31 Aug 2008

Clear and cold truth

The other day, on the post Spreading the Gospel, someone left a comment complaining that I was disrespecting their tastes by implying that beers like Heineken are crap. I've got no problem with anyone's tastes, I don't judge people based on what they do or don't drink. I also didn't want to imply that Heineken is crap. I am 100% convinced that it is. But that's my opinion and you may or may not agree. But it isn't something capricious, it is based on irrefutable facts provided by Heineken themselves.

Just like wines, beers have their right temperatures for drinking, which vary from type to type. In the case of lagers, most of them at least, (and Heineken is one of them), the right temperature for dispensing is between 6 and 8°C. It is there that the beer expresses itself best allowing the consumer to appreciate all its characteristics, for better or worse. Actually, Czech beer wisdom says that the right temperature is that of the seventh step going to the cellar.

It seems that the people at Heineken don't think so. The other day I saw on the metro the poster shown below:
"Served Extra Cold Experience". I wonder what is the experience of drinking something that you can't taste. At extra cold temperatures the mouth is numbed, nothing can be felt. It doesn't make any sense to sell something this way. Unless Heineken actually doesn't want you to feel the taste of their beer. And they don't want you to taste it because it is rubbish.

This event that took place yesterday (needless to say, I didn't attend it) is no more than a pathetic marketing trick. They want to public to consume a product of low quality the only way it can be consumed, without tasting it, disguising it as something cool and modern. But actually it's an insult to Czech beer culture and tradition and also to the consumers, who are used to products of better quality.

But it's not only Heineken actually. Every brewery that directly or indirectly promotes the consumption of their beers as "ice cold" is saying the same: "I don't want you to realise how awful our beers are".

And please, don't come to me with "it's a cultural thing" or "it's because of the hot weather here" and stuff like that. They are just silly excuses (not to say, utter bollocks). You are served your beer just as cold in winter and you don't drink wine at Artic temperatures no matter how scorching hot it gets. Besides, a lager of at least medium quality served at a proper temperature is just as refreshing as an ice cold one and, in my opinion, a lot more pleasant.

Of course, everyone is free to drink their beer as they see fit. It isn't my intention to change anybody's tastes, but to open your eyes a little so you can see why many breweries sell you their product they way they do.

Na Zdraví!

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

11 comments:

  1. I agree with the "extra cold beer = extra bad beer" flavor arguement; but I do think there is something about culture and climate that can complicate things. For example; think about what sorts of beers are popular in the tropics or near tropics; sweet flavors in their beers; and if you can't drink the water; an "ice cold" beer is just what you want.

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  2. You make a good point there. Still those beers aren't good. I've had beers from Brazil, Panama and a couple of Asian countries (mass produced ones, yes) and they were awful without exception. They improve greatly if you drink them ice cold.
    Which brings up the question. Are those beers so bad because brewers take advantage of the fact that peole drink them very cold?
    And also, who started the ice cold beer thing and where and when?
    I reckon brazilian brewing industry is over a century old, and I don't think beers where served Ice cold at the beginning...

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  3. I think brewers take advantage of people wihtout a history of quality beer in their culture; ie-much of the USA, Canada, Africa, Latin America etc....basically not-Europe (except sotuhern Europe, maybe?) Anyway; there are tropical exceptions; see Lion and Dragon Stout's for example (sweet and strong) from former British colonies (Sri Lanka and Jamaica). Back to ice cold though; my guess would be "ice cold" became trendy when mass refridgeration became available; brewers could offer "ice cold" beer; just like movie theaters could offer air-conditioning; it was a modern comfort escape. Later, they probably figured they could cut costs and make more profits by producing crappy beer that people couldn't taste

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  4. Thanks for the great comment!
    I agree with you 100%, but I'm a bit perverse and I still wonder if the first person to introduce ice cold beer did it pretty much like hot chilly it is said was used in tex-mex or other very spicy cuisines, to cover some problem with the beer...

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  5. To be fair, I can recall being in Prague in hot summers when the beer has been served up much too cold for my liking.

    Mike

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  6. That's a... chilling revelation! Ha! I had tasted both ice cold beers and plain old and cold beers but never liked the former.

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  7. I'm not sure if super-chilled always means crap either. This is going to be a bad example, but Guinness started putting in extra cold taps in pubs in Ireland, and of course the traditional Guinness drinkers did not like that at all. But we reckoned the reasoning was to make it more "accessible" for the lager drinkers. A bad example perhaps, as draught Guinness isn't exactly the nectar of the gods (for me at least, although I have been known to partake), but I know The Beer Nut has done some experiments chilling Stouts and Porters well below what one (including him) would think normal, and as I recall, he came to the conclusion that in some cases it worked! :D You'd have to ask him though...

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  8. I don't think supper chilled is bad either. If you have a good beer, and you drink it chilled, it will still be a good beer, you might not be able to taste it properly (or they might taste different), but the quality will still be there.
    Now to Guinness Ice (or whatever the name is), I've read about it in a couple of blogs. Regardless of the quality, I think it is just a marketing gimmick, and a sad one at that. To me, it shows how little pride the company has in its product.
    I wonder why they didn't just come out with a new product altogether, like a bitter, that could compete with the eurolagers whose consumers Guinness wants.

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  9. Guinness Draught Extra Cold is what they call it. It's the same stuff, just 2C cooler. At 3.5C apparently.

    The lads in Guinness have tried releasing things "different" before, but they never lasted. They released a series of "micro brews" in 1998 under a St. James's Gate branding; Pilsner Gold, Wicked Red Ale, Wildcat Wheat Beer and Dark Angel Lager. These did not last long at all, which was a pity as they were at least different. Some believe they were a ploy to combat the first generation of microbrewers that existed at the time, and they are probably right! They also had a "white" beer called Breo, which was released around the same time, but was gone by 2000. More recently they had a "Brewhouse Series" of bland Stouts that were allegedly from old recipes discovered in the crypts under St. James's Gate if you believed the ads. I think they have the other side of the drinking coin covered with the licensed brewing to some extent :( Nothing interesting though...

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  10. WOW! If what you say there is true, that Guinness came out with those "microbrews" to run real micros out of business, then they are a bunch of cunts!

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  11. Well, I reckon they certainly did it in response to a percieved increased interest Joe Public had in micro beers. It's just weird that the St. James's Gate offerings vanished soon after a few of the young micro breweries also vanished, but it could also be the old reaction of traditionalist Guinness drinkers not wanting to change, so there was no point continuing them.

    One thing is for sure, Guinness as a company does have a long history in beating down competition, and their dominance and predatory business tactics almost certainly closed down a very large number of small local breweries in Ireland. The Wiki I announce in that article is not quite ready, but TheBeerNut and I are getting stuff organised in the background. Maybe it will eventually explain why some of the breweries disappeared :)

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