27 Feb 2012

More Monday Morning Musings

Today's rant is something like the second part of what I posted last Monday. There I told you about how the Facebook person Argentine Beers complained that brewers didn't mention styles on their labels and failed to educate the consumer. A day later, AB posted the following question:
Who should be responsible for educating about the world of beer? Brewers or consumers?
A couple of years ago I would have answered this question with a loud and full of will "Ours!" (standing up and banging my chest, of course). I had taken this Beerevangelism thing a bit too seriously and believed I was in some kind of divine mission. What a fool! I still like spreading the word of (what I consider) Good Beer, mind you, but I do it in a different way, using the "Take, drink this, you'll like it" method, leaving the beer speak for itself and then, if the person is interested, tell them a bit more about it. What I do in my blog is basically thinking out loud and share things I find interesting. If someone can learn anything from that, I'm happy, but that's not my aim.

But back to the topic. We, the consumers, are always responsible for our own education. We should always look for more information and perhaps be a bit more cynical with what those who want our money tell us (and this doesn't apply only to beer). That said, I believe that the responsibility of facilitating that education should be the brewers', not only because of the basic fact that they should be more honest and open with what they do, but also because it could be good for their businesses in the long run.

I'm sure that among the consumers of alternative beers there are a growing number whose interest in what they are drinking goes further than what they have in the glass and I'm convinced that in these times when marketing gimmicks, empty discourse and PR stunts aren't something exclusive of the macros, those consumers would value not having to dive into the deep seas of the Internet or spend small fortunes in books when they want to find more information about what they like. I believe that all of us appreciate it when our intelligence is respected and when are empowered to make better informed choices. Those brewers who understand that could end up having more loyal clients.

But there's a problem. After having read much of what brewers publish on the internet I've got the impression that many of them don't seem to know too much about beer. Yes, they do know how to make beer (which is the most important thing), but take them out of the comfort of the brewhouse and they start uttering bollocks like "all our beers are brewed according to the German Purity Law of 1516" (while they make a wheat beer with oats) or introduce their new "Trappist" beer, as it such thing was a style (it isn't) or say that "Ales are like red wine, Lagers are like white wine and Lambic like Cava". They can hardly educate anyone if they don't know what they are talking about. Are we lost?

Well, no. It's only a matter of changing the topic. It's only a matter of talking about something they know, and know well, brewing. I'm sure most brewers would feel a lot more comfortable talking about how they do what they do and why, and yet, few of them do.

I can hear one of them say "But Max, that information is way too technical, nobody will be interested in that!". Unfortunately, he's not entirely wrong. So what? Do people really care about the history/legend of the origin of a style more two or three centuries ago or about an out of context fragment of a legislative relic of the 16th? If the answer is yes then, wouldn't they also like to know how many days/weeks a beer has fermented/matured and in what conditions, or what are its ingredients and where do they come from, or why this variety of hops was picked instead of this other one, or what sort of mashing was used? But well, maybe copying and pasting bollocks from Wikipedia, throwing shit at someone else and acting like narcissist teenagers is a lot less work than actually educate the consumer.

Na Zdraví!

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4 comments:

  1. Best way is to make Your Own Mind up, on Beers. You are Right about Your Blog. Learnt So Much. Many Thanks.

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  2. I'm on the wholesale side of the business, our company has taken the position of trying to educate BOTH retailers and consumers alike. We feel as though any interest we're able to spark on the topic of beer at any level is only good for everyone.

    I also agree that not all brewers are educated on more than how to make beer, nor do all possess business acumen or marketing skills - but they brew darn good beer!

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    1. Good point! I think retailers and distributors have some responsibility in educating the consumer, but hardly they will do it if they don't get the information from brewers.

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  3. The public takes the brewer to be the expert in all thing beer, and that's like thinking the printer of a book is also it's author. The issue isn't the education of the public, but rather re-education of those disseminating the information, i.e the brewers. The more correct information brewers have, the more correct information gets out to the public. Correctness and marketibility, however, can be at odds with each other. Do brewers want a good story to sell beer, or do thay want to promote correctness? Ideally, it would be a good mix of both.

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