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Forgive Me Father, for I have Sinned.

As a good (albeit lapsed) Catholic boy with 12 years of Catholic schooling under my belt, I am used to saying these words, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

That statement, in a confessional booth with a priest, was followed by a litany of small, inconsequential sins for which I was asking for forgiveness. 

Father would give me three “Hail Mary’s,” four “Our Father’s” and on down the road I would go.

Father Mascott, from the grade school I went to, went on to get married, but that is a post for another day, and much better than the other things priests are usually in the newspaper for … 

To the readers of this blog, I ask for forgiveness because I have been drinking … something … other … than wine …

I have been dabbling in craft beer.

Horrors!

I am not talking Sam Adams or Blue Moon—more along the lines of high-end Double IPA’s from tiny brewers across the country. 

With fall (bordering on winter) weather now gripping the Midwest, my palate has been asking for the gripping sweetness of a nice hopped-out beer.  In fact, I am anxiously awaiting the release of seasonal beer called Hopslam that is released by Bells Brewery in Michigan on January 7th.

I wish I could say I was learning something relevant to wine enthusiasm, but, in fact, it is quite the opposite.

I might need to ask Father for forgiveness for a small rant …

First, it is very educational to drink craft beer as a layperson, because I look at the aisle of a specialty beer shop the same way that 95% of wine consumers look at a wall of wine, all labels and foreign excitement and anxiety; gawky like a teen on prom night.  The craft beer aisle might as well be a double snap bra that requires a simultaneous pinch and twist. While interesting, it is also intimidating because I really do not know what I am buying – by definition, I could not tell you the difference between an IPA and an Imperial IPA – just like most cannot tell you the difference between Syrah from California and Shiraz from Australia.  And, I do not know any of the producers / breweries either. 

And, that is the problem from a consumer perspective.  I am buying a pig-in-the-poke.  Instinctively, I find myself trying to read beer labels, like a wine bottle, but there is scant copy. 

Yet, the U.S. beer world is blindly following the same marketing tactics as the U.S. wine world, just 25 years later.

I want to tell somebody, anybody, to STOP!

It is maddening.

Increasingly, craft brewers are:

1) Bottling beer in large format 750 ml bottles

2)  Bottling beer with corks

3)  Creating marketing shtick with special glasses – ex:  Sam Adams here

4) Increasing price points to luxury levels (I paid $8.49 for a single 12 oz beer from Dogfish Head Brewery—do the math for a 6-pack)

5) Naming beers with wacky names like Dreadnaught and Gumballhead

6)  Rating beers on a 100 pt. scale. 

7)  Using lifestyle marketing tactics

8) Creating celebrity, “midas touch” brewers

9) Pairing beer with food

In an interesting bit of irony, I am currently drinking a beer called Ommegeddon in a large format bottle, with a cork/champagne-like enclosure that has been inoculated with Brettanomyces – yes, Brett; the bane of every winemaker.  Next up is a lambic with a cork finish – the cork has a grape bunch on it because, well, I do not think nomacorc makes corks for beer quite yet.

And, here is what I want to tell every craft brewer –

“We (speaking on behalf of the wine industry) have tried the tactics you are trying and the thing that we have found that works best is engaging with customers on a one-to-one basis, providing meaningful education, being accessible, but not goofy and, most of all, demonstrating our passion for creating a high-quality product with a compelling storytelling narrative that is authentic.”

The rest is all marketing.  And, while marketing is a sin that a Priest forgives, what they do not forgive are capital sins – that is what purgatory is for.

Here’s hoping the craft brew industry learns some lessons from the wine industry before going into consumer purgatory without getting a chance at heaven.

Links of Interest:  Craft brew article in this weeks The New Yorker



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Posted in, Indy Food & Wine. Permalink | Comments (7) |


Comments

On 11/24, Marty wrote:

YAY!  GOOD BEER!

As a majority of winemakers will tell you:  It takes a lot of beer to make good wine. 

What I’ve noticed in my time in booze retail is that craft beer nuts will easily make the transition to wine, and probably to small, natural, and esoteric wines, just as they like their beers.  And get just as wine-dorky as they’ve gotten beer-geeky—and I love it.

Yum.  That was refreshing.

On 11/24, Jeff wrote:

Marty,

I need to buy you a beer—you have won the award for quickest comment after putting a post live!!!

Jeff

On 11/24, dhonig wrote:

Lambic?  Here is a special treat with lambic, specifically raspberry lambic:

2 parts chocolate stout
1 part raspberry lambic
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream

I promise you, you will never want a root beer float again.

On 11/25, mydailywine wrote:

Jeff, wonderfully clever insights as always.
My new beer love is Flemish red ales….now thats a wine drinkers beer! Great acidity and ‘winey’ flavors on a beer.

On 11/25, Amy Christine wrote:

ME TOO!! Loving the beer!! My friend Julian from the Cheese Store of Silverlake brought me back a great beer from England called Black Sheep Brewery. Wrapped it up in a pair of pants and flew it back. And then I found it in Whole Foods yesterday. smile Alas, the globalization of beer is here!

St. Peter’s Cream Ale from Whole Foods also delish $5.29 a bottle. I bought that and then found it $1.50 cheaper at the Wine House. Alas! I always like to pay more.

On 11/25, Jeff wrote:

Phew, thanks all.  Glad I’m in good company.  I thought I was coming out of the closet.

Amy Christine - I was scanning my memory bank when I popped on your site and then I recalled that you won the Wine Spectator video contest last year.

I have to tell you—your site design is awesome!!  But, what, no blog??

Thanks for reading all!

Jeff

http://www.goodgrape.com

On 12/15, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Jeff - there’s a Belgian Beer tasting in a new home in Granger, IN, which, coincidentally, is scheduled for the first Thursday and Friday of the 2009 NCCA Basketball Championships.

More info to come…


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