Thursday, July 23, 2009

Immortal Darkness issue #1 Limited Release

Why is it that beer dorks like me are so into comic characters on their beer?

I'm the kind of nerd that always buys the new, cool beers that come out of small local breweries or specials shipped in from Belgium, England and Germany. Funny thing is that these products are very deliberately marketed. Most of the locals in Europe have never heard of those beers and very special releases are nearly only consumed by aficionados like us.

We are expected to buy cases of their product and stow them away in dark closets until the time is right and then maybe we'll open one. During times like these I am reminded of running down to the comic store and buying the much anticipated Spider-Man issues that have the first appearance of a new arch-enemy, whereupon spending ridiculous amounts of money, I would hid under my covers with a flashlight and carefully examine the inside pages. After all that bother I would seal up the comic in plastic and try to forget about it for as long as possible but show the cover to friends who could covet the value but never get to read.

Are these companies playing with our childhoods? After coming back from the World Brewing Academy last May I have had a much different view of small and large breweries. Mainly I discovered what I knew all along. They're in it for the money.

Is it too much to ask to have your favorite beers available all the time? If the money's there for the product why not? I think the limited availability adds to the mystic of the beer.

Or how about an extremely strong beer(barleywine, Imp Stout, Belgian Style) that doesn't need age? From a business prospective releasing beer before its prime is ludicrous. What if German lager brewers decided to let their consumers lager the beer in the bottle to save on cost of bright tanks? It wouldn't go over very well.

Now I know all about subtle nuances that occur at peak times during a beer's maturation in the bottle. I also know about well balanced oxidation that only comes from storage. It's not that I'm against it or wouldn't practice it. I've just come to the conclusion that all great beer should be within a few months of peak flavor when it's in the store. Just because I'm a consumer doesn't mean I'm a sucker. If I buy a $10 22oz beer and it doesn't wow me, I'll never buy it again. In fact I'll regret the purchase and will be more likely never to buy another special release from that brewery again.

And please brewers from around the world: stop putting cartoon dragons on our beer! Take us more seriously than that. Dogs are cool too but they don't need to be a centerpiece of most breweries. Also try appealing to the wine consumers. They don't have comic characters. Do you want to know why women don't drink as much beer? Their choices are the macho Bud/Miller/Coors labels or the Dragon/Dogs/Comic labels. Most women I know are a little intimidated by 22oz or 750ml bottles. (That's a lot of beer!) But Belgians bottle in massive 1.5L or sometimes 3L bottles, Americans pour by the pitcher or by the sixpack and Germans serve in boots! Smaller portions of stronger beer produced well with little need for aging would be a great change. Maybe we could convert some of the corkdorks and give beer its proper place on the gourmet dinner table.


Nick said...

Totes. I'm with you on it all. First off, the characters - dragons, dogs, fish, weasels, wtf? If beer dorks want beer to be taken more seriously then take the packaging more seriously. I'm fine with the one-offs, special releases, etc. there are so many people in this country that like that (myself included), that a new market has opened up. People are shipping 'rare' beers from Miami to Anchorage just to get their hands on something special. Who doesn't like to feel special? About the aging issue - its true that wine is available in stores at an optimal time, it may be further aged and its quality improved, but can be enjoyed immediately. Vintners age the product themselves and then 'release' the wine when it is fit for consumption. In counterpoint, it is pretty unique, fun and special to cellar your own beer and determine each beer's 'peak'. and the price reflects this. $10 for a 22oz bottle of 10% barleywine isn't really asking a lot, when you look across the aisle at the wines asking double for the mediocre stuff. Where breweries could be in, say, 10 years is adopting a winery type aging regime and releasing beers at their peak (ahem..cantillon) and asking 20 - 100 bones per bottle for them. Who knows if beer will ever have that much prestige? I can only imagine. As for the cost of things, yes - the market is inflated, but people are willing to lay it down. Its just like organic produce, just a shame that its a rich man's pleasure. In Germany, you won't pay more than 2 euro for a .5L beer (a fancy one at that!) in a store, or even much more than 10 euro for a bottle of the finest Riesling straight from the source. Pure madness.

Frankenfinger said...

Love it. Its hard to be taken seriously by the wine folks if your bottle has a demonic cartoon depiction of Hunter S. Thompson on it. Even though its a great beer it seen as tacky and juvenile.
Same with the craft beer in aluminum cans debate. Ridiculous.
Also, beer is an acquired taste to start with so there is a fine line between good beer and pretentious acclaim. Unlike wine thats dominated by pseudo intellectuals convoluted opinions of quality.
I will have to read your whole blog when I get off work.