-social curmudgeon, then chances are you could make managing social media part of their job and then you don’t have to worry about understanding anything fancy and new.

Look, there’s only one excuse for this type of response: You don’t get it. And you know what? That’s okay! It’s totally fine to not intuitively understand something the first time you look at it. To assume that it’s stupid because you don’t understand it is folly.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media. Can you? Certainly! It can be borderline addictive. I’ll get into that in my next point.

It’s all anti-social crap for people with ADD!

You’re confusing social media with iPhone owners. (I kid! (Mostly!))

Social media is the opposite of anti-social. C’mon, people. “Social” is in the freakin’ name. Every interaction via any form of social media is essentially a part of a conversation. It’s not an update look-at-my-life-because-I’m-so-freakin’-awesome tool. It’s a human interaction please-talk-to-me tool. It’s not just:

“I had a Brooklyn Backbreaker at Tyler’s Taproom last week and I gotta say: pretty awesome.”

It’s also:

“Oooh, I’ve been wanting to try that one. Is it still on tap?”

People are talking about you. They’re talking about your product and they’re talking about your brewery. They’re talking about them a lot and having meaningful conversations about them. That is exactly why social media can be so addictive – interacting with people is fun. You do it in the bar all the time, right? Oh, right – I know: Only with people you know, or people who have the same interests as you, or maybe just the pretty girls.

Yeah, okay. Just like social media. Look, you don’t have to interact with anybody that you don’t want to. You choose who you follow and the people who follow you are enthusiastic fans of your business and your product. They are your good customers and your best evangelists. Not only do they want to have a conversation with you, they want to have a conversation about you to others. You can’t ask for better marketing than that – don’t you want to be a part of that conversation and have the chance to help guide it?

True story: I have met more new beer people in my area in the past year via Twitter, Facebook, and this blog than the previous 6 years I’ve been living here. And I’m talking great people – awesome people that I like to go hang out with after work and have a beer with, people that I have invited over to my house for dinner and drinks, and people that I hope I will not ever lose touch with because they’re such good people. Wow! Being anti-social is fun!

Social media is not a replacement for human interaction – it’s an augmentation.

It’s not a press release machine – it’s a customer interaction tool.

It’s an easy and effective tool that you can use to share your brand and your story with an eager-and-waiting audience and probably have a lot of fun at the same time. Use it. There is no downside and no reason not to.

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Categories: industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 21 Jan 2010 @ 11 30 PM

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(Catch up with Part 2 – IBUs, here.)

I want to start by making a note on my use of the BJCP guidelines for this exercise. The purpose is not to necessarily categorize the BJCP guidelines themselves, so much as use the existing guidelines as a list of statistics for “typical beers” to represent what should be pretty much every beer in existence. Basically, I’d like to create a final formula/set of statistical guidelines that can describe any beer. In the absence of an enormous amount of data about existing beers in the marketplace (which would be really preferable), I’m using this as an example set of what the typical range of beers would be if every single beer style were represented evenly in the market. In this case, one of each.

In this post, I’m looking at the average Original Gravity (OG) and Final Gravity (FG) for each style and here’s why:

OG is a measure of how much sugar is present in wort pre-fermentation and FG is a measure of how much sugar is present in wort post-fermentation. Using the two together, you can calculate the amount of alcohol in a beer, which is always a useful statistic. In theory, with these, we can get an accurate sense of how sweet or dry a beer will be. This is, of course, exactly what we need to play against IBUs to attempt to predict what a beer will taste like. Sweeter beers should balance against high IBU beers to create more balance. Dry beers should accentuate hops to give an impression of a more bitter beer.

For the purposes of this I translated OG and FG to “Gravity Units” (GU) by starting with the OG, subtracting 1 and multiplying by 1000. Or, in other words, I just took the last 2 digits of the OG:

1.054 – 1 = .054 * 1000 = 54

Playing with all these numbers has been a little funny. I keep on playing with almost arbitrary math to try to play with these numbers in a way that makes sense to me, and here’s been my stumbling block:

For years, I’ve been using the system laid out in Designing Great Beer by Ray Daniels. It’s somewhat of a biblical text in my house. Sometimes I just read it for fun. In this book, Ray uses a ratio of BU:GU to figure out balance in beer. It’s a good system, but the more I’ve been looking at it while playing with these numbers, the more I think it might be a little – not a lot, but a little – off base.

I sorted my style list by GU – just to get a quick gander of what it looked like. In theory, if the BU:GU ratio is correct, then the beers with the highest GU should be the sweetest and the beers with the lowest should be the driest. And while it’s close, it doesn’t quite work out.

Here’s the list, in order of lowest original gravity to highest.

Berliner Weisse, Scottish Light 60/-, Lite Lager, Mild, Ordinary Bitter, Southern English Brown, Scottish Heavy 70/-, Dry Stout, Special Bitter, Standard American Lager, Blond Ale, Northern English Brown, Brown Porter, Lambic, Scottish Export 90/-, Kolsch, German Pilsner, American Wheat, Weissbier, Witbier, Munich Helles, Cream Ale, Vienna Lager, Schwarzbier, Guezue, Dark American Lager, Dunkelweizen, North German Alt, Bohemian Pilsner, Dusseldorf Alt, Roggenbier, Premium American Lager, Belgian Pale Ale, California Common, Irish Red, Munich Dunkel, Dortmunder Export, Sweet Stout, Classic American Pilsner, Flanders Red, American Brown Ale, American Amber Ale, American Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Extra Special Bitter, Saison, Oatmeal Stout, Robust Porter, Flanders Brown, English IPA, American Stout, Foreign Extra Stout, American IPA, Traditional Bock, Maibock/Helles Bock, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Blond Ale, Biere de Garde, Baltic Porter, Old Ale, Weizenbock, Belgian Trippel, Imperial IPA, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Doppelbock, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Russian Imperial Stout, Eisbock, Strong Scotch Ale, English Barleywine, American Barleywine

It’s close, but to have things like Lambic, Scottish Export 90/-, and Kolsch all right next to each other doesn’t seem quite right. Same goes for having Southern English Brown, and Scottish Heavy 70/- down on the “dry” end.

If you were sorting in order of alcoholic strength, this would be pretty close.

Just to make sure I wasn’t misrepresenting the stat by taking BU out of it, I also sorted by BU:GU ratio. It’s *also* really close, but you still get things like Strong Scotch Ale (BU:GU of 0.26) and Standard American Lager (BU:GU of 0.256) being directly next to each other. Certainly, the ratio of hops to malt in them are very similar, but the flavor profile of these beers is staggeringly different. On the other end of the scale, I can come up with Ordinary Bitter (BU:GU of .834) and AIPA (BU:GU of .84) right next to each other. Again – ratio similar, flavor profile vastly different.

I keep on doing weird crap to these numbers to try to get something closer. I calculated apparent attenuation (how much sugar has fermented out of the solution) to see if that made sense and that was all over the map. I really wanted to apply attenuation back to the original gravity to see if I could get the high gravity beers with low attenuation to just fall out naturally, but since attenuation is based off of OG and FG I kept coming back to the final gravity. And then I thought something that sounded in my head like, “Duh.”

So I sorted by Final Gravity to see what the list looked like. Here it is from lowest FG to highest FG:

Lite Lager, Guezue, Berliner Weisse, Lambic, Standard American Lager, Flanders Red, Saison, Ordinary Bitter, Dry Stout, Kolsch, Cream Ale, Special Bitter, Witbier, Munich Helles, Dark American Lager, Premium American Lager, Flanders Brown, Mild, Blond Ale, Northern English Brown, German Pilsner, American Wheat, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Brown Porter, Belgian Trippel, Scottish Light 60/-, Weissbier, Vienna Lager, Dunkelweizen, Roggenbier, Belgian Pale Ale, Irish Red, Biere de Garde, Southern English Brown, Scottish Heavy 70/-, Dusseldorf Alt, North German Alt, California Common, Classic American Pilsner, Dortmunder Export, American Pale Ale,
American Amber Ale, Scottish Export 90/-, Schwarzbier, Munich Dunkel, American Brown Ale, Extra Special Bitter, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Blond Ale, Oktoberfest, Oatmeal Stout, Robust Porter, English IPA, Foreign Extra Stout, American IPA, Maibock/Helles Bock, Bohemian Pilsner, Imperial IPA, American Stout, Traditional Bock, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Sweet Stout, Old Ale, Weizenbock, Baltic Porter, Doppelbock, American Barleywine, Russian Imperial Stout, English Barleywine, Eisbock, Strong Scotch Ale

If you were looking for a list of beers, dry-to-sweet, this is pretty damn close. Of course, it makes a lot of sense. The lower the FG is the less sugar is in it. What’s more, because of the limitations of what yeast can actually digest, the higher OG beers will pretty much never ferment out as low as the lower OG beers, with the possible exception of that wacky Saison yeast, so high FG beers will always be sweet, and low FG beers will always be dry, OG be damned.

My next step was, logically, a BU:FU ratio and, again, it’s super close. In order of low-to-high ratio, this would be – in theory – malty-to-hoppy. Clearly, I’m not accounting for pH here, so any sour beers are going to land in the malty end.

Strong Scotch Ale, Lambic, Weissbier, Doppelbock, Eisbock, Dunkelweizen, Weizenbock, Berliner Weisse, Roggenbier, Southern English Brown, Scottish Light 60/-, Dark American Lager, Scottish Heavy 70/-, Traditional Bock, Baltic Porter, Witbier, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Standard American Lager, Guezue, Mild, Sweet Stout, Oktoberfest, Belgian Blond Ale, Scottish Export 90/-, Munich Dunkel, Irish Red, Munich Helles, Biere de Garde, Cream Ale, Maibock/Helles Bock, Premium American Lager, Vienna Lager, Blond Ale, Schwarzbier, Belgian Pale Ale, Dortmunder Export, American Wheat, English Barleywine, Flanders Brown, American Brown Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Northern English Brown, Brown Porter, Old Ale, Flanders Red, American Amber Ale, Classic American Pilsner, North German Alt, Bohemian Pilsner, Robust Porter, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Belgian Trippel, Kolsch, Russian Imperial Stout, American Pale Ale, California Common, Extra Special Bitter, Special Bitter, Lite Lager, German Pilsner, Ordinary Bitter, Dusseldorf Alt, American Stout, English IPA, Foreign Extra Stout, American Barleywine, Saison, American IPA, Dry Stout, Imperial IPA

Nice list! The only real problem is that, in terms of creating a statistic, our numbers start at .702703 (Strong Scotch Ale) and end at 6 (IIPA). It’s a really weird metric – it’s good for making this list, but not for saying something like, “This beer is a 35? Woooo! Hoppy!” Which is, essentially, my end goal here.

So next up? Making these numbers into a form that’s easier to digest than .702703. With any luck, this should be pretty quick.

In the meantime, homebrewers (or hey.. commercial brewers if you guys are reading this with baited breath), can you do me a favor?

Go do a BU:FU calculation on some of the beers you have logged into your brewing journal. Get the end number, (like .702703), multiply by 20 (it’s an adjustment), then tell me the style of beer, the number you came up with, and if YOU think the beer was malty, hoppy, or balanced.

It goes like this:

Let’s say you made a Vienna Lager, FG of 1.012, 24 IBUs.

24/12 = 2
2 * 20 = 40

“Erik, I made a Vienna Lager, the number is 40, I thought it was quite well balanced.”

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Categories: appreciation, industry, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 13 Nov 2009 @ 03 12 PM

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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.

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

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Part 1 of this little series happened a while back. It was my original foray into trying to figure out a good simplified set of statistics for beer. Feel free to head back there if you need a refresher.

You may have thought that I forgot all about this. In reality, I have been percolating.

The problem with my original post is that a lot of the math I’m using is fairly arbitrary. Basically, I was experimenting to try to find something meaningful. Mind you, that covers a good portion of actual statistics, but what I keep going back to in my head is that what I really want to do is come up with a good way to represent the relationships between the existing numbers in an easy to read statistic for the layperson.

So today, I’m heading back to IBUs because this, I think, is the root of a portion of the problem.

IBUs are calculated in a sensible manner… ish. The original calculation (for metric units) is meant to predict how many mg of iso-alpha acids there are per liter of beer. For example, 30 IBU = 30mg of iso-alpha acids/liter.

The non-metric unit formula – which deals with gallons – listed in Wikipedia (yeah, I’m referencing Wikipedia), looks like this:

Wh × AA% × Uaa ⁄ ( Vw × 1.34 ), where

  • Wh refers to the weight of the hops used, in ounces
  • AA% refers to the alpha acid percentage [of the hops in question]
  • Uaa is the percentage of alpha acid that is actually used during the boiling process
  • Vw means the volume of the wort, in gallons
  • 1.34 is a constant factor that adjusts the measurement to account for the use of U.S. customary units

There’s a little bit of a woogy bit on Wikipedia. They note in their text:

The bittering effect is less noticeable in beers with a high quantity of malt, so a higher IBU is needed in heavier beers to balance the flavor. For example, an Imperial Stout may have an IBU of 50, but will taste less bitter than an English Bitter with an IBU of 30, because the latter beer uses much less malt than the former.

True!

Then they note:

The technical limit for IBU’s is around 100; some have tried to surpass this number, but there is no real gauge after 100 IBUs when it comes to taste threshold.

This is where referencing Wikipedia comes around and bites you in the ass. On the other hand, it’s like someone is asking me to write this post.

The problem here is that other elements in beer do (of course) effect bitterness. 100 IBUs might be very hoppy but, as they note, the more malt there is the less the bitterness is perceivable. By that logic, if something is very highly malted you should technically be able to detect a bitterness difference above 100 IBUs. Certainly, there is a significant difference between Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA (90 IBUs) and Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA (120 IBUs). I’m having a hard time believing that the difference would be the same if it were only 10 IBUs more instead of 30. Maybe I’m deluding myself.

In any case, a measure of hop bitterness within a beer is not an accurate measure of the actual bitterness of the beer. However, the formula stated above does accurately measure the bitterness being contributed to the beer from the hops. We have to assume that there are other factors, but we’ll get to those another day. For now, let’s keep talking IBUs.

The BJCP guidelines (which are just a tick more static than other guidelines right now) show us that in the full range of beers in the world, acceptable IBU values range from 0 (at the low-end of Gueuze) to 120 (at the high end of American Barleywine and Imperial IPA). For the sake of argument, let’s consider those as our range. We have to accept the theory that there can be beers above 120 IBUs, because they can exist mathematically, but let’s call 120 our arbitrary upper limit because in order to standardize things, we need one.

Just for giggles, here’s a quick plot of all of the upper and lower limits of the BJCP beer styles, sorted by the mean IBU of each style (in green).

Far left is Gueuze, far right is IIPA. You can click it for a bigger version.

IBUs

What you can really get off of this is that the vast difference between the middle and the top vs. the middle and the bottom.

I broke all of the styles into three values: Bottom IBU, Top IBU, Average IBU. They are the stated bottom of the acceptable range for the style, the top of the acceptable range for the style, and the average of the range.

The mean of the Bottom IBUs is 21. The mode is 20.

The mean of the Top IBUs is 37. The mode is 40.

The mean of the Average IBUs is 29. The mode is 30.

So what does this tell us? That the line between “hoppy” and “not hoppy” is much thinner than it might seem when the upper end is 120. As we’ve already noted, this has a lot to do with factors other than hops, and that IBUs aren’t the best way to measure the bitterness of the beer itself, just how many hops were put in.

Okay, cool. That first part is interesting and the latter part is fairly obvious. We know we need to use IBUs – at least in part – in order to calculate an overall bitterness, so let’s see if we can breakdown the range of IBUs a little better. From this point out, I’ve actually discarded the average for anything but sorting, and I’ve put the highs and the lows together in the same variable to give us the upper and lower limit of the acceptable range all in one place.

The mean of all of the IBU values across all of the beer styles is 29, the median is 25, and the mode is 20. The standard deviation of values from the mean is ~19.

This seats the middle of the range of IBUs in beer styles squarely in the 20’s, and I would say that the average (29) probably represents what we could call our middle in terms of perceived hoppiness. The standard deviation from the mean gives us a high end of 48 – let’s say 50 – and a low end of 10. Anything above 50 would definitely be hoppy (but not necessarily bitter) and anything below 10 would probably not have any hop character at all.

If we were to break it down on this scale we could say that we have, essentially 4 categories.

0 – 10: No apparent hop character
10 – 30: Low hop character
31 – 50: High hop character
51+: Very hoppy

If we were to sort existing beer style IBU averages into these categories we would get:

0 – 10: Guezue, Lambic, Berliner Weisse, Lite Lager

10 – 30: Standard American Lager, Weissbier, Dark American Lager, Dunkelweizen, Scottish Light 60/-, Witbier, Roggenbier, Southern English Brown, Mild, Scottish Heavy 70/-, Flanders Red, Cream Ale, Munich Helles, Premium American Lager, Belgian Dubbel, Doppelbock, Blond Ale, American Wheat, Scottish Export 90/-, Flanders Brown, Irish Red, Belgian Blond Ale, Weizenbock, Munich Dunkel, Biere de Garde, Traditional Bock, Vienna Lager, Oktoberfest, Kolsch, Northern English Brown, Belgian Pale Ale, Strong Scotch Ale, Brown Porter, Dortmunder Export, Schwarzbier, Saison, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Maibock/Helles Bock, Ordinary Bitter, American Brown Ale, Sweet Stout, Belgian Trippel, Baltic Porter, Eisbock

31 – 50: Special Bitter, North German Alt, Classic American Pilsner, American Amber Ale, Oatmeal Stout, German Pilsner, Dry Stout, California Common, American Pale Ale, Robust Porter, Bohemian Pilsner, Extra Special Bitter, Dusseldorf Alt, Old Ale, English IPA, Foreign Extra Stout

51+: English Barleywine, American IPA, American Stout, Russian Imperial Stout, American Barleywine, Imperial IPA

If we made the “low hop” cut off 29 (the average) instead of 30, Ordinary Bitter, American Brown Ale, Sweet Stout, Belgian Trippel, Baltic Porter, Eisbock would all be in the “high hop” category.

If we made the “very hoppy” cut off 48, English IPA and Foreign Extra Stout would be in the last category.

It’s close. Really close. Of course, some of the beers that end up in the hoppier categories actually end up having a much lower perceived bitterness due to the fact that they’re also very malty. Sweet Stout, Trippel, Baltic Porter, Eisbock, English Barleywine and Old Ale come to mind.

So now we have some benchmarks in place. I had been treating IBUs as a continuous scale, because it is a continuous measurement. However, if you believe that 100 IBUs is the upper limit of human detection and 0 IBUs is the lower limit, that would suggest a mid-range of around 50 IBUs. We’ve shown here that the mid-range, at least in terms of what we expect out of our beer styles, is actually a little lower than that, so we may actually have to do a little bit of normalization when we’re using IBUs in a formula to calculate bitterness more efficiently.

Next up: An IBU standardization formula and how OG and attenuation fit into the bitterness equation. (Part 3 is here)

Tags Tags: , , ,
Categories: appreciation, industry, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 13 Nov 2009 @ 11 55 AM

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