Marketing beer to geeks

The latest issue of WiredWired magazine has several full page advertisements for upmarket beer in its current issue, including Michelob’s range of fancy beers (maerzen, wheat, pale ale and porter).

This, coupled with their recent coverage of the hop shortage, suggests that the marketing men, at least, perceive a link between geekiness and the appreciation of beers other than American light lagers.

The Michelob ad is interesting. It talks about the particular malts used (with pictures) and explains how they’re responsible for the colour and flavour of the beer. In other words, they announce that beer, just like computers, music, TV, film and collecting plastic action figures, is something you can be geeky about.

They’re not advertising to beer geeks — they’re trying to create new ones loyal to their brand.

German beer festival at Zeitgeist, London

I’m sure it doesn’t need plugging from us, but in case you’d (a) somehow missed it and (b) are in London in the next few days, there’s a rather exciting German beer festival going on at Zeitgeist in Vauxhall, with loads of cool obscure Franconian beers.

Stonch has the details.

Our review of Zeitgeist from February can be found here. We still love the place.

Big brewers love their beer too

We recently had an interesting conversation with a former executive level employee of a one of the big booze companies. He likes decent beer himself and was outraged by this.

But he also said that, in his time travelling the world for IndustroBooze, he met a lot of brewers of what most of us would consider crappy beers, and found that, to a man, they loved the beer they produced.

He said that the makers of one of the big bland American lagers drank it themselves and were genuinely convinced of its quality. They couldn’t understand why it was so reviled. After all, making it taste the way it did, consistently, was hard work for them — not just a matter of pressing a button.

Perhaps most revealingly, he described the experience of working for a big international drinks company as like being “brainwashed”. The company’s own products are wheeled out at parties; dished out as Christmas bonuses; and staff are encouraged to drink them when they’re out and about and push them to friends.

Just like mothers who think their own children are the most wonderful in the world, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, the men who slave over industrial size operations to make the bland beers most beer geeks shun think their babies are beautiful too.

Bailey

PS sorry about reusing this image so soon, but we gather Stella Artois are keen to increase their profile in the world of beer blogging. Anything we can do to help!

Baltic Porters again

A little while ago, we wrote about a handful of Baltic porters we’d been able to get our grubby hands on. After much hunting and hoarding, plus a generous gift, we’ve got enough together for a second round.

D. Carnegie & Co Stark Porter (Sweden)

The label boasts that this was first brewed in 1836 and is still brewed to the same recipe, although now by Carlsberg Sweden. Michael Jackson penned an article over 10 years ago about the brewery’s founder, a Scot, which you can find here.

Once again though, for us this was a case of the history being more interesting than the beer. It’s a lovely opaque black, with a pillowy head. There’s a hint of coffee in the aroma, but not much else. The initial gulp is lovely — milk-chocolate and coffee flavours, some wine-like fruit and a good bitter kick at the end — but then it’s gone. What aftertaste is left is a bit like Marmite.

It’s pleasant enough and reminded us of Sam Smith’s Oatmeal stout. It’s definitely got a heavy stout-like body. It tastes stronger than it is (it’s “only” 5.5%).

Baltika no 6 “Porter” (Russia)

We’ve been looking for this little beauty for ages, ruthlessly scouring every new Russian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian shop to open in our manor. Finally, a new Lithuanian shop called “Tradicia” at the bottom of Walthamstow Market was able to deliver. [The shop has lots of other goodies too, which may fuel a blog post or two…]

It was worth the wait. It too is inky-black with a slightly off-white head. It has an oily, slightly bubbly texture, definitely lighter than the Carnegie. The aroma reminded me of creme caramel.

As for the taste, there’s a huge explosion of roasted malt, biscuits and molasses. It’s rich without being sickly sweet, and has a fruity aftertaste (cherry?) that lingers. It slips down way too easily for 7%.

I think this is what we were after when we went looking for a Baltic porter. Something where the English stout influence is clear, but that has evolved into something else. All the publicity says that this is brewed to a traditional English recipe and is bottom fermented, but there were definitely elements of Schwarzbier in there too.

Pardubicky Porter (Czech Republic)

In response to our first post on Baltic Porters, Evan Rail drew our attention to the tradition of Czech “baltic” porters, telling us that Pardubicky had been the only regular example for a while. Upon hearing that we couldn’t get it in London, he sent us a bottle in the post. Top man. Sorry it’s taken so long to review it…

This is definitely an interesting beast. On their website, this also claims a nineteenth century recipe. It looks great, with a fluffy head, and smells a bit Belgian — candy sugar and booze!

Tastewise, it has a pleasing sourness that the other two didn’t have, as well as notes of molasses and port. At 8% it’s also stronger than the other two. Overall we probably preferred the Baltika, but this one’s definitely worth trying, and also delivers the right mix of the familiar and the exotic…

Boak

The Wirral is not Enough

Mike McGuigan with some hops from the North West of England.A little while back, Mike McGuigan, the owner and head brewer of the Wirral’s Betwixt Brewing Company, dropped in to comment on this post. We were intrigued by his business model and we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

B&B: Firstly, a selfish one — when and where might we be able to get your beers down here in London? Any festivals coming up? Or should we get off our arses and come up to the North West?

We currently work as a ‘cuckoo brewery’ – using spare capacity at a decent local micro — Northern Brewing, Cheshire. The economics of this mean we currently don’t sell much beer in cask at all (instead mainly selling bottled beer at local farmers’ markets).

We’re in the process of setting up our own brewery on the Wirral and, once up and running, we plan to sell a lot more cask beer. However, as a small company, with a limited number of casks and a wish to concentrate largely on local sales, it means that I’m afraid we probably won’t be sending a lot of beer around the country.

We are look into dealing with selected wholesalers (those who will look after our beer, pay us fairly promptly for our and beer and return our empty casks in reasonable time!) so we might indeed occasionally pop up in a pub near you.

That said, if any of you fine folks do make it up here, you will be welcomed with free tastings at any of the farmers’ markets we attend! – see our website for more info. And don’t forget all of the other delights that Merseyside has to offer during this Capital of Culture year.

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