12 02 2008

Accessorization, in hipster fashion, holds paramount importance. Clothes don’t make the man. Trinkets, affixed bric-a-brac, do. Books hanging out of pockets. Ironic stickers. Buttons. Dogs with The Smiths t-shirts on.

Now, in terms of accoutrements, with the rising tide of craft brewing, few things speak to a person’s personality as emphatically as do microbrews. And thus,

Microbrews To Adorn the Modern Hipster:

I Liked These Guys Before Anybody Else Did English Bitter

Boys Don’t CrIPA


Fixed-Gear Bicycleweisse

Essentially Empty Yet Always Present Messenger Baggleywine

Almost Stout of the Closet

All of My Friends are White Ale

So What! If I Messed Up Your Starbucks Order Porter

Rummage Sale Pale Ale

I Don’t Really Like This But I’m Drinking It To Get Back at My Parents And/Or Friends With an Overt and Vulgar Display of Being Cultured Lambic

I Am Entirely Fucking Done With Society Because it is Run By Corrupt and Criminally Exploitative Man-Machines Who Don’t Give One Shit for Anyone or Anything Except for Money and Power Light Lager

Sleeping Pillsner


Don’t Fear Big Beer

22 10 2007

Last week, the beer world — and thus, by proxy, the business world — stirred when the wig-wearers at Coors and Miller announced that their companies were arranged to wed. It’s to be a glamorous wedding,

Now, the raw market share if Miller and Coors merged would still only reach the mid-30s, a dozen or so percentage points behind Bud’s behemoth. But what that means is that there are now two major pillars of American macrobrewing. And if it resembles the political structure of this country, it’s kind of like that. Craft brewing, once the norm in America, then virtually non-existent, is not the Green Party, or Libertarians (I guess it’s kinda like libertarians).

It’s a whole new party, one that has shaken, and will continue to shake the foundations of beer culture here, returning the judgement on taste and creativity to the drinkers and not corporate execs who force it down their throats, says Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery.

I wrote a post two weeks or so back talking about how the beer giants are responding to the threat of craft brewers by not resting on their laurels, but pressing those laurels in the face of drinkers. Like an aging athlete walking around with a bag full of trophies that he’ll brandish when confronted. They’re resting their ambitions on their size, advertising their companies instead of their products, hoping that drinkers will be impressed by what has come before instead of following their tastebuds and minds.

Now, it appears, they’re traveling the same path cut by Catholics in response to the proliferation of science and the skepticism: Consolidation. By joining together in force, by accruing strength in numbers, purveyors of religion were able to bully the less powerful into imposed belief. The Church employed a threatening vocabulary, not to mention a good deal of violence, and made an already rigid dogma even more inflexible.

We saw how that worked out.

Coors and Miller will merge, and the resulting effect will allow their execs a quick, smug breath. But we have seen the fall of Big Steel, of GM, Ford because the scale of the operations made the companies too large for any flexibility and adaptibility. Size matters here, but ultimately, Americans are becoming more and more concerned with how you use it.


Rocky Mountain Bullshit

5 10 2007

Coors and Bud have launched ad campaigns that are dual parts insulting and pitiful. The 20-to-30-second spots sing with silent self-doubt, with the fear of decline compensated for by steadfast bravado that is so common among large businesses (see: fall of United States steel companies). The Coors series goes something along the lines of “never change.” It’s an unwillingness to adapt advertised as “we won’t like you anymore if you start hanging out with x.” Like someone who’s afraid of losing your friendship, so he just keeps appealing to the good times you guys used to have, you know, getting drunk and stuff. And man, you remember those girls, right? Those twiiiins?

Bud has its “open up a world of taste” line, in which a voice tells you to think back to the best beer you’ve ever had, then “get ready to top it” with a tall, cool glass of Bud. The angle is pretty much the same as the one in Coors’ ads: You Like Our Beer. You Know You Do.

Problem for them is, fewer and fewer people are buying it.

Of the Big 3 American breweries, each has met the challenge presented by the massive movement toward craft/micro-brewing in a variety of ways, and with varying degrees of seriousness. All three have backed their subsidiary microbreweries with, again, varying degrees of intervention. Coors has dug deeply into Blue Moon, Bud has done the same with its craft brewing, like Stone Mill Pale Ale — although, to Bud’s credit, it has brewed some limited-edition, small-barrel craft ales under the Bud monker. Miller’s currently backing and distributing Leinenkugel’s, which it runs with an British-colony-esque influence: little intervention, just monetary support and profit-sharing.

But they all seem to understand that, for as many people as there are who refuse to drink anything but an adjunct-laden ‘Pilsener,’ a significant other faction would rather drink from their own catheters. All three companies tend to hide behind those craft beers, using different brewery names on the labels.

What that also means is that, if these companies are acknowledging that their beers are, in fact, shoddy, there’s a bit of a moral problem. That’s where those two embarrassing ad campaigns, to try to rein in some of those rogue drinkers. Unfortunately, Hulking Corporate is out, small is in (that sounded really lame and I apologize…although it’s true), and it all comes off a little bit like your dad trying to rap.

To be fair to Bud, it has sponsored the “Here’s to Beer” campaign, aimed at celebrating brewing and educating drinkers about how the magical process goes on. But these ads are primarily print-oriented, with an ad gracing the back cover of BeerAdvocate Magazine virtually every time. On TV, it’s still a playing-to-the-masses mentality, using humor to sell beers

But no beer ad that I have ever seen to this date in my life is more insulting to the American — the world’s — drinking intellect than the one I just saw, in which a voice that sounds like Sam Elliott’s (the cowboy-hat-wearing Stranger in The Big Lebowski) tells us that “we could frost-brew Coors somewhere else besides the Rocky Mountains. We could use other water…We just don’t.”

Yes they do.