Tag Archives: beer articles

One Beer Article You Need To Read And Why, 11/9/16

Pay to play.  If you are in any way involved in the craft beer industry, you have heard this phrase.  What is usually meant by it is a form of bribery between distributors/breweries and bar/restaurants in which the bar agrees to put up beers for some type of remuneration.

In its most basic form, it is “here is an envelope of cash, thanks for the tap placements.” That has shifted to the rather rare “here is a bunch of money for festival sponsorship/advertising, thanks for the tap placements.”

Usually, it is done carrot and stick style with allocated releases.  In North Carolina when you go into a bar and it always seems to have Highland Gaelic on tap, it is because they want to make sure they get a ½ barrel of Cold Mountain in November. Every brewery and distributor who as a special release beer does this.  Is that wrong?

Here is an article from Good Beer Hunting that lays out what pay for play is in today’s beer world.  Hint, there is a lot of gray area. It is an interview with Chicago’s Longman & Eagle bar manager Phil Olson that explores the concept of pay for play.

Hypothetical, you are a bar manager or owner and you are talking to a brewery rep and they mention this really big festival that they sponsor is in a few weeks. Then, they ask, “Would you like some tickets?”  You say sure.  That is the end of the conversation.  He doesn’t ask you to buy anything.  He doesn’t ask to put 3 beers on tap.  Maybe you are someone he is trying to get into the fold and he is being nice in hopes you think about his beer the next time the distributor comes by for an order.  Is that pay for play?  What if you are already a good customer?

A rep comes to you and wants to do a tap takeover.  She says, “We will do the social media and print posters for you and we’ll bring in glassware and swag for the customers and the bartenders.”  All you have to do is put up 5 beers.  Is that pay for play?

I think this interview does a good job of laying out that what people see in their minds as pay for play is not what actually happens and is rarely how it plays out.

Most of your customers want you to get that special release.  Good distributors will remind you by pointing out the core stuff that fits your bars brand.  Take Highland Cold Mountain.  We should get a keg and at least a case of it this year, but at no point did we ever put up Highland Gaelic Ale which is easily their best-selling beer.  Our distributor made sure we got all the Highland beer that fit our bar and what we want to do.  That to me this isn’t pay for play.  It is good business on everyone’s part.  The brewery makes good core beer, the distributor makes sure his accounts know about it and the allocations, the retailer gets good beer year around and gets a reward for being a loyal customer.

I missed yesterday to go vote.  I’m not happy with the result, but I’m not moving to Canada or anywhere else.  Despite what some who voted for the winner may believe, I am an American.  I was born here and will die here and I will fight for a better America as long as I can breath.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 2/10/16

I’ve neglected the Five Articles for the past week.  It isn’t that I haven’t been reading articles and thinking about beer. It seems to be more that I want to do something different with the articles, I just can’t figure out what that difference is.

Anyway, the first article today is about the crowded growler market in Atlanta.  My interest has little to do with beer as much as it has to do with this as a case study in how economics works.  A new business market segment becomes available; people rush in to fill it; the market gets oversaturated; the market corrects itself by weeding out the weak.  This is something that is going to happen in all the different segments of the beer market.  All the new breweries that have come out of the woodwork in the last two to three years will not survive.  The ones with bad beer and bad business models will fail.

Number two on today’s list is a short piece that adds nothing to the conversation about beer and food pairing.  I highlight it solely because it is an article on a food association website.  Craft beer people have been saying how great beer is when paired with food for a few years now.  The food people are starting to realize it too and that makes a huge difference in the overall perception of beer and food.

One of the things I have learned from doing the Five Articles most days is how powerful the wholesale/distribution lobby is at the state level across the country.  In Georgia, they basically bullied that state’s craft brewers back into 2013 distribution law wise.  Now, in SC, they are pushing a law that is silly in other states that requires alcohol shipped from other states to “rest” for 24 hours at a warehouse in SC before it is sent to retailers.

Here is another article about beer and food pairings, specifically beer and chocolate.  No real earth shattering insights.  I just wanted to highlight a beer and chocolate pairing article.

The way to combat ABInbev’s growing need to buy every midsized brewery worth a damn by throwing as much money as humanly possible at them is to push beer lovers to drink local. While many of the new breweries popping up in small towns and in neighborhoods around the country has the downside that many of these breweries make bad beer and have bad business models they do have tremendous upside potential.  That is more and more people have the ability to drink fresh beer owned operated and brewed locally.  That should always trump buying beer from a company that at is heart doesn’t even like some of its own assets.

Five Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/12/15

A writer in Arizona writes a good article that sounds like it’s from 1993.  Brewers and distributors fight in Los Angeles and Colorado.  And some people believe every bit of advertising they see.  A good Sunday group of five articles.

  • Here is an article about all those microbreweries that are popping up everywhere. This article is a good rundown of the changes in Arizona law to make it easier for craft brewers to operate and expand, but couldn’t someone have said to the writer or the editor, “They haven’t been called microbreweries since the 1990s. They are called craft breweries.” I mean, he did interview actual brewers for this article and I assume he visited the Brewer’s Association website for more information.
  • This story is interesting for two reasons. One, is that a city as big and with as many people who glom onto trends easily and quickly as Los Angeles has just started getting a craft beer culture. Second, is the question why this has taken so long.  I like distributors, but they are the most conservative group in the craft beer movement.  By conservative I mean the most averse to change.  There is a good reason for that.  They have made a lot of money with the way the system is set up currently.  Their actions have had the biggest effect on the stifling of craft beer in every state.
  • What is happening in Colorado fascinates me. There is a ballot initiative to make it possible to sell craft beer in grocery stores.  The reason they aren’t in grocery stores is a “weak beer/strong beer” law that keeps anything brewed at over 3.2% in liquor stores. Smaller brewers don’t want this because they fear they won’t be able to sell as much beer if large grocery stores can sell craft beer.  Now, this group Colorado Consumers for Choice is a front for the state’s wholesalers and distributors, so that makes their motives suspect.  However, since I live in a state where craft beer is sold in grocery stores and still has a thriving craft beer scene I don’t share in the doomsday scenario that comes from this article.  Bottle shops and other places that cater to craft beer drinkers will step in and fill the niche created by this law.  Consumer choice is not a bad thing, it just may make brewer’s jobs a little harder.
  • First it was hops and now it is malt. Slowly, the infrastructure needed to make craft brewing a sustainable endeavor is being built in this country.  Stories like this are popping up in almost every state that has viable farmland and people with the skills and dedication to make malting work.
  • I still think these lawsuits are stupid. All advertising is a way to create a feeling in consumers that makes them want to buy the product. You can’t outright lie in an ad, but I don’t think that is what happens in these Blue Moon ads.  Everything they say in the ad is true.  If you thought it was a craft beer, then the advertising worked.  I don’t like it, but at some point this thing called life is a participatory event and you actually have to take an active role in it.  That means, engage your brain every once and a while.  Also, there are better Belgian-style witbiers then Blue Moon out there, drink one of those.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 6/16/15

Why is it so hot in June?  Anyway, here are the links.  Today we go in order from the largest to the smallest stories.  It will make sense once you read the descriptions.

This Time I Have Something That Resembles A Plan

Part of it was self-imposed and part of it was a distinct lack of sleep (I do have a day job), but I have taken over a week off from the blog.  I feel bad not writing, but I used the time to asses and refine my goal for this space.

I have two primary goals with the changes I want to make.  The first is to post a new review or other piece at least five days a week (I may never sleep).  The second goal is to try to do something to enliven the beer review.

First, the Five Articles will be written every day, seven days a week.  I want it to set the agenda for the day and get out a few quick hit thoughts.  I just like reading about different aspects of the craft beer world.  I do read every article that I link to plus at least another five that I don’t link.  Reading all this stuff educates me and helps mold the perspective I want to achieve on the website.

Second, I want to write more Beer Counselor pieces.  Maybe change the name or do more then one type of column/blog pieces.  I have thoughts on how I see the beer business from the perspective of someone who works in the retail portion of the business (and by business I mean the industry) and not for a brewer or as a distributor.  I want to put those thoughts out there for agreement and derision.  Not only do I want to write more of these pieces I want to have fun with it.  I don’t want a set structure.  I want to experiment and take chances with what shows up in this part of the site.

Finally and maybe most importantly, I want to concentrate more on the reviews.  I want to try and figure out a way to do them differently. I want to do reviews in a way that entertains me and is slightly different than anyone else’s perspective.  I am trying to make it more narrative in structure.  I have a couple of other ideas I will work into the reviews beginning next week.

Actual reviews of the beer are not hard to write.  If you have any tasting experience and ability to express what you taste in complete sentences, you can write a review.  In fact, the actual review of a beer should not take up more than 200 words.  How it looks, smells, and tastes is not that difficult to describe.  The best reviewers and reviews give you more than that.  They tell a story or evoke a place or time in your mind.  I want to write reviews that have a narrative structure and a little added value (I am going to hold off on letting you know what my planned added value is until the first review of next week).  These first reviews will be rough as I circle around what I’m trying to get at in the writing.

Here is the new plan:

  • The Five Articles – Every Day
  • Beer Counselor (or some other bloggy piece) – 2 or 3 times a week
  • Beer Reviews – 3 or 4 times a week

That means you will be getting at least 500 words of new content a day (just what the internet needs more noise) 5 days a week not counting the Five Articles.  The more I think about it, the less sleep I see in my future.