Category Archives: consumer

Beer Displays and Brand Equity

You probably don’t notice it. It flies under the radar. The phenomenon of which I speak? The organization of the beer fridge in bottle shops.

To start this discussion, let’s examine the way wine is organized in most any given bottle shop or market. You walk in and you see shelf-talkers or hanging signs that all have a varietal on them. “Cabernet Sauvignon” is over here, “Pinot Noir” is over there, etc, etc, so on and so forth. Region and producer are most often ignored in favor of easy categorization.

The beer fridge however, tends to reveal a bit more variation. If you go to a supermarket, you’ll most often find a wall of two or three macrobrewer products (in many different packaging formats) that create the banner effect these companies covet in such retail outlets. What craft beer they carry tends to be organized by brewery. This of course applies only where they carry more than one beer from a given brewery.

Where we see a bit more variation is in bottle shops (those places whose focus is beer, wine and spirits). It is in these stores that the wine approach sometimes takes over the beer fridge. Rather than seeing all of a brewery’s product in one place, things get spread out by style. Tripels over here, IPA’s over there, Stouts all in one place, etc, etc, so on and so forth.

The question becomes, what to make of this? Having seen the brand-building power of social media in the craft beer world, I can’t help but worry a bit about the effect that organization by style may have. As far as wine goes, people tend to purchase by varietal, rather than by winemaker. In beer however, people still base their purchases heavily upon brewery.

If you enter a shop organized by style and want to buy a couple things from Ballast Point, you have to go to the IPA section to get Sculpin and the Porter section to get Black Marlin. Not good for the consumer, not good for the brewery. Obviously, if you’re looking to try a bunch of IPA, then its easier if the beer is organized by style, but I don’t believe such organization is good for craft brewers in the long term.

Organization by style completely destroys brand equity in the eyes and mind of the consumer. Rather than recognizing a bunch of beers from a given brewery, all the consumer sees is a bunch of Pale Ales. Breweries all have their own strengths and their own unique personalities. Many of them have used Social Media to let consumers get to know them, their philosophies and their personalities. They have spent a tremendous amount of time and resources defining themselves to the consumer.

Working in the beer industry, I find that more people ask what beers are available from “Brewery X” at a given time rather than what beers of a particular style are available. This is especially true at better beer bars, whose focus is a variety of style. You’re unlikely to find more than one Witbier or Porter on tap. However, customers consistently ask questions like, “What do you have from Stone?” or “What’s on tap from Russian River?” These and many other breweries have built a reputation for brewing excellent beer and customers will often drink whatever beer happens to be available from that brewery, regardless of style.

When bottle shops spread beer out by style, they degrade this brand equity and unknowingly move beer consumers into a frame of mind that mirrors wine consumers. Brand starts to matter less than style. Craft brewers and sellers of craft beer must be aware of this phenomenon and fight it. Craft brewers need to maintain brand equity. Sellers of craft beer must realize that they can leverage that equity to sell more beer. Put a brewery’s beer all in one place and you’ll sell more of that brewery’s beer. Do this for every brewery and the math does itself. You sell more beer and you create customers that are more loyal to a given brewery and a given bottle shop. It makes sense for everyone.

Photo Credit: Mike Beningo

The Goose Island Sale: Another Reason to Go Local

Like many others, I was none too pleased to hear of Anheuser-Busch/InBev’s purchase of Goose Island. However, I was less concerned with Goose Island’s motivations than I was with AB/InBev’s. As far as Goose Island goes, Greg and John Hall were understandably weary from running the day-to-day operations of a business for as long as they had. They wanted the company to grow and needed an infusion of capital. No problems there.

However, knowing what I know of AB/InBev’s sales strategies, I will likely stop buying what little Goose Island product I already did. My previous purchases consisted entirely of Bourbon County Stout, Sofie, Pere Jacques and Juliet so I won’t put much of a dent in the bottom line, but I will miss those products. What are the motivations behind my new shopping strategy? Well, as far as I can tell, AB/InBev bought Goose Island for two reasons. Firstly, Goose Island is an attractive, profitable commodity with lots of room for growth. It’s a great addition to AB/InBev’s portfolio. Secondly, AB/InBev seems to be trying to shore up its slipping market share by snatching up one of the companies that put a decent-sized dent into that market share in the Midwest.

In other words, if I buy a Goose Island product now, the profits go into AB/InBev’s coffers (to at least some degree). I cannot abide such an outcome. Go to the supermarket beer section and you’ll find out why. See that giant wall of Bud Light products? How many different formats do you count? Ten? Twelve? Fifteen? The “wall of product” sales strategy is despicable. Glass bottles, aluminum bottles, aluminum cans, all of various sizes, all in boxes and packs of different quantity, all limiting consumer choice (taking shelf space from competitors) by flooding the market with a load of different formats that all contain THE SAME PRODUCT! It makes me a little sick to my stomach.

But I’m not all that worried that I won’t buy Goose Island products anymore. Surely some in the Midwest, for whom Goose Island is a regular purchase, will experience greater difficulty. In my case though, I will simply continue to focus on the plethora of world-class, local products readily available for my consumption. I need only look a couple hours to South to San Diego to find Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, Stone, Ballast Point, AleSmith, etc, etc, ad infinitum. One can likely make the same argument in the Midwest. There is no shortage of non-AB/InBev-owned breweries in the middle of the country turning out well-made, readily available craft beer.

My point, then, is simple. In the short term, the sale of Goose Island is really much ado about nothing. As long as those who care about where their money goes keep themselves educated, they can make informed purchases. If you don’t care about AB/InBev’s sales strategies, then you needn’t change a thing. If you do care about those sales strategies, and they make you a little queasy, then don’t buy beer from companies in which AB/InBev holds a stake.

In the long term, I suppose we’ll see whether AB/InBev tries to use Goose Island as a means to muscle smaller beer producers out of the market. If they do, I am confident that there will be a strong consumer pushback. There are few, if any, consumer bases that are better or more informed than the craft beer-drinking public. And their ranks are growing every day. People care more than ever about where their purchases are coming from and where their money is going because it’s easier to find out than ever before. The internet, and the ready availability of relatively reliable information is the great equalizer for smaller companies whose focus is quality and integrity. Let’s hope those companies continue to leverage the internet and social media to get their message out and keep the public well (and accurately) informed.

Photo Credit: AB/InBev Goose Mock-Up: Girl’s Guide to Beer

Beer Hype: A Double-Edged Sword

You’ve heard the names ad nauseum in the craft beer world. Darkness, Dark Lord, Black Tuesday, etc, etc, etc. These are beers crafted in (necessarily) small batches from very well-respected breweries. They have dates on the calendar dedicated to their releases. They are the subjects of post after post (after post, after post) on beer-related internet fora. They can command sums 10 times their purchase price on eBay. And that’s all awesome. It’s great to see that type of interest in craft beer.

But these beers are also sources of alienation, consternation and anger. People who wait in line for hours for them are nonetheless precluded from purchasing them. People who wake up early and hit “refresh” constantly on a website to obtain release day tickets are shut out by those with faster internet connections. Those less fortunate inevitably take to the internet to call out the brewery or bar that wasn’t able to get them the beer they so desperately desired. It’s a bad situation for all involved.

There is no beer that exemplifies this dichotomy of experience better than Pliny the Younger. The Triple IPA produced by Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA seems to have a life of its own. Those who are able to obtain it feel as though the clouds have parted, bathing them in the light of the divine. Those who are unable, well, let’s just say they don’t feel that way.

Getting the beer usually involves a long wait in a line outside of a bar that has previously announced the date and time at which the beer will be tapped. This is where the problem starts. In this case, the demand far outstrips the supply. If the bar is lucky, the 5-gallon keg it gets will serve around 55-60 people (and that’s a BIG maybe). When faced with a line of 100+, there is no avoiding the fact that some people are going to walk away disappointed.

But how disappointed ought they be? That depends on a number of factors. The first that ought to be noted is the transparency of the establishment serving the beer. The bar runs the risk of losing some business by telling people that everyone past “Person X” in line won’t get the beer. However, one could argue that a lot more business is lost in pissed off customers if someone waits in line without knowing how much beer there is to go around.

Assuming the bar has told those waiting that there are “x” number of pours available, then the patrons are able to make an informed decision. If people still get angry, it’s because the specter of entitlement has reared its ugly head. Somewhere along the line, a number of beer geeks (a term I generally employ affectionately) decided that they should have access to every beer they desire. When they are shut out, they use any number of disparaging terms for the brewery, bar or proprietor in question. Sometimes it’s warranted, sometimes it’s not. Either way, objectivity is usually tossed out the window.

And this is the real issue with beer hype. On the one hand, it’s great to see a bunch of interest in craft beer. The mere fact that people would wait for hours to obtain a single beer is testament to the ever-growing popularity of the product. On the other hand, such hype leads to a host of unintended consequences.

For neophytes who are just getting into craft beer, the difficulty of dealing with such releases paints a skewed picture of the industry. Craft beer isn’t about hunting down the rarest of the rare (for most). Rather, it’s about being able to drink flavorful beer produced by someone who really cares about it. It’s about supporting an industry that gives a damn about its customers. But if your experience of the industry begins and ends with waiting in line for Pliny the Younger, you probably won’t be around for long if you aren’t able to obtain any.

For those who are already full-fledged enthusiasts, the view also becomes skewed. Sure, Pliny the Younger is a wonderful beer. It is clearly world class, and probably the best in its “style.” However, there are a ton of other beers that are probably as good, or at least close, that can be readily obtained. No lines. No disappointment. No reason to be pissed off. Also, there’s something to be said for discovering the next awesome beer rather than braving the masses to drink one that everyone already knows is good. This part of the chase gets lost in the hype.

There is no elegant solution for this issue. The brewers literally can’t make enough of their most hyped beers. If they are higher in alcohol or sour (and they usually are), they just take too long to make. In order to produce more, the brewery would have to sacrifice its financial wellbeing and also its core brands in the process. Understandably, they’d rather a lot of people enjoy beer they can readily produce than appease a few more myopic rare beer chasers.

So it comes down to this. If you go chasing a beer like Pliny the Younger, know what you’re getting yourself into. You’ll wait in a long line. You may not get the beer. But look on the bright side. You’ll be at a beer bar. There will be other awesome stuff to drink. And you’ll be around a lot of like-minded individuals. If you don’t chase after it, you can take solace in the huge world of incredible beer that is otherwise currently available. The explosion of craft beer in America has made it possible for most to obtain a world-class beer merely by stepping down to the local bottle shop. So go take that trip and revel in how lucky you are to live in a world where it’s ridiculously easy to find great beer.

What do you mean you want a “light” beer?

You’ve heard it dozens of times (if not more). You’re sitting at the bar at your local purveyor of fermented beverage and someone walks up to order a beer. Bewildered by a selection of beers whose names and tap handles are unfamiliar, that someone says to the bartender, “Just give me something light.”

Here’s where the trouble starts. What the hell does “light” mean? For most, “light” is a color descriptor. A lot of folks have the common misperception that color provides an accurate indication of the strength, mouthfeel and degree of flavor in a given beer. This probably has mostly to do with the fact that Guinness is served nitrogenated. While Guinness is a comparatively small beer by ABV (4.2%), nitrogenation gives it a heavier mouthfeel, thus giving people the perception that it is a heavy beer (when it in fact has less calories than Budweiser).

The “light” phenomenon described above probably also has to do with the pale straw color of most mass-produced American lagers. These beers have very little body, very little alcohol and very little flavor. Further, they are the American beers with which most people are familiar. However, there are beers of similar color, such as Berliner Weisse, which have a comparatively huge amount of flavor. There are also beers of similar color (close enough anyway) that have a ton more body and more than double the alcohol, such as Belgian Tripels. Given the existence of such beers, perhaps “light” isn’t the best choice of words when describing what one wants at a bar.

Given the misconceptions of the general public, one must divine what “light” means. Firstly, people tend to be afraid of “dark” beers for one reason or another (again, Guinness probably has a lot to do with it). It stands to reason that people want a beer that’s light in color. But we can’t stop there. It is not however, a problem to work within the “light” color parameter (that issue can be worked out later).

What does “light” say about other preferences? As far as flavor goes it does not necessarily mean that someone wants less flavor. It may just mean that the beer drinker wants lighter, more delicate flavors. In other words, a Tripel and an IPA may be close to each other in color, but the person who asked for a “light” beer will probably be more pleased with the Tripel. The huge bitterness of an American IPA is often one of the final flavor frontiers conquered by the nascent craft beer enthusiast. However, the delicate, fruity esters and generally dry character of a Tripel may be right up someone’s alley.

Mouthfeel is an issue too. The person ordering a “light” beer probably wants one that doesn’t have too much weight. That’s fine. There are plenty of flavorful, pale-colored beers that don’t coat the mouth and punch the palate. An exemplar is Allagash White. Outside of Pierre Celis, there is no finer Belgian-Style Witbier in production. It has huge, spicy, fruity flavor but it also dances on the tongue and has a crisp, dry finish. It is the ultimate gateway beer and one that anyone ordering a “light” beer ought to be thrilled with.

So next time that hapless soul wends his or her way to the bar and asks for a “light” beer, be a mensch and ask them what they mean by “light.” Are they talking about color? Weight? Alcohol? Flavor? There are enough places out there where a craft beer enthusiast knows more than (or isn’t as busy as) the staff and can provide a great recommendation to a future craft beer convert if only the neophyte is asked to elaborate.

Cheers!

Craft Beer: More Costly. Better Value.

When spending more makes sense.


To borrow from Sam Calagione’s business philosophy in Brewing Up a Business, it strikes me that education has to be a very large component of the expansion of the craft beer movement beyond the realm of the enthusiast. One reason that the consumer needs to be educated is because craft beer costs more, on average, than industrial commodity beer. If the consumer merely sees “Beer 1” and “Beer 2,” and Beer 2 is cheaper, then the rational decision is to buy Beer 2. Aside from price, the consumer doesn’t know the difference between the two products. Beer is just beer.

The craft beer community must continue its efforts at education in order to give the consumer a reason to buy Beer 1 where Beer 1 is the pricier craft beer and Beer 2 is the industrial commodity beer. The question then becomes what sort of education is necessary, or desirable. Now let me stop here and acknowledge the fact that there are plenty of people who will never be ardent craft beer drinkers. That’s fine. I don’t judge them negatively. If they like to drink Bud Light that’s their business. All I will do is kindly tell them that I think there is beer out there that is a better value, even if it costs more. If they choose to inquire further, then I am more than willing to explain myself.

Also, I will acknowledge that for some, beer is merely a means to a drunken end. That’s also fine. As long you don’t hurt anybody but yourself I couldn’t care less. I will however advise you that there are cheaper and more efficient means to reach your desired result (read: clear liquor).

I suppose craft beer education for me comes down to a single concept: value. Every effort at education must be geared towards letting the consumer know why craft beer is a better value even though it’s more costly, perhaps even because it’s more costly (two italicized words in one sentence, eek!).

Why do I find craft beer more valuable than industrial commodity beer? First, craft beer has personality. I don’t just mean the hop-related pun names or the label art or the fact that the beer is generally more flavorful. What I mean is that there are people behind craft beer, rather than mega-corporations whose main goal is to raise their stock price. Where craft beer is your local restaurant whose owner cares about the food coming out of the kitchen, industrial beer is McDonald’s, a faceless entity churning out low-cost, low-flavor food designed more to make money than it is to satiate. In other words, part of the value of craft beer is knowing that my dollar is going to a person who cares about what they make.

Another portion of the value quotient is enjoyment. As I said above, if your enjoyment is derived solely from getting blitzed, there are better ways to “enjoy” (and they’re cheaper too). However, if you care about the contents of your glass and want to drink something that not only slakes your thirst, but dazzles your tastebuds, craft beer, almost regardless of cost, is a higher value proposition. Here’s how I explain it. Let’s take a six-pack of Budweiser and a six-pack of Deschutes Black Butte Porter. Each sixer contains 72 ounces of beer and roughly the same amount of alcohol (making degree of possible intoxication a nullity as far as decision-making goes). Let’s say Bud is on sale for $4.99 a six-pack and Black Butte is going for $8.99. I’m buying Black Butte every time because I derive greater value from Black Butte.

I will not enjoy a single ounce of that Bud sixer. Thus, every cent of that $4.99 is flushed down the drain as far as I’m concerned. However, I am virtually guaranteed to enjoy every ounce of my $8.99 sixer of Black Butte. Thus, it is a much better value. Beer is a luxury, not a necessity. No one needs to buy beer to live. So, if you’re going to spend money on beer, shouldn’t your dollar go farther? If thirst-quenching is the motive, buy a soda. If getting drunk is your motive, buy hard liquor. However, if your goal is to truly enjoy the beverage in your glass (and maybe catch a little buzz, which I willingly admit is quite pleasant) then your money is better spent on craft beer than industrial beer.

“But Alex,” you say, “I can get twice as much Bud as I can Black Butte.” I say, you’re missing the point. When drinking a beer with full flavor, satisfaction can come in a few ounces, rather than a few bottles. Greater enjoyment of the beer itself makes the beer a better value and also argues for more moderate consumption.

Let’s say you agree with me that craft beer tastes better, but you still can’t justify the cost. I would answer that good ingredients, and more of them, cost more money. You don’t expect to pay the price of a gourmet burger at McD’s. And why not? Because the components of the burger are of a lower quality and the labor to make the burger was cheaper and McD’s has no ambience and no personality. The same is true of your beer. Industrial beer is often made with one of the cheapest commodities there is in America: corn. The government subsidizes corn production to the point where farmers have no choice but to grow it. Since the price is artificially depressed, it makes a great substitute for barley; that is, if you don’t really care what your beer tastes like and you’re merely trying to capitalize on economies of scale.

Craft beer on the other hand, makes a point of using the best ingredients. Craft brewers must take this approach in order to ensure that their beer tastes good, because they can’t compete on price. Do some of them use corn occasionally? Sure. But they do so because it helps them achieve a certain flavor, not because they want to produce their product as cheaply as possible. They also generally use a helluvalot more hops than industrial brewers. Hops are expensive, but they contribute oodles of flavor and aroma in the hands of a talented brewer. Craft beer thus justifies its cost many times over.

So you say you can’t afford craft beer all the time and you want some booze in your life. That’s fine. Grab a handle of vodka. Take a few shots. Problem solved. Way cheaper per ounce of alcohol than buying industrial beer. However, if you aim to truly enjoy the product in your glass (and catch a little buzz), then buy craft beer (or fine spirits, which I also enjoy; pick your poison). You’ll spend more money, but you’ll get a better value.

Desire for Variety vs. Brand Loyalty

What’s a bar to do?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll concede that I decided not to write a second GABF post (hence the change in title of the first post). I had some interesting things to talk about, but I have limited time right now and this little op-ed post tickled my creative fancy.

Given my quasi-unique position as both a purveyor and drinker of craft beer, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon lately. There appears to be a tug-of-war between the “beer geek constantly on the prowl for a new taste experience” and the “person who just wants to drink good beer and sticks to what they already know they like” (wow, that was a mouthful).

As I see it, both groups of people are absolutely essential to the growth of craft beer. The beer geeks, though smaller in number, push brewers to try new things and extend the boundaries of what beer can be. The “people who want to drink good beer” ensure the sustained viability of the industry through their support of the core brands of successful breweries. The difficulty arises when the interests of one group necessarily infringe (for lack of a better term) on the interests of the other.

Here’s a for-instance:

Beer Bar A has a pretty consistent tap list. They might throw in a seasonal here or there, and have a couple rotating handles, but they carry the same beers most of the time. The regular beers are all good to excellent, but they don’t often change. Regular at Beer Bar A has one or two beers that he always orders there. He tried them the first time he came in a few years ago and has stuck to them since. It took a small leap of faith to even try those two and he doesn’t feel like confronting anew the fear of the unknown. Regular is typical of about half of Beer Bar A’s clientele (most of the rest being casual craft beer drinkers who will drink whatever is on so long as it’s good).

Given the beer geek desire for ever-rotating tap handles, Beer Bar A is missing out on a small, but potentially loyal and lucrative part of its possible consumer base. In an effort to pull in some beer geek business, Beer Bar A pulls off some its old standbys and throws on some new and exciting beers. Regular comes in and doesn’t see his one or two beers on tap anymore. He is afraid. He doesn’t know what to order. He considers leaving. What to do? Beer Bar A doesn’t want to lose the reliable business of Regular, but also doesn’t want to fall woefully behind the craft beer times.

A decade or so ago, this was a legitimate problem. The first craft beer bubble had burst (or was in the process of doing so) and the quality of much of the beer on the market was suspect at best. People had gotten into the brewing business purely for money, and the lack of passion was reflected in the product. The average consumer couldn’t be sure of what they would encounter when a new tap handle was thrown on the wall at the local watering hole.

These days however, especially in larger markets, quality is not a problem. The only problem is that there’s a whole lot of great beer out there and I can’t possibly drink all of it! I understand brand loyalty when it comes to one’s philosophical agreement with a brewery’s approach to production or marketing. However, staying loyal to a particular beer merely for fear of possibly drinking inferior beer can hardly be justified anymore. In fact, it can easily be argued that a fiercely loyal consumer is doing him or herself a serious disservice. If one is doggedly attached to a particular beer or brewery, one may be, and likely is, missing out on something they’ll like even more than their “favorite” beer.

Not only is better beer largely the rule rather than the exception these days, so too are bars who clearly care about the beer they serve. Such places are an equally important cog in the craft beer machine. The brewer can make an exquisite beer, but if it isn’t delivered fresh, at the right temperature, through clean lines and in a clean glass, then the consumer isn’t getting what they ordered. Luckily, with the availability of information these days, it is relatively easy to find out which bars care about their beer, if only you care to look or ask.

In other words, fear not the unknown. For if you find yourself at a better beer-dispensing establishment, and you decide to wade into unfamiliar waters you will likely find the temperature is just fine. If you trust the beer bar you’re patronizing, then that means you trust them to serve excellent beer. It also means that you trust them to train their staff to make recommendations based on your stated desires. It also means that you trust the bar to serve your beer properly. So, find a bar that cares and order a beer you’ve never had before. And don’t worry if your “regular” beer isn’t on tap. The well-trained server will be able to find you something you’ll like and maybe you’ll have a new “regular” beer.

Now, I consider myself a beer geek and spend a lot of time with others whom I also consider beer geeks. I like to think most of us have managed to strike a balance between a constant pursuit of new experience and loyalty to specific beers. It seems to me that the purpose of trying new beers is to find new “favorites.” When I try a new beer, and it’s truly excellent, it gets put into my mental catalogue of favorites. These are beers that I will drink whenever I see them at better beer-serving establishments (unless there’s something new on that I’m dying to try). I find comfort knowing that I can select exactly what I’m in the mood for, all but ensuring full satisfaction. I know enough different beers that cover enough different styles and flavors that I can find something I truly want to drink the majority of the time. If I can’t (I can’t always be at a beer bar), then there’s always bourbon. In other words, even beer geeks have favorites, but we have enough favorites that we don’t panic if one of them isn’t on tap.

I’m not suggesting that every consumer need be hell-bent as I on extreme palate education in order to enjoy themselves. What I am suggesting, is that there are enough passionate people brewing and serving beer that no consumer need worry about their “regular” beer being pulled off the tap wall. Most of the time, it’ll be replaced with something at least as good, if not better. Drink up!

More Information. Smarter Consumers. Better Beer.

In this article, Budweiser is quoted as attempting to re-attract the under-30 crowd through the offer of free beer. They even have a catchy slogan: “Grab some Buds.” Perhaps this is meant to evoke a feeling of camaraderie in the consumer. It seems Bud wishes to create some sort of Pavlovian response which tells the drinker that it must be a good time with friends if one is drinking a Bud.

Foolish attempts at image marketing are something I’ve recently discussed at great length with close friends. Granted, these friends share a great number of my opinions, but they’re also very smart and are also members of the under-30 set (for the most part). We’ve come to an interesting consensus.

Those of us in the target age range have basically had the internet at our fingertips for our entire adult lives. Over that time, we have learned to use the internet as an informational resource. Further, we have learned to avoid the pitfalls of sourcing one’s information from the web. As a result of the availability of at least quasi-accurate information, our bullshit meters have gotten a lot more sensitive.

We look for products that appeal to us due to their quality and value, not due to the image their marketing projects. It is this writer’s opinion that this phenomenon stems largely from the fact that looking for such products is far easier than it used to be. I loathe the term “crowd-sourcing”, but it has allowed younger and older folk alike to find the opinions of like-minded people and base their purchasing decisions on those same opinions.

The availability of information also democratizes the marketplace to a higher degree. People need no longer be satisfied with the products thrust in front of them by ad men who work for the highest bidder. Easy information means it’s easy to find alternatives to mass-produced, mass-marketed, low-quality goods.

And so it is with beer. There are few industries that have used the internet more effectively to raise awareness than the craft beer industry. Just look at the Monster Energy fight with Rock Art Brewery a little while back. The beer geeks of the world rose up against a large corporation and beat them back with an e-stick. People are increasingly aware that there is something better than [insert industrial macro-lager here] because it is easier to tell them so and it is easier for them to find out.

Since more people know that there are vastly more flavorful and higher-value alternatives to products like Bud, Bud’s advertising has become increasingly more offensive to the intelligence of the under-30 consumer-with-disposable-income that they’re going after. When people are buying for taste and value, image matters less and less. While the ads are very clever and even enjoyable at times, they have become less effective at driving sales. Yet Budweiser continues to sell an image, rather than a product. And Budweiser market share continues to ebb, because people want to buy something from a producer that cares about what they make.

Nowhere is the difference more palpable than in beer. When one sips an artfully crafted beer such as Victory’s Prima Pils next to something like MGD, there is no contest. The former is clean, spicy, crackery and delightfully bitter. The latter tastes like carbonated urine (or at least what I imagine that would taste like). This comparison is precisely why I think Bud’s free beer “strategy” will ultimately fail.

Offering a free taste of something fundamentally untasty seems like a poor business decision to me. Just because you hand me stale bread for free doesn’t mean I’ll suddenly become hooked on it. I assume that is why Bud needed a snappy title such as “Grab some Buds” in order to sell the “event.” More and more people are finding out that, in terms of advertising and product quality, Bud and its ilk are the McDonald’s of beer. You drink it when you don’t care about flavor or quality. So here’s to Bud’s ad strategy continuing to fall flat on its face. Further, here’s to the internet providing easy self-education and thereby spreading greater consumer intelligence, higher-value products and allowing people to avoid a massive…