Thursday, July 23, 2009
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.