Selling foreignness to the local drinker

After leaving a match in Donnybrook, I couldn’t help but be struck by 3 billboards clustered around the same intersection advertising big beer. There was one promoting Peroni in a manner influenced by the George Clooney Nespresso ads, one from Budweiser how they can help you get a job and one promoting Kronenbourg 1664 drawing on classical French alcohol advertising practices of old.

Three billboards in close proximity promoting beer. All three being lagers. Two promoting the foreignness of the beer and one just an out-and-out escapism message (or perhaps AB InBev are giving up brewing & reinventing themselves as a recruitment company). Anyway, they show that a traditional Big Beer marketing tactic’s alive and kicking.

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Not content with dipping their toes into the “crafty beer” market, they still persist with countering the “lack of choice” argument with launching foreign brands on a market. It’s as if they use the same play book from back in the days of the East India Company. Do they think beer drinkers still eagerly scan the papers for notices of what wondrous, seemingly exotic and possibly much sought-after beers to arrive off the boat? Well, the ads indicate that the big selling points of one the beers in question is that they are foreign and foreign means better, more exotic – hell they must be if they went to the trouble of shipping them. Well, that may imply of course the beers are imported and not brewed locally (under contract potentially).

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Above all, it’s a back handed slap to the local independent brewing industry. It’s not an Irish thing nor a British one, it’s one that’s being repeated all over the place. Look at the US, Molson Coors have Blue Moon to get a piece of the “choice” market and a response from AB InBev was to push a beer from the “largest micro-brewery in the world”, namely Stella Artois. Seriously they tried to position Stella in the craft market on the basis that the Belgians know brewing. It’s similar to when in the 1980s, the microchip & PC revolution was taking hold in the US and the Soviets were trying to build the largest computer. They simply miss the point. They really only do this with lager, with the exception of the occasional wheat beer.

Big beer can put these new beers into existing establishments and many fail to take root. Bar owners have been known to complain that these beers often are slow to shift (not unique enough perhaps?) and can be reluctant to try carrying a craft beer (bottles can be an easier sell to them). However, continuously launching new beer brands can help attune consumers to break with existing brands and try other things. We need to ensure they get the opportunity to try something really special.

Super Bowl Sunday picking a winner

This is one of those in the sporting calendar which has a lot of traditions attached to it. The FA Cup Final used to have some of it, when we’d hear about how many kettles were boiling and toilets flushing at halftime. I have never experienced “Super Bowl Sunday” first hand in the US. Most of what I associate with it comes from various TV shows which have a Super Bowl themed episode. My experience tends to come from trying to stay awake and wondering if It’s worth the trade-off in terms of having to go to work the next morning, usually tiredness wins out regardless.

One of the most intriguing aspects besides the whole concept of the “halftime show”, is the excitement generated for the big budget ads shown during the countless interruptions to the game (again something we don’t get during our coverage of the game). It was an ad break during Super Bowl XXIX that the infamous Budweiser frogs first appeared and let’s not even go near “wassup” (an ad during Monday Night Football). Needless to say YouTube will have each one available shortly after broadcast and we can see for ourselves what the creative agencies pushing the macros have come up with this year.

Today’s match up sees the Denver Broncos with the best offence facing off against the best defence in the form of the Seattle Seahawks. I toyed with the idea of doing a sort of beer Super Bowl but it was hard to get some of the great beers from Colorado that were around last summer and autumn particularly those from Odell (who could forget deconstruction), Oskar Blues and Left Hand. I could have perhaps turned to Flying Dog, which has its spiritual home in the Rockies before escaping to Maryland. Rather unfortunately we also have a distinct lack of great beers on this side of the Atlantic from Washington State. I would have had to turn to Redhook, which would have courted some controversy from beer aficionados for its “Budhook” connotations. Perhaps we could’ve hand a Redhook v Blue Moon (if we took some of the seasonal collection) shoot-out.

So with time running out, I decided to opt for one beer only and one that reflects the game for me. This year’s game has an added twist because of the weather factor. It’s being played out doors for the first time in 42 years and the venue being New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, the successor to Giants Stadium which of course was home to one of the greatest days in Irish sport. So much talk during the two weeks leading up to the game was about the cold snap (polar vortex anyone?) and the potential for snow. The most interviewed person was not Peyton Manning but the NFL’s official Super Bowl weatherman. Taking all this and the fact that I’m picking Denver for no other reason but having seen more of them this season, I have opted for Accumulation from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery.

I really like this brewery and am a fan of their iconic Fat Tire (amber ale) and their black lager 1554. They can really brew and perhaps like Sierra Nevada they’ve become a little bit of a victim of their own success in that people see them as too familiar. Just wait until they try their Rodenbach-inspired La Folie and other Belgian interpretations. They haven’t called themselves New Belgium just to be clever. I hope that they will soon follow their neighbours and also family-owned brewery from Fort Collins (i.e. Odell) to this part of the world. This may be sooner that we think, they’re expanding like Sierra Nevada with a new East Coast brewery in North Carolina.

Accumulation was the brewery’s winter seasonal and it’s a white IPA. Sure why not? Apart from the classic and black IPAs, Uncle Sam would be proud we now have the red and the white and all we need now is a blue IPA (A step too far? I once worked at the International Food Expo, which had a tribute to “blue” food). Now back to Accumulation, it pours a hazy light straw colour that was topped with a vibrant creamy white head that gave way for a thick band around the rim. There’s fresh citrus and pine on the nose. Amarillo and Mosaic are the workhorses here. It is initially bitter but allows some sweetness to come through. A mild and pleasant bitterness remains in the aftertaste of this 6.2% brew.

The brewery chose Accumulation for their winter seasonal to demonstrate that not all winter beers need to be dark. It might not be too your taste or you might prefer other styles, but in many ways it reflects our approach to American Football. Regardless both are increasingly popular at this time of year.

Post-game follow-up: Well that was a surprising result, no one expected the Seahawks to completely dominate the game and for the Broncos to capitulate like they did. Another surprise was the weather apparently was a balmy 7ºC at kick-off. The ads involved at one time Arnold Schwarzenegger playing table tennis, Anna Kendrick plugging Newcastle Brown Ale (still so popular Stateside), a puppy and a clydesdale (guess who?), as well as Don Cheedle and a llama because why the hell not?

I may have gotten it wrong about the result of the game but I watch it more out of curiosity than anything else but I still think Accumulation was worth the punt.