Category Archives: wine

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

Beer in the Kitchen: Doppelbock Whipped Yams

To those who regularly make an effort to pair beer with food, it is no secret that beer is the most versatile beverage on the planet in that respect. It has a wide range of texture and weight and it also has a broader flavor range than wine. Only in beer can you find true bitterness and sourness (although tannin and acidity in certain wines can come close). While I will concede that wine is certainly the victor when it comes to dishes with tomato-based sauces, beer will usually equal or best wine for most other pairings.

I love pairing my food with beer, but even more exciting than that is making my food with beer. With The Beer Wench and Sean Paxton as inspirations, I’ve been tooling around in the kitchen quite a bit lately and I’d like to share the ideas and recipes that work well for me. This week I’m bringing you Doppelbock Whipped Yams.

I am a Los Angeles native, and as long as I can remember, my family and I have been going to Greenblatt’s Deli on New Year’s Day. They have great deli food and it’s one of the only places open that day. Every time we go, I get the turkey dinner with whipped yams as a side. They spice the yams just right and the whipped texture works really well with this particular tuber.

I wanted to duplicate the dish at home but I wanted to add a little punch, so I decided to boil the yams in beer rather than plain ol’ water. But what beer to choose? Can’t go with anything too bitter since this is a sweeter dish and heat really brings out the bitterness. I wanted something that would marry naturally with the texture and flavor of the yams. Then the light bulb went on . . . Doppelbock!

I hustled over to BevMo and grabbed myself a sixer of Spaten Optimator. Malty, bready and a little chewy with some light toast character, I had a good feeling it would have what I was looking for. I’ve made and served the dish several times now (it was a hit at Christmas dinner) and it never disappoints, so without further ado:

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lbs garnet yams, peeled and cut into two inch chunks
  • 2 12oz bottles of Doppelbock (Optimator is my choice, but just make sure you pick one that hasn’t been “Americanized” with excessive hop character)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tsp nutmeg (depending on your tastes, personally, I freaking love nutmeg)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (you can use less, I also really like cinnamon)
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Place your peeled and cut yams into a large pot and pour in both bottles of beer (you’ve probably got four left in the six-pack so treat yourself to one as well). If the beer doesn’t quite cover the yams, top off the pot with water until the yams are completely covered.

Place the pot, covered, over high heat and bring liquid to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes, or until yams are very soft. Drain liquid in a strainer and place drained yams back into pot.

Throw your butter in the pot and combine it with the yams by mashing with a potato ricer until yams are mostly smooth. Next, toss in your brown sugar and vanilla extract and combine well (a large spoon should suffice).

Add nutmeg and cinnamon and whip on high with an electric eggbeater. Once whipped, have yourself a little taste so you can figure out how much salt you want to add. I find the salt really serves to bring out the sweeter flavors nicely, and I’ll usually add about half a teaspoon of table salt. Whip in the salt and serve! This dish is a wonderful change from standard mashed potatoes and can accompany roast chicken, turkey or my personal favorite, bison brisket. Enjoy!