What a great weekend to be a beer drinker in North Carolina. We get a double-whammy of the World Beer Festival and, in the interval between sessions, Fullsteam’s Backyard Beer Festival just a block away.

In one small (and very chic) city, we have the opportunity to get some of the best craft beer and some of the best homebrew around.

Holy awesome.

My plan in all of this goes like this: Myself (and a group of wonderful friends) will be attending the afternoon (12-4) session of the World Beer Festival, then we will be trucking over to Fullsteam where I’ll be pouring some of my homebrew at the Backyard Beer Festival.

If you’re around at either event, stop me and say hi. I’ll be wearing my bestest Top Fermented T-Shirt.

If you’re not around either event, I’m trying something a little new. Using the magical power of Posterous and my Android I will be recording short audio and video notes as I go and posting them (along with photos) live from both events. All of that stuff will dump onto Twitter automatically, as the day goes and I’ll wrap it all up with highlights here on the blog.

So join me online and off for a great weekend of beer, and witness, firsthand, my descent into rambling drunkenness. It should, at the very least, be entertaining and who knows? There might even be a nugget or two of good beer information in there.

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Categories: appreciation, beer festival, media, RDU
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Sep 2009 @ 01 03 PM

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This might be my favorite piece of beer news for the week. According to a rather informative article at Bloomberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev is suing Ontario’s Brick Brewing Company for trademark infringement for the use of limes and the color green on the labels for its new “Red Baron Lime” light lager.

Now, first, let me say that Brick, having been sued for something similar before by Labatt Brewing Co., could have probably seen this coming. On the other hand: You are making a lime light lager that is, presumably, meant to compete directly with Bud Light Lime. How many different ways could you possibly represent it than by using limes and the color green?

Oh sure. “Red Baron” gives you all kinds of cool marketing potential, but they haven’t gone any way other than traditional Canadian labeling on their other beers (Maple leaves? In Canada? Crazy. And Labatt sued? Shocking.), so why start now?

Now, although part of me is kind of indignant about A-B InBev trying to trademark the color green, limes, and (I kid you not) “pictures of young, attractive people wearing bathing suits”, I’ve got to admit that they do really shoot for a pretty similar feel:

Lime = Life?  That's the best you could come up with?

I’m not a trademark lawyer, but I think that A-B has, at the very least, a point. But the way they’re going about it is the part that’s killing it for me. Here’s my favorite quote from the article.

“Bud Light Lime is a high-quality beer, brewed in small batches in England,” Anheuser said in the statement of claim. “Brick’s activities are undermining this reputation.”

If I read this correctly, by Brick using images of green limes and (attractive) bathing-suit-clad youngsters in its marketing materials, they are undermining the reputation that Bud Light Lime has for being 1) high-quality and 2) brewed in small batches in England. I can’t imagine what about this disputes the country that it was brewed in, the size of the batch, or even the quality, unless their intimating that Red Baron Lime sucks more than Bud Light Lime.

Sure, the lawsuit is probably a lot more along the lines of, “They’re trying to gain sales by mimicking our success.” but that’s not what this statement says. And after all, why would they be making a lime light lager if they weren’t trying to mimic the success of Bud Light Lime? Isn’t that what market competition is all about? Maybe if this was called “Bub Light Lime” or something I might be a little more sympathetic to the lawsuit.

I am curious as to how this suit is going to turn out. I really hope that Brick can manage to stand its ground. However, given how similar those two sites look and the fact that Brick has been in court for a similar claim previously, I’m sure that A-B InBev will have a reasonable case. Maybe Brick will have to use red limes or something. Or non-attractive youths in bathing suits. Maybe they will have to include a statement on their label saying that they are not brewed in England. Or: “The lowest quality lime light lager money can buy!” You could list it right next to “ICE COLD!”

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Categories: marketing, new beer, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 02 Sep 2009 @ 08 14 AM

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 24 Jul 2009 @ 3:29 PM 

Earlier this week, I had my first try of Westvleteren 12, the so-called best beer in the world. No doubt, it was awesome; indescribably wonderful. When I checked later on, though, I noticed that while it was listed #1 at Beer Advocate, it was listed #2 at Rate Beer. Interesting.

It got me to thinking about the differences between the two sites and how much they agreed with one another. I started to take a closer look at what was listed at both sites.

As Andy Crouch noted earlier this week, there is a distinct lack of lagers on each of these lists, and an abundance of barrel-aged and/or hop heavy and/or alcohol heavy offerings. They’re also both heavy in rare, small-run, and hard-to-find beers. I suppose it’s all very American. Bigger is better and if it’s hard to get it must be awesome. Sounds like a recipe for eBay, if you ask me. But that’s not my focus today. That’s for my “please make more session beer” column later.

What I found fascinating was the agreement between the two lists. First of all, I found it interesting that more than half of the beers appearing on one list do not appear on the other (52). In Rate Beer’s case, 6 of the Top 10 beers they have listed do not appear in Beer Advocate’s Top 100 whatsoever. Only 1 of Beer Advocate’s Top 10 does not appear in Rate Beer’s Top 100.

So I cut myself down to looking at only the 48 beers that appear in both lists. Of those 48 beers, there is very little close agreement. Only one matches right on. Pizza Port Cuvee de Tomme ranks at #95 on both lists. The next closest agreement is the aforementioned Westvleteren 12. Only 27% of the list (13 out of 48) were in what I would consider close agreement (within 5 places, plus or minus, of the other list), whereas 38% of the list (18 out of 48) were more than 20 places apart.

I also threw a couple of scatter plots together.

Beer Advocate vs. Rate Beer

They’re both the same scatter plot, sorted two different ways. Scatter 1 is sorted by BA rank (thus stripe of blue up the middle) and Scatter 2 is sorted by RB rank (thus the strip of red up the middle). You can see from these that, of the beers that both sites ranked in the Top 100, Beer Advocate tended to rank the beers higher (lower in number: Rank 1 = The Best).

The number of times that the following words appear in both lists combined (if a beer appears on both lists, the word was counted once):

Bourbon: 10
Barrel: 16
Aged: 15
Imperial: 19
Stout: 31
Ale: 10
IPA/India Pale Ale: 7
Black: 7
Hop/Hoppy/Hoppiness, etc: 6
The suffix “-ation”: 8
Lager: 0

You’d almost think that stouts, and especially bourbon barrel aged ones were the most popular craft beers on the market, and not IPAs.

What final conclusion can we draw from all of this? It’s hard to say. Since they have two different ranking systems (5 point scale vs. 100 point scale) it’s difficult to draw any specific comparisons. Mostly, it’s an interesting look at the tastes of the user base at both sites. I wonder how many people rate at both sites and how their ratings compare given the different point systems.

I also put both lists together (where the beers match) and came up with a mean average of scores to give the overall Top 48 beers. Here’s the list:

BA Rank RB Rank Mean Rank Beer
1 2 2 Westvleteren Abt 12
5 3 4 Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout
2 16 9 Russian River Pliny the Younger
7 13 10 Russian River Pliny the Elder
12 8 10 AleSmith Speedway Stout
15 7 11 Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout
11 15 13 Rochefort Trappistes 10
4 24 14 Three Floyds Vanilla Bean Barrel Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout
10 22 16 Westvleteren Extra 8
16 19 18 Lost Abbey The Angels Share (Bourbon Barrel)
3 34 19 Deschutes The Abyss
24 14 19 Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA
18 25 22 Surly Darkness
25 20 23 Bells Hopslam
8 40 24 Founders Kentucky Breakfast Bourbon Aged Stout
21 28 25 Stone Imperial Russian Stout
26 23 25 Port Brewing Older Viscosity
23 27 25 Russian River Consecration
33 18 26 AleSmith Barrel Aged Speedway Stout
17 39 28 Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel
20 37 29 Russian River Supplication
36 31 34 New Glarus Belgian Red
19 50 35 Founders Breakfast Stout
6 65 36 Portsmouth Kate The Great Russian Imperial Stout
43 30 37 Struise Pannepot
22 52 37 St. Bernardus Abt 12
30 49 40 Russian River Temptation
69 12 41 Lost Abbey Isabelle Proximus
27 69 48 Firestone Walker 12
37 61 49 AleSmith IPA
39 60 50 Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock
49 54 52 Lost Abbey Cable Car
78 29 54 Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
53 64 59 Stone Brandy Barrel Double Bastard
44 88 66 Cantillon Blåbær Lambik
54 83 69 New Glarus Raspberry Tart
46 94 70 Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
62 78 70 New Belgium La Folie
52 98 75 Surly 16 Grit
75 77 76 Stone Ruination IPA
60 93 77 Tyranena Devil Over A Barrel
83 71 77 Southern Tier Choklat
58 97 78 Russian River Beatification
81 89 85 Oskar Blues Ten FIDY
80 92 86 Ølfabrikken Porter
86 90 88 North Coast Anniversary Barrel-Aged Old Rasputin
97 91 94 Struise Black Albert
95 95 95 Pizza Port Cuvee de Tomme
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Categories: industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 24 Jul 2009 @ 03 35 PM

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 29 Apr 2009 @ 12:21 PM 

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking in the wake of the Craft Brewers Conference and the “Beer on the Web” panel. It was good, but I almost felt like there wasn’t enough time to cover things in any sort of detail.
Tweet!
I talked to a bunch of people after the panel and there was a really wide array of comfort levels with technology. Some people in the industry are super savvy and comfortable with technology some really have no idea what we’re talking about, much less how to use it well. Today’s post is a service to the latter group. If you know a brewer(y), please pass this on:

What is Twitter?

Think of it as a micro-blog. It’s basically like what you’re seeing here, except in 140 character snippets. Everything you post on Twitter is available to anybody to read, unless you send a direct message – those are private. You can read more here before you sign up.

Why you should use Twitter

1. It’s your target demographic. Here are some interesting statistics about Twitter (collected by Nielsen Online):

  • 85% of Twitter users are over the age of 21.
  • Twitter’s largest user demographic is aged 35-49 (41.7% of traffic). This happens to line up almost exactly with the largest craft beer drinking demographic.

2. It reaches an enormous audience very quickly. Let’s pretend you’re just getting started and you have 200 people following your Twitter feed. You post something of interest, and half of those people decide to re-Tweet your post when they read it (this is when people re-post what you’ve posted, noting a re-Tweet by including the letters ‘RT’ at the beginning of the post), and let’s pretend that those people each have 100 people following them. You have, in about 35 seconds of work, reached 10,000 people with your message. Those numbers are small, too. To give you some comparison, at the time of this writing Dogfish Head’s Twitter feed had just under 4,000 followers, Rogue and Harpoon had about 1,700 each. Beer Advocate’s Twitter feed (and they do a lot of re-tweeting) reaches just under 5,000 people. Twitter is the fastest growing social network; it saw 7 million visitors in February 2009. These numbers all have the potential to grow and grow BIG.

3. It’s fast and free. Signing up for a Twitter feed takes about 30 seconds. Posting to Twitter takes about 30 seconds. You could probably do at some point to take 10 or 15 minutes to brand it with your design and color scheme. If you don’t have a marketing department that can wing this off for you in a heartbeat, drop me a line. I’ll do it for free. Seriously.

How to Post to Twitter

This is not a “where do I type” tutorial. This is “what do I share?” One of the questions in the “Beer on the Web” panel was something along the lines of: There’s not much happens that’s very interesting – half the time all I’m doing is doing yeast cell counts or cleaning tanks. So what do I post?

Well, posting that you’re doing yeast cell counts or cleaning tanks isn’t a bad start. In fact, it’s a great start.

Here’s the thing: You’re running a brewery or a brewpub. You’re not just selling beer. You’re selling you. You, the people who make your beer, who deliver your beer, who answer the phones, everyone, are all wrapped up in the personal brand that you’re projecting out to the consumer. Consumers can say, as often as they’d like, that who makes the beer doesn’t matter, it’s about how the beer tastes, but they’re not being honest with themselves. People love having personal connections with the products they consume and you can do this in a way that large corporations and megabreweries cannot.

You’re running a small business. Your brand is you.

Twitter, because of its brevity and its informality, allows you to give people an inside view of you and your brewery. It’s like being on a brewery tour every day. Let me show you a couple of great posts that have popped up in my Twitter feed over the past day.

The Twitter

See what’s going on here? You’ve got notification of promotions and events, you’ve got notification of new brews, and you’ve got a peek inside the life of a brewer. It shows a little process without giving anything away. Information is great, it will sell your product, you just need to put it out there because people are looking for it. Let them find it. They want to be a fan of you and your brewery!

Recommendations

1. Use it regularly. Like any presence on the web, having something stagnate is much worse than having nothing there at all. It’s amazing how many breweries out there have Twitter feeds with nothing on them – some of them even have a ton of followers and no content. It’s a huge waste of opportunity.

2. Pace yourself. You don’t have to post every 20 minutes. You can probably get by with just posting once a day, but really – if you’ve got a piece of information, put it out there. On the other hand, if you’re posting every single thing that comes up, you’re just creating spam. I have stopped following people because they tweet too much, other people will to.

3. Don’t go crazy re-tweeting. Pick and choose. Yes, when you re-tweet is encourages others to re-tweet, but it also, as I said before, creates spam if you do it a lot. Never, ever, re-tweet just to find something to tweet.

4. Get TweetDeck. It is a really easy way to get a handle on Twitter – it’s especially powerful as it allows you to create search queries, the example you see below is a column that I created on a search for “Duck Rabbit.” Note that I’m looking for a product name, not a twitter handle.

Duck Rabbit on the Tweets

I cannot say enough how much of an advantage I think it is for your brewery to use Twitter effectively and efficiently, the return on investment in incalculable. Use it. You’ll thank me.

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Categories: blog, brewery, industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Apr 2009 @ 12 21 PM

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