Friday, January 31, 2014

Selling Beer

For all brewers -- except homebrewers, of course -- despite whatever else it may be, brewing beer is a business.  Some may be looking to get rich, some may be looking to get by, some may not care if they lose money at it, but on some level, every commercial brewer is trying to sell the beer they make to the public.

I was reminded of this recently by a couple of things.  First, as we get ready for the Super Bowl this weekend, the big beer companies have been trotting out their new ads.  Here's the one from AB-InBev:

Obviously this is a fantastic commercial, in the sense that it's cute and heartwarming, but it begs the obvious question: What does this have to do with the beer they sell?  Other than playing into the  old joke about Budweiser being the product of a diabetic Clydesdale, I fail to see the nexus between this commercial, cute as it is, and the product it is advertising.  Best Buds?  You could sell marijuana in Colorado with that slogan...

And therein lies the problem with most mainstream beer ads: they talk about everything except the beer.  A cute puppy and a clever pun in an ad campaign are no more likely to attract someone who drinks beer for the taste than is a clever beer name.  It doesn't hurt to have a memorable name, but no one drinks Russian River's Pliny the Elder or Dogfish Head's 90 Minute IPA because they think the names are cool.  They drink them because they are exceptional beers, produced by exceptional breweries, with tremendous reputations.  That's why craft beer sales are growing, while beer as a whole is losing market share.

In my book, that's better than all the cute puppies and magnificent horses in the world.

But then again, I'm not the marketing director for AB-InBev...

And just to show that I'm not playing favorites, we had a Miller-Coors fiasco this week with regards to their upcoming release of Miller Fortune.  This 6.9% ABV beer is explicitly designed to try to win back some of the drinkers who have switched from beer to spirits.  Unfortunately, the mainstream press who tried to report on it are so totally clueless about beer (thanks in no small part to decades of the big producers treating beer as being nothing but a commodity) that when Bloomberg News Service ran a story on it (MillerCoors Seeks Spirit Fans with Bourbon-like Lager), follow-up stories in other outlets totally dropped the ball as to what was going on, stating that the new beer actually contained bourbon, forcing MillerCoors to issue a clarifying press release.  All this begs the question as to why mainstream media outlets can't be bothered to hire someone who knows something about beer to write about it.  Time, for example, assigned their Health reporter to write about Miller Fortune.  I guess they never heard of the North American Guild of Beer Writers; let me suggest that the next time they need a beer story written, they pay one of us to do it!

At least what they print will make some sense...

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, you wanted to make a beer commercial that was actually about the beer.  Then you might come up with something like this:

Green Bench Brewing "Journey of Beer" from Momentum on Vimeo.

Well, after all that national news and opnion, what's up on the Alaska beer scene?

Silver Gulch Brewing has their Lowbush Cranberry Belgian Saison on tap.  It's described as: "A Belgian saison flavored with cranberries. Pilsen, Munich and Vienna malts are combined with Styrian Golding hops to give a delicate bittering, while spicy/peppery notes compliment the dry, tart, fruity brew. 5.6% ABV, 28 IBUs."

HooDoo Brewing has announced that they have begun barrel-aging their 2014 Barley Wine in Dry Fly Whiskey barrels.  The plan is to keep the beer on the wood for 6 to 12 months.  As part of the UAF Chancellor's Gala, HooDoo will be holding a beer & food afternoon from 3 to 4:30 pm on Sunday, March 30.  All proceeds go to support charity and tickets are $55 per person, available on the Gala's website.

I received an email from Shawn Standley at Denali Brewing the other day.  In part, it said that February would be a quiet month in Talkeetna, making it a great time to visit.  If you need more encouragement, here's the current beer list at the Twister Creek Restaurant:

Click to enlarge

While February will be slow, March looks to be hoppin'.  Here's the list of events:

March 1-2:  Iditarod
March 8: The Trio - a fat tire bike race sponsored by Speedway Cycles and Denali Brewing Company.Here's the poster for it:

March 15: Oosik Classic
April 4-6: Beer Trippin' in Talkeetna with the GNBC home brew competition

Arkose Brewery in Palmer will be having another of their excellent Beer Meets Chocolate events on -- wait for it -- Valentines Day!  Here's the poster for that one:

Click to enlarge
At King Street, they are still pouring their Bock and their Barrel-aged Breakfast Stout.

Over at Glacier BrewHouse, they have a new Baltic Porter on tap, courtesy of assistant brewer Bart Chelmo.  Here's how they describe it:

"Medium body, low bitterness, and smooth lager characteristics combine with flavors of chocolate and roast perfectly. Deep, dark ruby in color. Alcohol:6.56% by volume."

Sleeping Lady has announced their next Beer Dinner, taking place on Wednesday, February 26th at 6 PM.  Tickets are $55 each and are on sale now.  Here's the menu:

Click to enlarge

Midnight Sun's Beer Ambassador Darcy will be in Seattle tonight, pouring their Arctic Devil Barley Wine at Chuck's Hop Shop.

Last Saturday, Kassik's Brewery held their 2014 Vertical Barley Wine dinner.  Unfortunately, it was the same night as the Beer & Bacon Festival at the Challenger Center, so I couldn't make it, but I understand it was sold out and a great time, as was the Beer & Bacon Fest.

Over at Kenai River Brewing, they have a new brewer, Devin Wagner.  You can read more about that in my next Redoubt Reporter column, which will be out next Wednesday.  Meantime, the last of the Winter Warlock Old Ale went on tap today at the brewery.  If you haven't tried it yet, or just would like to have some while watching the Super Bowl, this is your last chance.

Finally, let's do a couple of beer reviews.

21st Amendment's Lower De Boom Barley Wine:  I was eager to give this one a try, if for no other reason than it was packaged in a 8.4 oz. can, which is pretty unique.  It poured a deep honey color, with a small, cream-colored head that dissipated rapidly to a collar.  The initial aroma had some hops, but they were somewhat subdued, compared to a typical American Barley Wine (like Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot, for example).  The carbonation was fairly low, and the mouthfeel was medium.  There was some initial hop bitterness, but once again it seemed subdued, and there was some heat from the 11.5% ABV on the finish.  The label listed 95 IBUs, but it did not taste close to that.  In searching for an explanation, I happened to turn the can over.  That's when I noticed the packing date on the bottom: 02/05/2013.  Now it made sense; after a year in the can, I'm sure the beer had lost a lot of its hop character.  I'll try to find a fresher sample to try next time around.

The Lost Abbey's Saint's Devotion Belgian Pale Ale:  I picked this one up last October when I was down in the Bay Area.  Since it was bottled with Brett, I was giving it some time for the funkiness to develop.  It poured a lovely crystal-clear gold with a big white head.  There was plenty of Brett funkiness in the nose.  Carbonation was excellent, and the mouthfeel was light and refreshing.  The Brett flavors were present but not excessive, giving it nice, crisp flavors.  It finishes quite dry.  Overall, slightly tart and very refreshing.

That's it for this week.  More news and reviews next week.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

No comments: