The Great Myth

diana

I’ll be up front and honost. I’ve never fully understood the local businesses first mindset that seems to plague people these days. I’ve always thought of myself as someone that ascribes to the “what is good to me at the moment” mentality. So it should come as no surprise that I’d assert that the idea of little breweries fighting the big bad BMC is all a myth. How can I say this with certainty? Well let’s examine it.

First off, what is BMC? Beer right? But what kind of beer? Light American Lager. Now for someone who thinks all beer is the same this part won’t matter, but if you read this blog I’m assuming your not of that mindset right? Ok, let’s continue then. Now if BMC makes light American lagers what kind off beer do their consumers generally prefer? Who else makes the kind of beer those people consume? Prior to the last 10 years how many craft breweries can you name that made light lager? Generally craft breweries make IPA’s, Hefeweizens, Porters, Stouts… The list goes on. How many corporate breweries in America prior to the last 10 years made these styles?

The realtiy of the situation is that when craft beer came on the scene the only beer available that tasted similar were imports. It stands to reason then that craft beers battle was for imports share of the market. Granted craft beer had to make inroads into the market that consumed light lagers, but for a long time those consumers shunned craft beer. So why all the talk about a great battle between David and Goliath? Because it sells beer and strokes egos.

Granted it’s true that corporations eventually battled through advertising (remember the bitter beer face and less filling commercials?), and to a lesser extant litigation, but the damage inflicted by these tactics mostly served to slow craft beers initial inroads into the beer market. Where do craft brewers get off whining then about how we’re in a battle? Why do they shout from the mountain tops about how it’s a little guy with quality vs a stranger in the park with a trenchcoat, candy, and a van with no windows?

Interestingly enough we live in a time of merging craft breweries. Also just the other day I finally saw Widmers commercials for Brrrr, and it reminds me of the admen accusations leveled at BMC. Why in the face of all this do craft beer drinkers act like loyal little soldiers, affraid to call an expensive average beer for what it really is? It’s high time craft beer drinkers became consumers who were truly concerned about quality rather then brewery clicks. Average beer is average beer, wether it comes from a small brewery or from Anhauser.

Tags: ,

17 Responses to “The Great Myth”

  1. Beermented says:

    Amen, brother! Preach on!

  2. Scott S says:

    The biggest reason to support local businesses is that it keeps more money local. And money circulating locally means more local jobs. Supporting smaller local breweries not only keeps money local, it also means more variety for the consumer. Big companies consolidate expenses, so not only do they cut redundant jobs, but they cut less profitable product lines.

  3. Scott S says:

    And the mindset of what is good for me at the moment is the mindset that ends up screwing you over in the long run. We need to look to the future not just what is good for us now but how those decision will effect what might be available in the future.

  4. Beermented says:

    Well, that was interesting. Some Big City tinking going on dar.

  5. jbx says:

    Scott S is right on the mark.

    Further, I have not noticed small breweries whinging about the macro brewers of industrial adjunct lager.

    Seems to me craft breweries are making inroads/accruing market share by being innovative and creative. I suppose the small breweries are at a disadvantage in purchasing ingredient; but, reportedly, supplies are currently in surplus.

    Shop local, support local businesses.
    :jbx

  6. Jared says:

    @Scott and JBX

    I’m not saying one shouldn’t by local, but by buying local simply because it’s local we encourage mediocraty. Take Salem coffee shops for example. We have a few good ones, like French press, but on average they serve mediocre cups of coffee and the same generic store bought pastries that Starbucks does (Think Blue Pepper and Gov Cup). Now if Starbucks is cheaper, and I get the same quality why shop local? If it’s for the vibe and free wifi I can understand, but if your like me, and just grabbing a coffee to go then higher priced local stuff isn’t worth it.

    Now let’s apply this idea to beer. If I had a choice between a Russian River, a Pale Horse blonde (most local, and their most drinkable), or a Seven Brides beer (2nd most local), I’m darn well choosing Russian River. The best beer for the price is going to win out with me. If I buy mediocre beer over great beer simply because it’s local how does that encourage the local brewers to make better quality?

    Another good example is Venti’s. I love Venti’s because they serve dang good beer. Now Venti’s beer selection often comes from California and Washington as well as Oregon. Theoreticly I would be buying more local by going to Calapooia, but Venti’s has better beer.

    If beer drinkers bought quality over local or loyalty I think Oregon’s brewscape would transform dramaticly.

    @JBX

    It’s becoming less common for the little guys to whine, but the bigger craft brewers beat that drum hard, especially in the northwest, and beer drinkers still follow it. Until beer drinkers give up this idea that smaller is always better Oregons beerscape will continue to move towards mediocrity. If you haven’t heard a little brewer whine in a while bring up distribution.

  7. jbx says:

    JWkly,

    I use local to mean the Pacific Northwest; sorry for the confusing. My two favorite pilsners are from Seattle and Missoula and I chose to call them local.

    I believe there are enough good beer brewed in Western Montana, idaho, Washington, Oregon, Northern California [say north of SFO; 600 mile by highway] to satisfy any interest / any taste.

    This beer field would exclude Stone and GreenFlash and other quality Southern California breweries; but, what the heck. ? How much is enough ?

    In terms of beer, we Oregonians are living in paradise and the breweries are worthy of support.

    I notice the breweries keep producing new beers. Bear Republic has a comprehensive list of their beers from the begin, 1996.
    http://www.bearrepublic.com/ourbeers.php
    I just counted 52. Its amazing.

    Seven Brides keeps reeling out new beers. Their website list 6 beers but I recognize 3 recent offerings are not listed.

    I do not mean to suggest supporting mediocrity just because it is local. I mean support quality local products over marginally better products from 3000 miles away. Victory Pilsner [Penn.] is not significantly better than Baron or Bayern; DogFish Head [Del.] 90 Minute 2X IPA has many equals within 50 miles of my stoop.

    later and keep posting.

  8. Jared says:

    @jbx

    But what about some of the German import pilsners?? I know for myself that there are some imports I like far more then then local versions.

    BTW Dogfishhead and quality in the same sentence 🙂

    We gotta get together for a beer sometime soon.

  9. Beermented says:

    Great conversation going here. When it comes to drinking a quality beer, why cut yourself short? I don’t mind supporting my local community, but I’m going to drink what tastes best. Life’s to short to drink mediocre beer.

    Pilsner? I’m going to to drink a Budvar or Urquell from Czech. where pilsners originated. Locally? I’d have to say August Schell Pils (the only American Pils Michael Jackson gave 5 stars), Scrimshaw Pils from North Coast Brewing, Lagunitas Pils and maybe a Full Sail Session.

    Jared mentioned German imports. can you find a better Dopplebock than a Ayinger Celebrator? A better Oktoberfest than a Spaten Oktoberfest? A better Eisenbock than a EKU 28? A better rauch than those made in Bamberg? Ever have a Steinbier made with fire heated granite stones placed into and caramelized in a boiling vat of wort? It ain’t no beechwood aging! Anybody ever had any beers made from Augustiner? Brewed in Munich, they are some of the best lagers made in the world. Why cut yourself short on quality and taste?

    If someone loses a job due to my selection of beer, that brewery better step up it’s quality. There are plenty of great beers on this globe and I’m not going to drink crap.

  10. Jared says:

    and Beermented manages to sum up what I’ve been saying. Why aren’t you writing again?? 😉

  11. jbx says:

    I can not dispute Beermented’s logic. Life is short and then you die.

    Regardless, from this Spring I gave up my Pils Urquell and Beck’s to drink local and have to pay 1.3X the price to boot [a 12 pack (fully enclosed to block damaging light) of Pils Urquell / Beck’s can be found for $14 ‘On Special’; 2 * 6’er of local craft beer cost $18]. It a personal choice.

    Lagunitas Pils is my 3rd choice and not far behind are Caldera – Pilsner Bier and Heater Allen [which I have only had once / early].

    I had one 6’er of North Coast Brewing – Scrimshaw Pils; I was disappointed; I did not notice not much taste; perhaps it was mishandled.

    Btw, a keg of Caldera – Pilsner Bier is in the cooler at Venti’s and a keg of North Coast Brewing – Scrimshaw Pils is on the floor. Further, I have bottles of Bayern and Baron in the frig. Life is Good.

    ? Have you noticed ‘The Problem of Living with Abundance’ ?

  12. jbx says:

    Beermented re: German Imports. Consider

    __Baron Brewing Co., Seattle__
    Hefe-Weisse
    Pilsner
    Schwarzbier
    Über-Weisse
    Oktoberfest
    Liberator
    Rauchbier
    Helles Bock
    Kölsch
    Berliner-Weisse
    Dampfbier
    Dunkel-Weisse
    Roggen
    Eisbock
    Kristall-Weisse

    __Bayern Brewing Co., Missoula__
    Bayern Amber
    Schwarzbier
    Dark Hefeweizen
    Bavarian Hefeweizen
    Maibock
    Oktoberfest
    Doppelbock
    [2X] Doppelweizen

    Of course, you can only get 2-3-4 of these in Salem, Ore.
    And, I have tasted only the two pilsners.

    And then there are Heater Allen’s lagers; which I have not seen in Salem, Ore.

  13. Beermented says:

    Nice list there jbx. I’ve had many of these beers and my evaluation would a thriving, “meh.” Nothing I would rate very high from these guys. It’s about quality not just a name on a bottle. I hear Chuckanut is going doing some nice Lagers in Washington. Haven’t had any yet. They won quite a few awards at the GABF this year.

    Heater Allen beers are all a little funky tasting. I’ve had some that are soapy tasting. Some are steely tasting. Some medicinal. Oh, and a Smooth Lagered Porter that he passed off as a Schwarz.

    Speaking of supporting your community…. There’s a huge AB Brewery down in Fairfield, CA. Fairfield is half way between San Francisco and Sacramento. The brewery employs 100’s of people, maybe with delivery, 1000’s. Everyone of those employees relies on BUD buyers. I wouldn’t want any of those people to lose their job, but I’m also not going to drink a BUD.

    Coming home to the NW. Bob Bookie and Clem in their knit caps (the caps that have the little draw strings and ear covers, like a baby bonnet) open a brew pub. They have maybe 4 employees. They make beer that sucks ass and food that the rats won’t eat eat. It’s local! Should we support Bad Beer and Disgusting food at the loss of Knit Cap boys and 4 employees that could work at McDonalds or mopping floors at the Library?

    So, where would I ( the true humanitarian that I am) want to focus my energy? On saving 100’s of working class jobs for the AB employees or saving 4-5 jobs for the Knit Cap boys? I’d like to think I’m really doing something of MY community and support as many people as possible. I guess I’ll support those AB employees? Eh, no! I think I’ll support my local beer distributors! He employs quite a few local people and I can acquire a wide selection of beer from all over the world that they deliver to the local pubs and taverns. Hmmm. Still supporting the community. I guess Bob Bookie and Clem will have to go back to selling shoes.

  14. Beermented says:

    I was kind of bored, so I started looking up reviews of the formentioned breweries. I found it interesting and rather stupid that while looking at reviews from Spaten, Paulaner, EKU and other old German breweries, that the reviews on there beers would have ratings of like “B”. While I would look at Baron Brewing and they would have ratings like “A-.” Does anyone see the problem here? The classic German styles are what these other breweries are trying to emulate. How can Spaten Oktoberfest, the original Oktoberfest which all other German breweries like to copy and emulate for 100’s of years be rated a “B”? That’s absurd!

  15. jbx says:

    Point taken and your point about supporting your local AB industrial adjunct lager manufacturing facility is interesting.

    The support AB is further complicated by the fact that AB is now a Belgium brewery with headquarters in Leuven, Beligum.

    BMC own ~94% of the market. So, they are not likely to miss the few beer geeks.

    I have noted after being acquired by InBev, there are attempt to sell more than industrial adjunct lager.

    I have mused on whether Henry Weinhard is local. It is owned by South African Brewing Ltd with headquarter in London, UK. But, the brewery employs local people, purchases local ingredients, and employs local distributors.

    Similarly, Mendocino Brewing Co., Hopland, Calif., is owned by United Breweries Group of Bangalore, India. And, they employs locals, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    I do not advocate supporting local mediocrity.
    I think it is a false choice.

    Your points are all valid
    and
    we are lucky to have choices.

    When I reach majority and could legally drink alcohol, 1965, the choices [I can remember] were
    – Bud
    – Busch Bavarian
    – Falstaff
    – Lone Star
    – Miller High Life
    – Pabst Blue Ribbon
    – Pearl
    – Schlitz
    [did I mention I lived in Texas]
    I have a vague recollection that some brewery offered a bock beer in Spring. And, of course, there were some imports.

    My pals and I drank many bottles of Löwenbräu at a local German restaurant because they did not ask for proof of age. I digress.

    later, jbx

  16. jbx says:

    further, two items
    1. the conversation with Beermented set my mind back to an earlier day. I have been corresponding with pals and generating a list of beers available to me circa 1964. The number is in the low 20s. Imagine 22 beers total available in a North Central Texas metropolis in 1964 and 84 different beer have been offered by Venti’s, in a provincial capital, in the past 4 months of 2009. As I say. Here and now is beer nirvana.

    2. I just opened a boomer of Baron Pilsner. It is disappointing. Different from my memory. Another abused boomer? I want my $4,.19 back.

  17. Beermented says:

    As we used to say in North Beach…. “Itsa Natta So Good. eh, Pisan?”

Leave a Reply