10 May 2012

Can Beer Save America?

David Sirota wrote an interesting article at Salon about how buying craft beer is saving America from America's "low price fetish". He argues that buying things like craft beer, hybrid cars and high end light bulbs will end the corporate low price over everything else mentality, and lead to an America creating "high-quality, high-performance, innovative products for which the world will pay extra."

One interesting idea presented in the article is that AB-InBev and MillerCoors don't really market their beers, they market the can or bottle: Coors Light has mountains that turn blue so you know when the beer is cold; Miller has a punch top can, ". . .the first specifically engineered to shotgun beer — that is, specifically designed to drink beer in a way that makes sure you don’t actually taste the beer" ; even now-popular-again Pabst and Budweiser aren't going to sell high end product, but will instead focus on linking their products to the military by producing red, white and blue cans and bottles, and donate a portion of the profit to charity.

While the big breweries are trying to produce volume to drive their profits, which means using cheaper ingredients to churn out flavorless beer to be sold cheaply in 24 packs. Craft beer, on the other hand, Sirota asserts, is trying to sell more expensive beer of better quality in smaller packages.

Sirota does err when he suggests that the macrobrewers use inexpensive and low quality ingredients to make low quality beer. This isn't true. Maltsters and hop growers sell the same product to AB-InBev and MillerCoors that they sell to craft brewers. The macrobrewers produce quality beer that is, essentially, flavorless. He also suggests that ABV is necessary for flavor. It can be a component of flavor in a barleywine, but it won't be in a Belgian Witbier.

Ray Daniels tweeted that there was an additional factor in the fight for America's soul: "AB/Miller/Coors come from 20thC consumer marketing: simple inoffensive goods sold to all consumers by mass media. That paradigm is dying."

Another example of this phenomenon is Pace Picante sauce. I remember reading somewhere that their mild salsa is their best seller. (I think their "hot" salsa is medium, their "medium" is mild and their "mild" is thick tomato soup. But that's just me.)

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posted by Jeff Holt at 10:11

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