Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Better Beer VS Better Marketing ~ the quest for inspirational diversity in a sea of borish conformity

As a beer ambassador, it can be rather tiresome coming across the same old tired prejudice of what beer should taste like.

“I don’t like the taste of beer. It’s gross”.

Well, you know what, I don’t like the taste of that “beer” either, if you can even really call it beer since it is so far removed from what beer was, is, and should be.

Take your standard macro light lager, for example. It’s watery, artificially carbonated, brewed at lightning speeds in massive quantities with the smallest amount of the necessary ingredients and as many thinning adjuncts as possible so that you, the glorified pounder, can drink as many of their watery, spritzy flavored beverages as possible and not worry about calories. Taste is not a factor because there is nothing to taste which is why it must be served tastebud freezing cold. Getting drunk is not a factor either because the sheer volume you would have to drink leads to fullness and bloating long before it leads to euphoria. Of course, that defeats the purpose of sipping a light beer, but that’s another matter for another day. So, why drink it? Water at this point becomes the cheaper, tastier, and more health-conscious quaffing beverage; not some unnaturally light beer.

The pushers of tasteless macro light beers are very aware of what they are doing, and it all boils down to marketing and numbers, none of which actually involves the end product. Take Michelob Ultra for example. If it stopped making Budweiser money, they would drop it like the Bubonic Plague and another highly marketed tasteless beer would take its place with nary a salty tear or lonesome cry of sorrow. Realizing their dilemma of flavorlessness, Budweiser has recently released a line of flavored alcopop beverages under their Michelob Ultra brand, one of which competes directly with Bud Light Lime, a division of their own company. This means they are ultimately looking to squeeze as much money as possible from that beer category until the lake dries up, at which point the machine will roll out the next big fad. Why? For money. It’s most certainly not because they care about their product, their consumers, and their ability as adult men and women to drink freely, choose freely, and to find for themselves the joys of better beer.

Over the last few years I have found that a large part of it boils down to taste: the main component of any beer and of beer in general since around 5000BC. Granted, beer was rather crude back then, but even so, despite of or maybe because of its life-saving properties and magical euphoria, all the more reason it should be pleasant to drink, carrying flavors and aromas which were both enjoyable and readily accessible. Beer itself was a source of money and trade for centuries, its value determined by quality, taste, and the ability to age well. A beer that could last a hot summer season and still taste good, maybe even better, was a blessing and prized amongst all. I dare say our Ale-Wives, Brew-Mistresses, and Brewers of yore are crying rivers while howling in their graves. If they could rise again, they’d probably shoot themselves to escape the pain of bad beer; that or settle down where the craft beer flows freely and imports are as easy to find as McDonald’s. Our founding fathers, homebrewers and beer enthusiasts themselves would lament the apparent corruption of a proud, flavorful beverage of refreshment and history.

In a way, craft brewers and many import brewers are vital protectors of history, culture, local flavors, traditions, and taste. There are many beer styles which have since gone extinct, but there are many which still thrive to this day almost exactly as they were. A lot of the import beers which are available in the States are the foreign equivalent of craft and/or artisanal beers. They just happen to not be brewed in the good ole US of A, thus imports. There are beer styles which had been extinct for ages but were lovingly revived and given a new breath of life by the brewers and drinkers who humbly enjoy them for all they represent: diversity, taste, history, culture, pride, and passion.

Thankfully, the craft beer scene is alive and well and thriving despite our current economic situation. Whereas macro beers have remained in a market-growth stalemate over the last few years, craft and import beers have continued to grow, oft times in double digits. They may not hit the double digit mark this year as they had been doing so for the last few years, but they will still continue to grow. The movement towards quality of beer and in doing so, quality of life in America is growing and spreading. If only one person and one beer at a time, it is still growth which is far more than the macros can say for themselves and their tired, watered down products. Even after dabbling in the craft beer scene, the Big 3 still cannot break their stagnancy. Because they focus on marketing and sales and not the actual time-consuming detail-oriented process of crafting a better beer, their product eventually ends up sitting on the beer shelves collecting dust while the craft and import beer selection continues to diversify and grow.

Appreciation of good beer brewed from only 100% natural ingredients cannot but help to eventually bleed into one’s other Life Choices. Eating, drinking, exercising, entertainment, reflection…choosing quality beer is a state of mind. Much like dieting is a pointless waste of time if one doesn’t address the root of the issue, the same is true with beer. I am living testament to this fact. The affable Michael Jackson is a personal hero of mine who passed before I had the opportunity to tell him so. Garrett Oliver stirs my often-times neglected love for good artisanal foods, the perfect accompaniment to hand-crafted artisanal beers. It’s my life and yours, so the choices you make are yours alone, but I challenge anyone who is brave enough to take an honest step back and look at the whole picture of Beer. Is it a personal choice born of knowledge, education, information, and experience? Or is it a product of flashy ads, catchy jingles, and multi-billion dollar campaigns making that decision for you? Am I a drone? Or am I free thinker? Only you can make that choice, and it is your choice alone.

Beer is a time-honored and treasured beverage, quite literally a “water of life”, rich with flavors, aromas, and history. I love it. It stimulates my senses, my mind, and my drive for quality of life. Quality in terms of quantity is OK, too, but balance is always important. I believe that choice leads to abundance in one’s life which can stand the rigors of time.

To Beer – She will not fail me no matter the year, place, and time. May she forever shine brightly in my heart, accompanied by her near and dear sister, whisky. Eyes closed, mind open, and nose to the passing winds, I place myself deep within the embrace of Life.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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