Hoffentlich, finden wir alle was leckeres unter unseren Weihnachtsbaum.
Many of you in our fair Great Lake State may be aware of MLive’s little ongoing poll. LINK.
MLive is Michigan’s biggest “media group,” a conglomeration of most newspapers not part of the Detroit Free Press & Detroit News joint operation, and reaches across most of the state. Anyway, they’ve been running a series of research columns where a journalist group seeks nominations, then they sample and create a list of the state’s “best” hamburger, breakfast, ice cream and other treats over the past couple years.
Recently, as linked above, they decided to seek the state’s “best brewery.” You can imagine the ensuing nonsense, and get your own taste of it if you read the comments on any of the articles linked from the story above. Thankfully, some comments are being deleted it seems, but many of these commenters are awful, horrible trolls in the worst sense of the word. Mass polls seem to bring out the worst in people sometimes, particularly on a topic such as this where so many folks take pride in “their” local or favorite brew. Often they may have met the brewer or owner of these local places and feel vested in these results. It’s really not that much different than the online “Beer City, USA” polls that have recently been celebrated ’round here. Except this one is sometimes getting nasty, and that’s nothing to celebrate.
The truth is, there is NO “best” brewery. The entire point of the craft industry is that we don’t have to drink the same swill every day, and no beer made for flavor is going to appeal to everyone. Many people, myself included, will love many, many beers and rotate them constantly. Most people don’t eat the exact same food every meal and every day, but can enjoy many favorite meals. Beer is no exception, as there are different days, moods, weather that influences enjoyment of different beers. It’s also a natural product, that isn’t going to be the same every day, every batch, every package. How can one possibly say there’s a “best,” when it will never be exactly the same again?
I always find almost any poll ranking the “best,” whether it be a hamburger, song, shoe or beer, to be completely suspect. By “vote of the masses,” McDonald’s is the best hamburger in the USA, Lady Gaga is the country’s best musician, Nike makes the best shoes and Bud Light (which is still the #1 selling beer in Michigan) is the nation’s best beer. Opinions such as this are like….well, you know.
EDIT: Fred Bueltmann, the “Beervangelist” from New Holland Brewing hits the nail directly on its head with their statement regarding these online “best of” contests. Well done…and complete agreement from here.
States are always reviewing and updating their alcohol laws and regulations. Michigan, where I reside, has recently allowed bars, restaurants and taverns to fill growlers, a practice that had been restricted to brewers previously. North Carolina is also considering similar legislation (LINK) with the caveat of reviewing sanitation practices beforehand. This secondary issue has seen much discussion in this state as well.
Let’s face it: many watering holes do NOT practice standard sanitation techniques, including regular cleaning of draft lines. Most advocates recommend cleaning lines every two weeks as a standard and there are many companies which offer to perform the service. For this reason, some are suggesting that bars and restaurants not be allowed to sell growlers, in case they end up pouring substandard beer for a customer.
Many brewery and brewpub owners and employees against this legislation had very strong feeling and expressed them in detail. The biggest issue for those against was product quality: quality in draft beer systems, quality in draft beer system maintenance and quality of cleaning the growler prior to refill. Many felt that the beer would not be represented properly with the draft dispense and the sanitation issues that exist at some bars/restaurants.
– Michigan Beer Guide, Legislative Report, Nov/Dec 2012
Of course, this also means that patrons will have to come to breweries ONLY to get their growlers filled, so this argument is somewhat prejudiced from the start. In addition, it ignores several other market realities:
– If a bar has poor or dirty draft lines, they’re already serving substandard beer by the glass.
– I can find six packs regularly in convenience stores, that are well over a year old, sitting warm on shelves in direct light, so they’re selling substandard beer to customers.
So, is it really about quality control?
Perhaps…but we might argue that the pros far outweigh the cons in this case. Let’s face it, most growler fills are likely to be craft beer, rather than Macro Lite, so they’ll largely come from tap houses that regularly serve quality beer. Many (most?) of the bars serving quality beers DO utilize proper sanitation practices, so it seems unfair to punish them for the sins of a few who may not. Also, allowing bars and pubs to fill growlers extends a breweries products to patrons beyond their local area. Most patrons also realize that fresher beer is better. I’d much rather have a relatively fresh keg serving of craft beer than an aforementioned mistreated six pack as my “introduction” to a new consumer.
Rather than additional legislation calling for a new bureaucracy to “regulate” the cleaning of draft lines – which may or may not be regularly enforced – wouldn’t it make sense for the brewers to come together, under the Michigan Beer Guild or other organization, to self-fund a “certification program” and supply a dated sticker or certificate to bars and taverns for display?
They could charge a small fee and ask for proof of cleaning practices – which could be a simple as cleaning receipts going back 3-6 months showing regular cleanings. Each year, the certification could be renewed with new proof provided. In fact, the cleaning companies may be willing to support this program as well in an effort to reach more customers! Further, use websites, brewery staff and social media to educate consumers to seek out the “Growler Certification” in bars and restaurant they patronize for the best quality product.
The craft brewing world has been built largely without the “assistance” of government officials and by educating consumers one-by-one. Why should the solution to this issue be any different?
Without much comment, here’s the latest “innovation” from the self-titled “King of Beers”:
This follows up other big brand advances such as…
What do all these expensive developments have in common? They have NOTHING to do with the actual product.
I find it strange that none of these progressive packages are found on brands such as Blue Moon, Batch 19, Third Shift, Shock Top, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if they actually worked on making good beer with an honest label?
UDDATE (5/6/13): Even Stephen Colbert is in on this one, echoing our sentiments. Check out his report, clicking to about the 2:00 mark if you want to skip the lead in:
UPDATE (5/7/13): We promise to change the topic shortly, but Miller announces ANOTHER new package HERE. Is the bottle the reason anyone does or does not buy their product???
So says ABInBev’s new ads. The London based company is ramping up their efforts to appeal to down home American values, fitting right in with hot dogs, apple pie and your small local business.
Check out their new ad HERE.
UPDATE (4/17/13): Ironically, and to the surprise of no one who pays attention, Craft Brewing Business reports they’ve outsourced American jobs at the same time they’ve launched this ad campaign. LINK. As always, we implore the big guys to be honest. Don’t call yourself “local” to capitalize on the work of true craft brewers and brewpubs. You are not.
So I’ve railed against the misinformation put fourth by commercial brewers on many occasions, despite the fact they do make an amazing and difficult product. As a big baseball fan, I’ve also spent a number of posts on the slow emergence of craft beer in professional ballparks.
Now, from a totally expected source, comes an EXACT example of the problem. The New York Yankees, probably the very definition of “corporate baseball” – they’ve long been derided as the “Evil Empire” by their rival Red Sox for their willingness (and ability) to outspend their rivals…and have been the team “everyone wants to beat” since the days of Ruth & Gehrig because of their success (27 championships), have gone and played the faux craft game (and be sure to check out the annotations on the photo in the link):
To summarize, in an effort to appease the demand of craft beer fans, they’ve opened a “craft beer stand” at their new $ bazillion stadium…and all the beers inside are from SABMillerCoors (!) and two of them aren’t even beers, with a shandy and a cider in the mix. Hrmph!
** This is exactly the type of crap that pisses off craft beer fans: by hiding their true identity, the corporate giants of the beer world are attempting to pass themselves off as little craft guys to capture the dollars consumers intend to spend – and it IS more costly per serving – on actual craft beer! **
If it was truly “about the beer,” then call it the “Miller/Coors Fancy Beer Bar”…don’t call it the “Craft Beer Destination” and then serve all corporate beverages without admitting it’s true source or ownership.
Hopefully, the great fans of New York will react to this con job the same way they reacted on Opening Day this past Monday, April 1st, as this snap shot of the 9th inning illustrates:
UPDATE: Apparently, the Yankees have heard the criticism, as they’ve changed the name of the stand. LINK
It still ain’t perfect, with the lack of actual craft beer, but at least it’s a bit more factual. In fact, even major media outlets have picked up on the story HERE.
UPDATE (10/3/13): Now another ballpark, this one in Chicago, attempts to pull the same crap. LINK
Everyone has a few favorite periodicals they check out regularly. Most of them are even online nowadays. The world of beer is no exception. Here’s a few of our favorite (well known) rags:
There are many other of course, particularly in local areas.
How about you?
This little article touched a nerve over the weekend…
Basically, it’s making fun of McDonalds for launching a new crappy tortilla, and causing a ruckus in the fast food world that will literally capture millions of new customers. This stuff happens all the time in the world of “big” food. Chef Boyardee, Swanson’s TV Dinners, Pizza Hut, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, etc. You get the idea.
The funny thing is, for the vast majority of people, they fully realize the above mentioned brands (and many, many others) are not exactly the “best” example of each food. Most people prefer a backyard grilled homemade hamburger to that served at the Golden Arches. Most people realize that grandma’s spaghetti recipe was far superior to anything found in a can of Spaghetti-O’s. Everyone knows that the chicken found in the frozen box by Banquet will never be as good as the stove top chicken fried in cast iron by your Aunt Mable from Alabama. You may even like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese…but you probably also realize it isn’t exactly a high quality product, much less real cheese.
Fact is, these industrial foods have had the “food” processed right out of them They’re made to be non-offensive to anyone who eats them so that they may appeal to the widest possible audience. None of them are made to be the “best” example of their product. They’re pasteurized, processed and preserved for shelf-life and maximum sales, not maximum or even marginal flavors.
So why is it that industrial beer still controls 90% of the American market? How is it that many people still think macro beer is the “best” example of the product?
Industrial beer is made to be non-offensive, just like the other examples mentioned above. It is NOT “triple hopped,” “beechwood aged” or even the generic example with the “most taste,” despite Madison Avenue’s proclamation. It IS an industrial product. Treat it that way.
There’s obviously an angle to the story, including support for the “three tier system” and wholesaler arm of the industry, as the BI is the large producers’ industry counterweight to the Brewer’s Association, which is more focused on the smaller & craft brewers. That said, the “economic activity” generated in the survey is tremendous. According to the report, as of 2012, the beer industry included:
576,353 retailers (stores & bars/restaurants)
It’s amazing to me that there are still supposedly more distributors than brewers, as the number of wholesalers has allegedly dropped considerably over the past several years. THIS states there are about 2000 beer wholesalers out there as of 2012, and I’ve read there are as few as 1000 this year, but haven’t been able to find a definitive number. Anecdotally, in my own geographic area, there are approximately 25 breweries and 4 wholesalers, including one very small distribution company with only 3 brands. This is down from 5 last year as two of them have just announced a merger.
Why does it matter? Well, THIS story further details some of the reasons the distribution game is so important for small producers and consumers alike and why the true battle for your beer dollars is being waged in an unseen war away from the eyes of most consumers. A further reduction of distribution options, relative to producers, means a larger bottleneck for distribution…and access to markets is the number one challenge for growing craft brewers, particularly as more wholesalers are “aligned” with or owned partially or outright by large breweries. ABInBev, for example, owns around 500 distributors alone throughout the U.S.
More than ever, every vote counts…and every dollar you spend on a beer counts as a vote in that $2.5 billion market.
So…do any of you use any beer apps?
We have to admit, we’ve grown steadily addicted to our Untappd app (which is free on both iPhone & Android smartphones), and allows us track, rate and add locations and photos into your log. You can also find, share & track friends (** shoot me an email for my I.D. if you’d like to become “friends” **), exchanging messages and “toasts” on different beers and reviews and earn “badges” for completing certain tasks. It’s pretty user friendly too and can be further linked to Facebook or Twitter, where one’s updates & beer “conquests” can be posted to a wider world.
We’ve further made good use of the BJCP app, which does a nice job of defining beer styles for reference.
Having sampled a number of other apps, I’ve found many of them unwieldy or lacking in users, which kind of minimizes the fun of them. A few are listed here, but there are others out there as well.
What apps are you using? What do you like and not like about some you’ve tried?