Wednesday, July 23, 2014

He Says Fruity - I Say Hoppy, Sour, Spicy, Bitter...

A couple of weeks ago, @SommBeer wrote Time for a Gender Bender – a post where he declared that “women generally drink differently than men”. He was talking about drink preferences and essentially, we women like the sweet drinks – including beer. Well if you know me at all, you might have guessed that I did not agree with his opinion (even though his blog tag line is I encourage you to accept my opinion as fact I still formed my own opinion). I wrote my own piece on Girl Beers, and went back to the history of women brewers, tossed in some science stuff and discussed marketing. We had a good, healthy banter about our posts and decided to collaborate on the following piece.

What do you think about the current marketing of beer?

Sommbeer: The marketing for craft beer is almost non-existent.  Even the local brew pubs seem inept in this regard.  As for the big brewers, I think they are a mess too.  I have to turn the channel if my kids are in the room.  

HopsCanary: The macro players continue to market to men with sexy women in the ads, rugged outdoor scenes and talking about "beers with your buddies". The other aspect of their marketing is very gimmicky - such as cans that turn blue when cold. There isn't much craft beer marketing but I have seen some product placement in TV shows and movies. Just get Wil Wheaton in the cast and he'll make sure there isn't any macro crap on the set. 

I think there's a beer in the picture somewhere

Sommbeer: Having worked in the world of consumer packaging I can tell you marketing is the art of manipulation.  The macro brewers pull on shallow primal triggers ie. sex.  They also alter packaging to pull in women.  The best example of this is the Bud Platinum bottle, bright blue and designed to pull in women.  Craft beer doesn't have the financial muscle and has matured to the point requiring ads.  I also want to believe they don't need it.

HopsCanary: Marketing for any business or commodity had the goal of targeting to a specific audience. It's pretty easy to see who the beer companies are marketing to but what they still fail to understand is that women like beer (and not the bright blue Bud Platinum bottle). Since women comprise 50% of the population, wouldn't it make sense to have gender neutral marketing? Don't market a beer specific to women, as you'll likely get this wrong and put forth a fruity, light - look, it's like a cooler! beer. Respect that women enjoy beer and form the proper advertising campaign around it. It's probably time you stopped dumbing it down to the men too.

What are your thought on the packaging of beer?

Sommbeer: In regards to marketing via packaging, I'm repelled by some of the new stuff.  New brewers sometimes have a misguided notion that they have to be "edgy".  They make vulgar labels to prove it.  Some of them I wouldn't let my kids see.  It might have been hip when I was in college, now it just seems to be trying too hard.  I don't buy good beer with offensive packaging.

HopsCanary: As for packaging, craft brewers are the ones pushing the envelope with weird, fun and racy labels. I wonder if the guys at the brewery – and yes, it's usually guys – run the labels past the women in their lives first to get their opinion. Most labels are fine but some depict sexy women on the bottles. It doesn't offend me but I do wonder why they choose to do this. When was the last time you saw a buff guy on a label? Yeah, never. I admit that I’m drawn to any an eye-catching label, especially if I’m not familiar with the beer, but boobs on the bottle won’t likely get my attention.

How would you market beer to women?

HopsCanary: I wouldn't. I don't see a need to advertise differently to men and women. If you remove the stereotype sexy marketing and stick to talking about your beer, why do you need to advertise differently to each gender? Tell me what your beer smells and tastes like and keep the bikinis to swimsuit ads. 

Sommbeer: Hmmmmm, well now ya got me thinking.  In Detroit we market cars to women and lots of trucks to men.  The formula works.  Target marketing, in this case based on gender, isn't bad in fact it makes sense. My point of agreement is that it shouldn't be vulgar.  Bikini ads are stupid - agreed.  

Sommbeer: To me good beer marketing isn't obvious at all.  Good craft breweries have to maintain the proper image for example.  Have to act like they don't need advertising.  If they do, it smells like desperation and looks like more garbage from Coors, Miller etc...  Look at the ads for Sam Adams!  What a sellout, their beer quality went out the window with each ad dollar spent.  The analogy to good beer marketing - stand at the bar like you're not interested in anybody.  Makes you look super attractive and it will attract "customers" like bees to honey.

HopsCanary: Most craft breweries don’t have the money to market outside of their local area and in Vancouver, this is primarily done through events they attend. Their signage at the event and the people pouring their beer become their marketing and face of the company. When this is done to appeal to both genders, they win. I don’t think that the macro beer market will gain many female beer drinkers but craft has an amazing opportunity to pull in this demographic. Focus on what the beer tastes like, that it’s made locally and let new craft beer drinkers (male and female) sample them. And for certain, don’t make them feel like a noob because they don’t understand the fermentation process…

So there you have it – SommBeer’s opinion and mine on marketing beer. I truly hope the craft brewers don’t take on the “sex sells” attitude or I think they’ll find that the female beer drinkers may be put off. They have a huge opportunity to gain market share, which the macros just can’t compete in, so do it right. Market your beer, not the woman of your dreams.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Girl" Beers

If you’re looking to annoy me, talk to me about “girl” beers. You know, the ones that are fruity and sweet. GIRL beers. Duh.  However, if you’d like to have a conversation with me about beer, let’s talk about what beers I like and don’t like. I expect that our tastes won’t always match – whether you’re a man or woman – but there are likely to be some similarities.

How about a history lesson, boys and girls. According to beer historians, women were the original brewers. In Egypt, the goddess Hathor invented beer and was known as “the queen of drunkenness and dance and the inventress of beer”. That’s right, Hathor, not Bud from AB In-Bev. In Europe, women were the predominant brewers of beer. A survey during the 1700s determined that 78% of licensed brewers were, gasp, women. Me thinks that if women were brewing beer, perhaps they also drank said beer. Double gasp.

Let’s talk science. Most women have more taste buds than most men and as Linda Baroshuk’s research showed, 35% of American Caucasian women are supertasters compared to 15% of men. So what does this mean? Women are often more sensitive to sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours. Hey – those are often beer flavours! Well colour me surprised. Yes, this could mean that the additional sensitivity creates a heightened dislike but the reverse can also be true. Personally, I love sour and bitter flavours.

Research by Linda Baroshuk showed that among the human population, there are supertasters, tasters, and non-tasters. Taste is enhanced for super-tasters, normal for tasters, and subdued for non-tasters.

On average, supertasters have 425 taste buds per square centimeter on the tips of their tongues, compared to 184 for tasters and 96 for non-tasters. It is estimated that about 25% of the world's population are supertasters, 25% are non-tasters and 50% are tasters. For American Caucasians, about 35% of women and only 15% of men are supertasters.

The controversial male vs female beer is just plain stupid, in my opinion. Would you classify food in the same way? Women like chicken, men like steak. Me caveman, me like steak. Well guess what, I like my steak rare and you also like chicken. There goes that theory.

How about wine? Are there certain red wines that only manly men drink and women shy away from? Nope. Wine seems to be equal opportunity.

Fat cat vs bikini babe

What this all boils down to is marketing. Many beer companies, especially the large conglomerates, advertise to men. Bikini-clad women serving manly men ice-cold beer in the rugged outdoors. Oooh, sign me up for one of those tasty, ice-cold beers! Yeah, not appealing to most women.

It’s estimated that approximately 30% of American women drink beer as opposed to 78% of men. Is it because women don’t like beer? Perhaps but I’d pose the following questions:

1) Has she tried beer or just assumed she didn’t like it?

2) What kind of beer did she try? If it’s a macro, lite, tasteless beer I can’t blame the sister as I don’t like those either. Don’t judge beer based on that crap.

3) Has she tried a craft beer, full of flavour and aroma?

4) Does the marketing towards men dissuade her from trying beer?

Bottom line, it’s all about perception. Some people assume women don’t like beer or if they do, they only like the sweet and/or fruity ones. Maybe these are the women they hang out with thus, it’s all they know but to generalize and say women only like fruity/sweet beers is a very narrow view. Women may not even bother trying beer given the male-dominated advertising and thus, haven’t had a chance to decide their preferences. I’ve always been a beer drinker but often drank wine before I got into craft beer. Now my drink of choice is always craft beer as the styles and flavours are so varied and downright delicious. Hops > grapes…

If the naysayers want to hang out with me and my female friends they’ll see us drinking hoppy IPAs, double IPAs, imperial stouts, saisons, sours, quads and everything in between. Try to keep up with our taste buds, manly men. What you won’t catch me drinking is super sweet or lightly flavoured beers as that just doesn’t appeal to me.

Perhaps one day the marketing geniuses at the big beer companies will realize that 50% of the population are women and hey! maybe we should advertise to appeal to both genders. Free tip, it will increase sales if you do it properly. Thankfully I don’t see craft beer breweries advertising in this way although they do like to have the beer babes pouring at festivals. Make good beer and a monkey could pour my beer for me (so long as the monkey has washed his hands) – a good looking male or female doesn’t make me want or like your beer more.

Beer doesn’t equate to gender. Men and women should have an open mind about drinking it and your taste buds can thank me later.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chicago Craft Beer Week

From the latest issue of BC Craft Beer News

Chicago is known for their fantastic craft beer scene and thus, we planned a trip to visit during their 5th annual craft beer week May 15 – 25. How can you go wrong with over 515 events at 327 venues, most of which were non-ticketed functions, that include a beer circus, beer fest, tap takeovers, dinners, meet the brewers, a hop rub event, festival of wood and barrel aged beers (oh yes please) and many, many more enticing events.

The craft beer week is sponsored by the Illinois Craft Brewers’ Guild and is run by volunteers within the craft beer community. For a bar, restaurant, pub or liquor store that serves craft beer to participate in the festivities, the criteria is:
  • $4 craft beer available throughout the week
  • Craft on tap for at least a year prior to the start of CCBW
  • Clean draft lines
Did I mention they have their own App? All 515 events are listed for you to plan your schedule or hit the I’m Thirsty! tab to find out what events/beer specials are taking place near you (GSP enabled).

For the events that are ticketed, the Guild doesn’t take a cut of the ticket sales thus, it allows the events to remain reasonably priced and for venues to offer casual, drop-in events. This format is enticing to the seasoned craft beer drinker as well as someone new to craft beer. Without a ticket/cost commitment, anyone can participate in the craft beer week festivities and not worry about breaking the bank. One such event that we dropped into was at the Map Room where the Barrelmeisters from Firestone Walker were in attendance and beauties such as Parabola and Sucaba were on tap.

Twenty-five new breweries have opened in the Chicago area in the past year and the support in and around Chicago is amazing. We heard from one patron that people are finding that as the event numbers have quadrupled in the past five years, there too many events to choose from. Ah, what a good problem to have – my little violin cries for you, hop heads.

We decided to limit the ticketed events we attended as we wanted the ability to be spontaneous and drop in at various bars. The ticketed events we did choose were the Lagunitas Beer Circus at their brand new brewery, the mini Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers and the Hop Rub event.

The new Lagunitas facility is huge and was ample space to have two bands, a stage for acrobats, bendy people in a large bubble and a moving apparatus where people were drumming. Lagunitas beer, as well as a few guest taps, were pouring and the crowd enjoyed the entertainment. $40 for admission and four beers.

The mini Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beers was held at Haymarket and twenty-one delicious beers along with a generous charcuterie platter were provided. I was surprised this event wasn’t sold out as $55 for unlimited wood and barrel aged beers and food, is a well-priced event. Vancouver would kill for this type of beer selection in our fair city.

The last ticketed event ($50) we attended was the Hop Rub at Buckledown Brewery, who recently opened in December 2013. Their beers were served during this informative session as we learned how brewers analyze hops before they buy them. Size, colour, dryness, in the hand smell, rub/smell again, drop/smell hands – with impeccably clean hands and detailed notes taken. Buckledown is creating some great beers and even though they’re off the beaten path in Lyons, IL, we’re glad we make the trek out to this unique event.

The balance of the week was consumed with a Cubs game, a blues bar, too much food (I should have declared the 2.5 lbs I gained at Canada Customs) and more breweries (Goose Island, Atlas, Dry Hop, Revolution) and bar investigating (Beer Bistro, Paddy Long’s, Jake Melnick’s, Local Option, Headquarters Beercade, Hopleaf, Monks Pub, Rocking Horse). Chicago is a great city to visit with a mature transit system ($28 for a 7-day pass), a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan and friendly craft beer-loving people. I highly recommend adding Chicago to your beer travel list and if you can do it during craft beer week, all the better.


I'll follow up with a post on the the rest of our Chicago trip soon!