22 Jun 2016 @ 10:46 AM 

You might remember a story from a few weeks ago: Budweiser renames beer ‘America’ this summer.

I’ll admit – I don’t get it.  I feel like they’re pandering to an audience that they’re not likely to lose.  I’m not sure if someone thinks that this will draw in consumers from some heretofore unknown market segment or if someone just thought it was cool (and if it’s the latter, then, fair enough).  The most thought that I’ve put to it beyond that was, “How did they get TTB approval for that?”

I guess there’s nothing necessarily BAD about it.  But you’re not supposed to have anything on the label that suggests a government endorsement nor put anything on the label that’s designed to confuse or misrepresent the product to the consumer and, well, here’s the label:


I don’t know about you, but this seems to represent that Budweiser is American which I would consider to be confusing to the consumer.  And, look, it started here, but it’s clearly moved on and doesn’t really need us anymore.  And E Pluribus Unum?  One, out of many.  I guess it does make a lot of sense for the King of Mergers and Acquisitions.

Anyway, that’s about the last I thought about it until a couple of weeks ago when I was preparing a lunch-and-learn about label approval in NC.  I always use Anheuser Busch as one of my examples because they just have SO many brands, and they tend to represent them legally differently than most small breweries.

And that’s when I noticed this:


Let me tell you a story about this picture.  When you register a brand in North Carolina, you need to turn into a label approval form.  On that label approval form, you designate the Supplier (Anheuser Busch), the Brand – which designates distribution rights, the Product Description (Pale Ale, etc.), and a Fanciful Name (where most small breweries put the name of their beer).

Anheuser Busch generally lists their individual Brands in the Brand field instead of a Fanciful Name, which is a legitimate practice.   If you search for Budweiser, you get 75 different results.


It means that they have the ability to control distribution rights on each individual brand (which is really useful if you’d like the ability to punish or reward an individual distributor).  So, okay, no problem, so I searched for America.


Fun, right?  Now, I’m no alcohol lawyer, but this suggests to me that America is being distributed illegally in North Carolina.  So, I took my time and filed a little bit of paperwork, so now if you search in public records, you can find this:


That’s why it’s my pleasure to announce that just in time for America’s birthday, you can find America, a Ridiculously Patriotic Extra Pale Ale available in cans from Mystery Brewing Company.  They’ll be available July 1 at our Public House in Hillsborough (and it’s really delicious).

(high res if you click)


And hopefully I don’t get sued off of the planet. In the meantime, I’ll be drinking this baby on July 4. Happy birthday, America.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 22 Jun 2016 @ 10:46 AM

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 18 Jan 2012 @ 9:36 PM 

Herein lies one of the things that keeps me up at night.

Now that Mystery lays on the cusp of opening, I find myself faced with an interesting new challenge: the words “highly anticipated” that I keep on seeing pop up in articles and on social media.

On one hand – holy shit that’s awesome. It’s mind-blowingly flattering to know that people are looking forward to the opening of Mystery and to know that people are excited about the beer that we’re going to make. I can’t help but think that it’s at least in part to the fact that we’ve been out and about in the community, sharing samples whenever possible, and generally trying to build buzz.

Here’s the thing that worries me: As soon as we open our doors and roll out onto the market, we graduate from pre-opening buzz. How do you keep that wow? We’re planning on releasing some beers that we’re excited about, but, y’know.. it’s just beer. It’s good beer, but it’s not like we’re releasing gold-plated eaglets bedazzled with elf tears. Will the anticipation built in pre-opening buzz live up to a blonde ale, even if it’s a great one? What if it’s not spectacular enough?

A few months ago, when I participated in a charity event called Cask for a Cure, I found myself in a preview of the situation that I imagine I will find myself in shortly. The event was originally going to be just a cask from Mystery and a cask from Haw River Farmhouse Ales. We were contacted by the organizer of the event saying, “Hey – so, what if we try to get casks from these other people who are starting breweries?” and my first thought was: “Man, I’m not even open yet and I’m already not exciting enough; they need someone newer.” In the end, it worked out great and I met some great new guys who are getting into the industry, but it was initially very intimidating.

It’s a little bit of what I’m worried about in the marketplace, though it’s something that I’ve seen other breweries weather and handle well. It’s exciting to see the spotlight sweep your way, and I kind of wish we could revel in it. I don’t think it’s something you can chase. You run the risk of seeming gimmicky if you’re constantly hitting the market with the most alcoholic beer ever made, or the 1000 IBU beer, or a beer made with live turtles or something like that.

Right now, I think the only thing we can do is just keep on making great beer and hoping that it’s enough to keep us a little corner of the wow and to try, every once in a while, to nudge back into it with a release.

Until we lose that wow, though, I think we’re going to enjoy it. See you on the market soon.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 18 Jan 2012 @ 09:36 PM

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Categories: brewery, new beer, startup
 07 Jul 2011 @ 3:10 PM 

Among other things, I consider myself somewhat of a feminist.

I know, I know. It might seem a little contradictory because I own a penis, but trust me: I’m all for equality among the sexes. Some of the most important people in my life are women and I want to see them treated fairly and, frankly, like people rather than some mystical, mysterious demographic. When I see something that I consider sexist, I tend to get up in arms. Unfortunately, I don’t really have the vagina uterus credentials to do it properly, and I’ve been known to get up in arms about things that I might be a little idealistic about, so there’s your warning for the rest of this article.

One of the first things I saw this morning via Twitter was this tweet referring to an blog post over on Smart Bitches about a “scientific” article about romance novels that was, essentially, very sexist toward women. The assumptions of said scientific article are basically long-perpetuated stereotypes about women and romance (and I won’t even get into the dodgy sampling/research).

That should give you a little bit of an idea about the kind of reading I do on a daily basis. Hi. I’m a complex individual.

Then, as I was trolling through Twitter this afternoon I came across a little discussion about Chick Beer.

Go ahead and click on that link, swallow a little bile, and come back. I’ll wait.

Got your eyes adjusted away from the pinksplosion? Right on.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. No – strike that, I do. I can start back about two years ago with the BitterSweet Partnership. (“Finally, a beer just for women!” – Nice market research!) Yeah-huh. This isn’t the first beer for women, but it does make the same basic assumptions:

Women are delicate creatures that need to be coddled. They can’t possibly determine what kind of beer they like out of such a complex array on the shelves, because hey: learning is hard! Not to mention, we all know that beer makes you fat, so slow down girl! You want something low in calories, low in carbonation, low in bloat! Something pink!

It’s the same damn thing as that article above. It’s women perpetuating ridiculous and insulting stereotypes about… women!

Here. Let me describe a beer for you that I think sounds disgusting. Women who read my blog, please let me know if you think this beer sounds appealing:

A slightly flat Light American lager.

Whooo-hoo! Can we serve it warm, too?

Does it sound more appealing if you know the six-pack looks chic, like you’re carrying a cute little purse? What about that the label is shiny? How do you think the six-pack carrier or label will change the flavor? Please frame your answer using as few expletives as possible.

Here’s the way I see it: If women really truly want a choice in beer that suits their taste and style, there are 1700+ craft breweries in the country to choose from and I guarantee that many of them will make something that suits someone’s individual taste and style … assuming they like beer. And if they don’t like beer? I suggest starting there instead of something they’ve probably already tried: slightly flat Light American Lager.

Where does this crap come from? Haven’t we been able to move past this in the industry? Women drink beer. A lot of women drink beer. And if my experience has taught me anything what they like is robust, flavorful beer. Not something designed for their delicate sensibilities, but ones that they enjoy because.. oh.. they like the taste of it, not because it comes in some fancy, shiny, carrying case.

It’s an exemplary example of something that I really like to argue: That when you separate women as a social group, regardless of your intent, you are being inherently sexist. What the underlying assumption to all of this is, is that women have to be treated differently than men. I see the intent: You want something that women will enjoy, that will make them feel special, etc. – but that underlying assumption, while well-intentioned, is also what allows this incredibly short-sighted and sexist example and will continue to provide many more as long as people continue to treat women as though they are inherently NOT people.

As a lot of people have said on the internets already today: I hope this is a joke. I hope this is designed as satire. But I doubt it.

Sorry, ladies. You’ll just have to drink it. After all, it’s designed just for you.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 07 Jul 2011 @ 04:19 PM

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 26 Jul 2010 @ 11:48 AM 

Who knew that the straw that broke the camel’s back would be carried there by a stoat, much less a stoat in a rather dapper kilt?

I don’t want to write about this beer – about whether or not it’s a beer, or whether or not it should be packaged in a squirrel, or anything. I’m on the side of things that, I believe, would make me a “hater“, even though I think I have fairly reasonable views. I do think that this is the most striking photography of roadkill that I have ever seen, and also I have a secret love of stoats that.. well, I guess is not so secret anymore.

What I want to write about is how fascinating I find it that BrewDog has apparently worn out their welcome on extreme beers so quickly. It’s really pretty amazing. Less than a year ago they were the new darlings of the craft beer industry. This past week, you’d think that they had made a beer made with dead stoat, not packaged in one. I think it’s a really interesting lesson.

Certainly, BrewDog is still getting a lot of really great coverage from mainstream media, but mainstream media continually shows their inability to report about craft beer. They still include things like how many Budweisers that would equal or use wine experts to talk about this new beer fad. Make a splash that will sell a couple of papers or make people keep their cable news on for more than a few minutes and the mainstream media will flock to you. In this case, I think that BrewDog deserves it. They have certainly made a statement.

I’m not sure that I think that BrewDog deserves the ire that it is receiving from craft beer enthusiasts, but I think I know how they got there. If I may:

Over-exclusivity: Craft beer geeks love hard-to-find stuff. Like any comic book with Superman #1 or baseball card collector looking for that Mickey Mantle rookie card, there’s prestige to be had amongst peers for those who can get their hands on rare beer. Why else is there such a hullabaloo over Dark Lord? No doubt, it is great beer. But there are many comparable imperial stouts on the market that are much easier to get your hands on. They don’t have the exclusivity.

With Tactical Nuclear Penguin, Brew Dog created their fair share of exclusivity by having a limited amount of a high end product and by being located in the farthest northern reaches of Scotland. It’s a real pain in the ass to get the product out of there, especially if you happen to live in the U.S. (which appears to be their primary market – I’d be interested to find out how much beer they sell in the U.S. vs. the U.K.). Somehow, TNP seemed like it was a fairly reasonable cost, up front. In the end, I was surprised that the bottle I partook of was only 12 ounces, but hey – there’s a price for exclusivity, and that price was ~$75.

Sink the Bismarck seemed like it carried on the joke, and actually got good reviews, but the price went up. And, of course, this happened again with The End of History leaving most beer geeks to wonder:

What’s the point of spending your time creating a beverage that nobody will ever drink?


Is something exclusive worth having if it’s specifically designed to be exclusive?

If a baseball card is release with a misprint, it becomes an immediate collectible. The value of the card goes up because the baseball card company will correct the misprint, thus making the misprinted card hard-to-find. The value of the card rises in the hands of collectors, but the original cost of the card was just the same as any card.

If baseball cards started getting released with intentional misprints, and sold by companies at a premium because of the exclusivity of said misprint, I think that the value – in the hands of collectors – would drop significantly.

Products become collectibles if everybody has a chance to attain said item but only a few do. By pushing the envelope like this, I think that BrewDog has actually pushed itself outside of realm of beer geek collectibles, simply because the product is not readily available to the common man. It’s, “Buy this if you’re rich.”

What I don’t think that BrewDog understands (based on their comments/responses to critics) is that people aren’t angry because the product was made, and most of them aren’t even angry that it’s packaged inside a dead animal. They’re angry because they’ll never get to try it. They never had a chance.

Gaudy Self-Promotion:

I like the BrewDog guys. I think they’re funny, and I think they make some good beer, even though I don’t think they push the envelope nearly as much as they think they do. I was surprised, upon meeting James at the Craft Brewers Conference this past year, that he seemed kind of shell-shocked and nervous. Maybe it was jet lag. I expected a little more Trainspotting, a little less polite Brit.

I dislike their videos.

Why? Because they make me laugh, they’re well-done, and I can tell that they know it. They’re always so fucking cool. It’s not irony and sarcasm that doesn’t carry to America, gentlemen, it’s the lack of self-loathing. Watch a few weeks of normal American sitcoms for a while to find out what kind of depressing drivel constitutes our national pastime (ie – watching television from 6PM – 11PM) and you’ll understand.

Okay.. really: That the product releases seem designed to be marketing campaigns for the brewery and, specifically for James and Martin and their costume rental outlet, rather than to actually promote a product available for general consumption is what irks. They’re funny, but the only thing they tell me is that you’re so cool for having made this product, and I’ll never get it and also, you’re awesome. It’s hard to swallow. I’ll keep watching them because they make me laugh, but they’ll make me cringe a little each time.

Responding to critics: Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

Look, fellas: You are pushing the envelope on the extreme beer department. In this case, you’ve packaged a $1000 beverage inside of roadkill. Could you not foresee that this would cause some sort of a stir? It doesn’t matter if it’s a joke or you guys are goofing around. By responding to critics (with a numbered list on BeerAdvocate, a.k.a. snotty critic central), you leave us with one of three basic assumptions:

1) You had no idea that this product or the manner in which it was packaged it would cause this type of response, (which, frankly, raises some doubts about how much you’ve thought through product development) and you are honestly responding with surprise at how it’s being received.

2) You knew damn well that this product would be controversial and that responding to your critics in the fashion that you are is some sort of calculated part of your marketing.

3) You’re just making all this up as you go along.

Please, take this piece of advice from a nerd: Don’t feed the trolls. You knew that you’d get shit back about this. Why? Because you’ve been getting shit back about everything you’ve done pretty much since you opened. Responding only does two things. It gives people more ammunition and it makes you look like you’re either clueless or a dick. You’re the best representation your company has – you’re not doing yourself any favors by attempting to go point by point with anonymous douchebags on the internet. They have nothing to lose. You lose face, especially since you’re so effortlessly cool in your videos.

There are a lot of things you can do when people start to talk shit about your product on the internet. Direct response suggesting that they don’t understand? Low on the list. Real low.

All in all, BrewDog is, of course, going to come out ahead in all of this. Sure. They may have lost money on each stoat. They may lose cred with quite a few beer geeks who have watched this all unfold, but they have received an untold amount of international press which will probably end up selling enough 5 AM Saint and Punk Dog IPA to people who have never heard of them to make it all worth it… for now.

It’ll be interesting to see their next product release, how it’s handled, how it’s received, and how long BrewDog will be referenced by people outside of the industry as the “dead squirrel beer guys.”

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 26 Jul 2010 @ 11:49 AM

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 13 Apr 2010 @ 5:53 PM 

The challenge: To not be a total freakin’ douchebag.

The prize: I send you my two Dark Lord tickets, and you get beer.

The catch: You also use one of the tickets for me, and send me the beer.

What? Exactly. So what happened was this: Dark Lord tickets went on sale. “Awesome!”, thought I, “I’ll check that out!” And then I looked at the cost of the tickets and thought, “That’s reasonable – all I have to do is get to Indiana on Dark Lord Day.. how hard could that be?”

Well, as it turns out, I’m already committed that weekend, so no overnight roadtrip to Indiana will be made. That means that you, my friend, can profit. I will give you one of my tickets, if you send me some Dark Lord. I will even cover the cost of shipping.

Edited to note: I’ll pay for my portion of the Dark Lord. All I need from you is pickup and (safe) mailing.

How do I participate? You write, in the comments here, a good reason why I should trust you to not be a total asshat and keep all the beer – or worse – turn around and sell my tickets for money. I’ll pick a winner and contact you individually about how to work out the transaction.

Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 13 Apr 2010 @ 06:04 PM

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