Showing posts with label marketing bollocks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label marketing bollocks. Show all posts

Thursday, June 27, 2019

When Big Brewing Comes to Town

Friend and fellow homebrewer Jamey Barlow sent me a link yesterday to an article in the Charlotte Observer about plans from the German brewer Gilde to open a brewery in Charlotte.

Gilde is a brewery from Hannover, a city that has a certain amount of resonance for me as when I was a kid it was near Hannover that my family lived. My father was in the British Army and he was posted to nearby Celle, and my little brother was actually born in Hannover. Recently while investigating our ancestry it seems likely that my dad's family came from Minden, again not too far from Hannover. Oh and I am going to Hannover in October for a few days with work, so that's fun eh?

According to the article, the brewery, which is part of the TCB Beverages group, Europe's largest contract brewer, will start with a 5000 sq. ft. facility they are calling The Embassy. The Embassy will seemingly be the first step toward a large production facility in a few years time, capacity is said to be half a million barrels a year in the production brewery - for context, that is about 40% of Sierra Nevada's current annual production at 2 breweries.

While it is exciting that a German brewery is setting up on this side of the Pond, I have to say that some of the quotes from Gilde CEO Karsten Uhlmann smack of an incredible arrogance toward the Charlotte brewing scene. One such quote is:
“We believe that obviously Queen Charlotte forgot to bring her beer (here) ... and we’re trying our best to correct this mistake”
Ignoring the fact that the queen consort to 'Mad' King George (the third of that ilk) never once stepped foot on colonial soil, it is also dismissive of the decade of German brewing that Olde Mecklenburg Brewing have been doing in the city.

Uhlmann also trots out the old canard about recipes having not changed for hundreds of years, to which I happily respond with a hearty "Quatsch mit So?e!". Gilde's current product range has the usual suspects, helles, pilsner, radler, usw, usw. Now, given pilsner was invented in 1842 and the first Munich helles was produced by Spaten in 1894, we're not exactly talking beers that date back to Gilde's 1546 establishment now are we?

I do however like the fact that Gilde intend to use their US brewery as a training ground in German brewing techniques, which I assume will mean decoction mashing, extended lagering, CO2 capture, natural carbonation through krausening, and a commitment to the highest of quality control processes, both in terms of ingredients and systems.

I have to admit that I don't buy into the shit that a rising tide floats all boats (seriously only a landlubber with a duck pond for aquatic adventures could believe that tosh). The economies of scale available to a half million barrel brewery will allow Gilde to undercut some of the smaller breweries in the Charlotte area, likely sinking rather than floating them.

My main hope is that Gilde's presence will further inflame an interest in central European beer styles, and that the likes of Olde Mecklenburg will see a boost from Gilde being around. I guess it also means that hunting out Gilde's beers while I am in Hannover is a must.

Monday, March 21, 2016

For Marketers

I am not sure if fellow bloggers have been suffering from the same rash I have of late, but I wanted to check nonetheless. Said rash usually starts with the words 'I found your blog.....', following by some indiscriminate praise about the awesomeness of one's blog, and then an offer to provide content for said blog. I may have taken a short term view to the rash, and simply applied the topical cream of the delete button in my gmail account, but the damned thing just keeps on coming back, so I figured I'd try to address the problem in a more heads on manner.

If you're not one of my regular readers, but rather some content marketing wonk, or someone offering affiliate marketing opportunities, do me a favour and look thoroughly over the right rail. There are are three elements that could be described as 'ads', one for American Mild Month, one for the Pocket Pub Guide to Prague, which are my own damned projects anyway, and one for Prague Beer Garden, which has been there for ages and was a reciprocal thing for a new site just getting off the ground a few years back, no money or benefits ever changed hands. Otherwise, Fuggled is an advertising free zone, always has been, always will be. I don't do this to try and make money, I am not interested in living off the proceeds of advertising. Also, there are only two types of people whose words will ever get on the pages of this blog, me and people I ask to write a guest post.

So.... please, please, please don't bother emailing me asking if you can provide content for Fuggled, or if I am interested in having your advertising on the site. You can not, and I am not. End of story, Full stop. Simple. Also, if I don't respond to your first email, I am highly unlikely to reply to your second, or third, so stop wasting your time on sending them.

In other news, I enjoyed plenty of good beer this weekend, highlight being my homebrew stout - it's a cracker, so here's a picture!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Session: The Emperor's New Style


This month's Session is being hosted by Natasha from Meta CookBook, and her theme as stated in the announcement is:

For this session, I’m asking my fellow beer bloggers two related qustion questions:

  1. What do you want people in beer culture to be talking about that we’re not?
  2. What do you have to say on the topic(s)?
“Beer” is its own subculture at this point. There’s an expected “look” and expected desires. Beer festivals are everywhere. Beer blogs flourish; indeed at this point there’s reasonable sub categories for them. New breweries are popping up at record pace; the US alone has more than 3,000. Big breweries are getting bigger, some are being purchased, some are saying that’s bullshit.

But we’re still fairly monolithic as a group. And there are a number of problems related to that tendency toward sameness. Not all problems related are personal, for example trademark disputes are becoming more commonplace as we all have the same “clever thought”.

We have such a good time with our libation of choice that sometimes we fear bringing up the issues we see.

Well, stop that. Air your concerns, bring up those issues. Show us what we’re not talking about and should be, and tell us why.

Pour us a liberal amount of The Hard Stuff.
If you've ever sat in the pub with me, you'll know that I can be quite the opinionated swine, so I have to say I love this topic, especially in light of some of the comments made by Jean Hummler of Moeder Lambic at last week's European Beer Blogger Conference which filled my Twitter feed for a while. Although I wasn't there, and thus my grasp of his theme is second hand, rather like many a denunciation of Pelagian theology when we have no extant writing of Pelagius himself, from the snippets I have seen I agree with him wholeheartedly. The beer world seems to seriously lack critical thought.

When I say we lack critical thought, I am not making a plea for a phenomenology of malt, a post-modern appreciation for the isomerisation of hops, or even a existential examination of the ester producing qualities of saccharomyces cerevisiae. What I am saying is that we need less of the fanboy/girl 'craft beer is awesome' bullshit, less of the mindless cheerleading (and its converse the mindless caterwauling when things happen that don't fit our narrative), and less of the inane buzz words/phrases like 'local beer', 'rising tide floats all boats', or 'innovative'.

My particular ire though is raised at the sight of supposedly creating a new beer style by virtue of adding hops not from the UK or Central Europe. You know how it goes, one day you're drinking a nice Foreign Extra Stout and the next some unimaginative muppet dumps a shit load of Cascade into the kettle and hey presto it's a 'Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale/Whatever Marketing Term Sells This Week'. So you reach for a pint of amber ale only to discover that it positively reeks with C-hops and is being whored about the bars of your neighbourhood as a 'Red IPA'. The same could be said about 'White IPA'. 'Session IPA', 'India Pale Lager', and whatever beer style gets fucked over with an unhealthy addition of New World hops to keep the braying masses of raters and tickers whipped into a veritable wank fest frenzy.

Another thing that pisses me off about these supposed styles is the speed at which they get accepted into the canon of styles on sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. Yet it took years for the admins, moderators, and other 'experts' to recognise that a Czech tmavy le?ák is not really a Munich Dunkel or a Schwarzbier. Perhaps Czech brewers should dump a ton of New World hops into a dark lager and 'invent' the 'Black India Pale Lager' or some such spurious nonsense.

So yes, Jean Hummler is right. Beer bloggers and consumers need to start calling out the bullshit that seems to be a disturbingly increasing part of the industry. We need to start questioning the bold claims being made about innovative this, envelope pushing that, and stop parroting the party line because we are afraid being seen as the uncool element of the beer world.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

More 'Innovative' Shit

Checking through my Facebook news feed this morning, I came across a story on All About Beer concerning Stone Brewing's latest 'innovative' offering as part of their Stochasticity Project, an 8.8% Imperial Golden Stout.

My immediate thought was 'great, more marketing driven bullshit', though perhaps not for the reasons you think.

I have no problem with the concept of a golden stout, for the simple reason that my understanding of beer and its history stretches back beyond the 1970s and the 'craft beer revolution'. You see, the word 'stout' as pertains to beer originally meant 'strong', it didn't necessary mean 'dark, Irish, with nasty nitro cream head'. As such, you could drink stout ales that were pale in the 17th Century, and while they may not have been as pale as we understand them, they were sufficiently pale so as not to be dark.

I noticed in some of the comments on the Facebook post a claim that the term 'imperial stout' was itself a tautology, and again I lament to myself that the word 'imperial', much like the word 'India', has been co-opted to mean something that it didn't originally mean in the context of beer. Imperial stout was those strong dark beers shipped to the Russian Imperial court by English brewers, imperial didn't mean 'strong', stout did.

On the All About Beer story itself, is the following line, which is the one that really got my goat:
One of the great things about American brewers is their willingness to experiment. This is a perfect example of that ingenuity and determination.
A more accurate version of that would be:
One of the great things about American brewers is their willingness to take old forgotten styles, tweak slightly, and flog at a premium price. This is a perfect example of that.
Sure it might be a tasty beer, but let's not imagine that it is actually innovative, or anything new, or that adding cocoa and coffee to a strong pale ale makes it in any way a stout as we understand them today.

If you want a proper Stout Pale Ale, you should try Durham Brewery's White Stout, which I drank in the UK over the summer, it was delicious.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Hand Made Tale

One of the most common marketing memes amongst brewing companies is that their beers are 'handmade', 'handcrafted', 'made by hand', or some such term, often phrased in juxtaposition to something along the lines of 'not by machines'. This zythophilic ludditism plays very well with people looking for a more 'authentic' or even folksy view of beer, but it really doesn't fit very well with the everyday realities of working life in many a brewery.

Beer is, by its very nature, an industrial product, something that would never occur in nature, and the processes that go into making your pint, whether that pint comes from SABMiller or your local microbrewery, are heavily mechanised.


Let's start at the beginning. The mill, which crushes the malt so that the sugars and enzymes can do their thing in the mash tun, is a machine. I don't know of any brewery, regardless of size, out there that has its brewers use a pestle and mortar to crush their malt. Perhaps there are nanobreweries using the hand cranked barley crushers that many a homebrewer would use, but they still just hand cranking a machine.

Let's head then to the mash tun, where the grain will sit in warm water while alpha and beta amalayse do their thing to the starches in the grain. Here again machines come to the aid of the brewer in the form of mash rakes, which admittedly not all brewers have the luxury of. With mashing done, it's time to lauter and sparge the grains, pumping more water over the grains to extract more wort from the mash, pumps being machines.


I think you see my point, and I don't need to go through the entire brewing process pointing out where mechanisation is part and parcel of modern brewing. Ultimately the use of machines is an every day reality is the vast majority of breweries. Sure some may have more advanced systems involving hop chargers to automatically dose the boiling wort, but these tools don't impact whether or not the beer is actually worth drinking.

If transparency is really all that important in beer marketing then there are plenty in the craft segment of the industry whose marketing is guilty of deceiving the consumer. Claims that their beer is 'handmade/handcrafted' ring hollow when the truth is they use many of the same machines and technologies as industrial scale breweries.

I don't believe that the use of machines in a brewery impacts the flavour of a beer as much as the choice of ingredients, recipe, quality control processes, or the skill of the brewers themselves, but they do make a lovely straw man as a replacement for faceless corporations.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Retail Juxtaposition Fail

When Mrs V lived in Charlottesville we usually shopped at the local Giant, at Pantops. Now that we live something like 15 miles from town we still often shop at the same store as it is on the way home. Yesterday I popped in after work as we needed some bits and bobs, and as ever I wandered down the beer aisle, which has recently undergone something of a transformation and expansion.

As part of this expansion, there are a series of information boards above the large coolers. The boards describe some beer styles and give an explanation of what 'craft' beer is, in the minds of some. Here is a picture I took yesterday of one such board.


Somewhat incongruous, no?

I am not saying that there is a deliberate attempt by either the large corporation that retails food, drink, and other necessary items, or the large multinational corporation that makes, and through its distributors, controls the entire beer industry in the US, to mislead consumers. It is however, an interesting case of product placement. Surely this board would have been better suited on the opposite cooler, rather than the board describing, loosely, a few beer styles? After all that was where all the 'craft' beer is kept.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Defining Passion

It seems to be a particularly modern malaise that it is no longer enough to be good at the work you have chosen to do, you have to 'passionate' about it. Whether we are talking about making beer, selling financial products or even cleaning the bogs in the Prague Metro, passion has become de rigueur in practically every industry.

Often, it seems, this 'passion' is presented as being excited by what it is you do (quite how one could be excited at the prospect of cleaning the bogs in the Prague Metro though escapes me), with all the attendant hoopla that seems to go with it. In the context of beer, as that is the main theme of Fuggled, every new product is greeted with the zythophilic fervour of Beatlemania, the constant pitch of the marketing efforts gets higher and higher, like the crescendo of noise which is cicada time. When a beer though fails to live up to the hype, the damning verdicts on Twitter, Ratebeer and the like is akin to the Hindenburg going down in flames.

It is time that we re-evaluate our understanding of what 'passion' means in a brewing context to bring the demand side understanding of passion for beer with one of the common attributes of every professional brewer I know, the passion to do things properly.

When I am working at the Starr Hill Brewery tasting room I quite often overhear people talking about how some breweries are 'passionate' about beer because they put all manner of stuff into their beer, making it 'innovative' and various other adjectives which I am not convinced aren't a cover term for 'a right bloody mess'. The implication in these witterings, often though not always from a spotty yoof out to impress the accompanying spotty yoofs with his deep knowledge of beer, is that the breweries that make classic beer styles, and make them well, somehow lack 'passion' for beer.


I often think of Budvar, and not just for drinking purposes. Here is a pale lager, perhaps the most disparaged beer style on the planet, which, as far as I am aware, is still made in the same way as when the legendary Mr Tolar was the master brewer. Budvar's flagship beer, as I have mentioned before, takes 102 days to make, 12 days in primary fermentation and then 90 days in the lagering tanks, that's 12 weeks, or 1 week for each degree of Plato in the beer, as was the traditional norm in Central Europe. Would most consumers know the difference if they cut the lagering time to 45 days and thus instantly doubled their capacity? I would venture that very few would, but therein lies the heart of a consumers' confidence in Budvar, they do things as they have always done. This is passion as I understand it, sticking to doing what generations of brewers have handed down to you, because it makes the beer which the consumer wants to drink. There are few finer beers in the world than Budvar, admittedly preferably on draught. On a hot day, a cold half litre of golden liquid from ?eské Budějovice is liking drinking the nectar of the gods.

We often talk about the 'fires of passion', as if passion should be all noise, flame and smoke. To take this analogy in a little bit of a different direction, when you first light your grill, you don't cook your burgers, sausages and chicken drumsticks straight away, you wait for the flames to die down and the charcoal to be good and hot. Passion is much the same, sure the flames and noise are impressive, but until they are gone and you know the coals are burning thoroughly all you have is light and noise.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Emperor's New Beer

Once upon a time there lived an emperor. The emperor was much loved by his people and would hold great parties in the grounds of his castle, where all the people would come to eat, drink and be merry. At his parties the people would eat the finest foods, drink the very best beer and dance until the sweat poured down their backs.

One day a pair of travelling brewers came to the emperor's castle looking for work. With another party being planned, the emperor asked them about the beer they made. The brewers told him that they brewed a special beer unlike anything he had ever drunk, a beer so new and innovative that it was fit only for kings and lords, not for the common man. The emperor was sad to hear this because he loved his people and loved his parties with them, but decided to hire the brewers to make their new beer for his next party anyway. The beer would be only for the emperor and his nobles, since only they could appreciate it.

The brewers set to work, using the malt and hops that were kept in the castle storehouse, and taking water from the castle well. When the liquid was ready they poured it into a barrel and added yeast taken from a barrel used for the most recent party, and so the new beer was almost ready. The day before the party, the brewers went to see the emperor and told him how the beer they brewed was the best they had ever made and that on no condition should the common people be allowed to drink it. The brewers talked about how the common people would not understand the complexity of flavours, or appreciate the wonderful aroma of the beer. The emperor paid the brewers for their work and the brewers presented him with special glasses, telling him that the glasses made the beer a better experience. That night the brewers left the castle and nothing was heard from them again.


The next day, the emperor's servants prepared for the party. Tables groaned under the weight of food, pigs roasted on spits, filling the air with the smell of sizzling meat. The castle bakery was working overtime making bread. Barrels of wine, beer and mead were stacked ready to be drunk. In one corner of the castle courtyard the emperor ordered a special table, with a bright white cloth, for the beer made by the brewers. Next to the barrel were the glasses and on the table a sign saying 'Nobles Only', a guard stood next to the barrel to keep the common men from trying the beer.


The people came to the party, they ate, the drank and they made merry. The emperor and the nobles gathered around the barrel of special beer and poured some into the glasses. The air was filled with gasps of delight as the nobles nosed their beer, 'such fine aromas' was heard more than once, they all agreed that this beer was singularly the best they had ever experienced. As the emperor and his coterie celebrated the wonderful success of their beer, a servant boy took a glass of the beer, drank it and asked the emperor 'why does this taste just like the normal beer?'.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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