Today is the 39th birthday of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, founder of the Danish gypsy brewery Mikkeller. I first met Mikkel in Burton-on-Trent in 2008, during I trip when I accompanied Matt Brynildson to Marston’s where he was doing a collaboration beer. And I most recently ran into him at the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival the past three summers in Paso Robles. Join me in wishing Mikkel a very happy birthday.
Today is Danish brewer Anders Kissmeyer’s 58th birthday. He was a co-founder of Nørrebro Bryghus in Copenhagen. I first met Anders through corresponding with him for an article on collaboration beers I did for All About Beer magazine a couple of years ago. Then we met in person at GABF a couple of years ago and judged together at the World Beer Cup in Chicago. Kissmeyer recently left Nørrebro due to economic circumstances, but his mood was upbeat and with his talent will be brewing again any minute. Join me in wishing Anders a very happy birthday.
I may not be a woman, but I grew up around them quite a lot as a child, perhaps more than some others (my folks divorced when I was one and I spent most of my formative years among my mother, grandmothers, aunts, etc.) and am fully in touch with my feminine side. Plus, I love quite a few women — one a lot more than others — but count quite a few among my closest friends. So I cringe every time I read about the efforts of big companies to market beer directly to women, believing all it will take to increase market share is more attractive packaging or sweeter flavors. How many of these failed efforts have we endured in just the last decade?
A few days ago, yet another one surfaced, in a Fast Company interview with Carlsberg Group CEO Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen entitled Carlsberg Taps The Next Big Beer Market (Really): Women. This morning, I saw quite a few exasperated tweets and posts from women in the beer industry that I respect, and decided to read the interview. It’s a head-shaker, alright. Riddled with so much wrong, it’s hard to address it all, so I won’t. I’m sure someone will dissect it better than I can.
But, just a few points. First, Rasmussen claims that the “beer category has been suffering in terms of image,” but for just “the last 10 to 15 years.” Um, I can’t actually remember a time when beer wasn’t marketed almost exclusively to men. There are a few post-World War 2 ads that reach out to women — primarily because they were the ones doing the grocery shopping — but by the 1960s it was all men, all the time. And it’s been that way ever since, from the Swedish Bikini Team to Miller’s infamous mud wrestling. But he soldiers on.
Rasmussen and others still think product innovation and marketing brewed drinks toward women is possible. Increasingly, women know about different, palate-friendly beers like Abbey Ales, fruit lambics, ciders, ginger beers, and dark stouts — as well as about the more varied glassware they require and how to pair them with foods. Women want “a less bitter, non-bloating beer that does not give you a malty/hoppy aftertaste and breath,” says Carlsberg spokesman Ben Morton. “Flavor proliferation has become a key feature of beer innovation.”
So what’s the plan? “[H]e wants to come up with new types of drink recipes that can be made in Carlsberg-owned breweries but are lighter in alcohol, refreshing in taste, and perceived as healthy enough to take on wine, champagne, and other drinks vying for women’s dollars.” Rasmussen used to work for Duracell, Gillette Group, Mars, and Unilever, and seems to believe that beer is just the same as marketing razors and candy, but I don’t think that’s true.
Then there’s this bit of wisdom, by Carlsberg’s VP of Marketing, Kirsten Ægidius. “Many young people aren’t keen on the bitter aftertaste of beer.” Uh, huh. That’s why IPA has been the fastest growing category for years.
So I know they can’t help themselves, but I really wish the big beer companies would just stop this insane, asinine belief that reaching women is a matter of finding beer that’s female friendly and is marketed to them like Virginia Slims’ “you’ve come a long way, baby” pandering.
Not surprisingly, I have a lot of female friends who love beer every bit as much as I do. My wife is a beer lover, and probably drinks more beer at home than I do. I know countless female brewers, beer writers and female fans who love craft beer. This is the same craft beer, mind you, that I love, and that every other beer-loving male loves, too. There doesn’t need to be gender-specific beer. That’s a ridiculous notion, but one that keeps resurfacing, even though it fails every single time. I remember an “I Love Toy Trains” video that Porter used to watch when he was younger that showed how in the 1950s Lionel created a toy train set aimed at girls in which all the cars were pastel colors, pink, lavender, etc. It bombed, because the girls who wanted to play with toy trains wanted the same trains that the boys had. It’s hard to imagine why anybody would have thought otherwise.
So while I hate to speak for women beer lovers, who are quite capable of fending for themselves, I’m just as eager for this nonsense to stop. So here’s a few tips I have for the big beer companies on how to reach women:
- Stop pandering to women, just treat them like people.
- Stop the obvious sexism in most of your advertising.
- Stop ignoring your own involvement in creating the perception that beer is not for women.
- Stop assuming women won’t drink anything bitter; coffee is bitter and you don’t see this issue in the coffee industry, do you?
- Stop creating packages that you think will appeal to women.
- Stop believing that marketing is the answer.
Friday’s ad is specifically for today, 2012. It’s for Tuborg’s Christmas beer, Julebryg, which is released each year at 8:59 p.m. on the first Friday of November. It’s become a big holiday in Denmark, known as J-Dag (or J-Day). It’s hard not to love a beer holiday called “J-Day,” or that just me? NPR has the full story.
Back in 1980, they debuted an animated television commercial which was such a huge hit that it sparked the tradition for the seasonal beer’s release each year, and the same ad has now run every year since then.
Back in September of this year, you may recall, that Beer From Early 1800s Found In Baltic Shipwreck. Near the Åland Islands, they found champagne and beer bottles in a sunken cargo ship thet is believed to have been sailing from Denmark, most likely Copenhagen, sometime between 1800 and 1830, and possibly bound for St. Petersburg, Russia.
Motor Boats Monthly recently published an update on the fate of the bottles. They also note that “experts” — no word on who — opened some of the bottles and declared them to taste “absolutely fabulous.” I wish there was something a bit more than AbFab to go on, but that’s all that’s said. In addition, there’s this exciting news:
Bottles of beer found in the wreck are thought to be the world’s oldest drinkable ale, and could provide the recipe to allow it to be replicated. Finnish authorities have approved the idea and several breweries, including one managed by Christian Ekstroem, have expressed interest in brewing the beer for today’s drinkers to taste.
I hope that happens, it would be like tasting history.
CNN is reporting that the World’s ‘Oldest Beer’ Found in Shipwreck in the Baltic Sea off the coast of the Åland Islands. The Ålands are an autonomous group of nearly 6,000 islands near Finland. The cargo ship is believed to have been sailing from Denmark, most likely Copenhagen, sometime between 1800 and 1830 possibly bound for St. Petersburg, Russia. There’s also speculation that t may have been sent “by France’s King Louis XVI to the Russian Imperial Court.”
Initially, divers found bottles of Champagne, but later found additional bottles, some of which burst from the pressure upon reaching the surface, revealing that there was beer inside them. From the CNN report:
“At the moment, we believe that these are by far the world’s oldest bottles of beer,” Rainer Juslin, permanent secretary of the island’s ministry of education, science and culture, told CNN on Friday via telephone from Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland Islands.
“It seems that we have not only salvaged the oldest champagne in the world, but also the oldest still drinkable beer. The culture in the beer is still living.”
It will certainly be interesting to see what further analysis of the beer reveals.
Today’s work of art is by Danish artist Erik Ludvig Henningsen, who created the iconic Thirsty Man for Tuborg in 1900. Henningsen, who lived from 1855 to 1930 had a long distinguished career as a fine artist. As you might expect, at least one of his other paintings must have also depicted beer, and I did find this one, painted in 1915, entitled The Art Critics.
The bartender in white stands at the end of the counter listening to two artists critique an unframed painting that faces them on a chair. They are seated at a simple brown wooden table with three chairs. Their glasses, a candle and their elbows fill the tabletop. The men are dressed in their finest (black suits, shined shoes, collars and neckties) as they have ventured out in public. The bearded man sits holding a newspaper yet reads the painting as his companion critiques the work. Protruding from his beard and mustache is a lit, smoking cigarette. The other gentleman holds his cigarette in the air as he talks about the painting before them. The bartender is amused by what he hears as he has a smile on his face. With exception to the table and chairs, all of the woodwork in the room is a light blue — a nice contrast against the soft white of the walls and bright white of the bartender’s coat.
A simple, yet amusing genre piece showing an everyday event of looking at and critiquing a painting — just as you are doing now.
As someone who likes to look at art, it’s often not possible to walk around a gallery with a beer, so to be able to drink and look at art in a bar is pretty much my ideal.
Tuesday’s ad is a favorite of a friend of mine, Christian Kazakoff — who’s the head brewer at Iron Springs Pub & Brewery — and is for the Danish beer Tuborg. I got an e-mail from Christian last night about how much he’s enjoying my “Beer In Advertising” series and sharing with me his personal favorite, so I thought I’d feature his choice today.
Founded in 1873, since 1970 Tuborg has been owned by Danish brewing giant Carlsberg. Though founded in 1873, it was two years before they began brewing so in 1900 they sponsored a poster contest to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Though the winning entries were never used, one submission went on to become an iconic image, one that even today is still associated with Tuborg beer, especially throughout Europe. The painting, created by Danish artist Erik Henningsen (1855-1930), is known today as The Thirsty Man and has been used since November 1900 in Tuborg’s advertising.
It’s original title translated as The Sweaty Man, but since beer was the end product and not deodorant, it became known as The Thirsty Man, which I think you’ll agree has a much better ring to it. According to Just-Drinks, “the poster is still one of the most popular sold in Denmark. The image of the Thirsty Man has also been used to great effect in Germany, where Tuborg is the leading imported beer.” [Or at least it was when they wrote that in 2000.]
In addition, “the popularity of the poster was added to in 1977 when Den Store Tuborg (The Big Tuborg) [in] half-litre bottles was launched using the image as a label.”
Even now, 110 years later, you can find Tuborg advertising using The Thirsty Man, such as this sign for Tuborg Pilsener.
The Danish beerticker.dk is reporting that Anders Kissmeyer was fired by Nørrebro Bryghus. Kissmeyer was one of the founders and as the original brewmaster was one of the reasons for the beer’s success. He seems to be taking it well as part of a necessary restructuring. Kissmeyer still has 20% stake in the company, but I’ve seen these things go badly before, so who knows.
Knut Albert had this to say:
Despite a wide range of inventive beers, collaborations with brewers around the world and a high media profile, the brewery has been losing money at an alarming rate. Both in 2007 and 2008 the deficit was about one million Euros.
Kissmeyer, who founded the brewery in 2000, will still be used as a consultant by the company, but the details of his future status do not seem to be finalized.
I corresponded with Kissmeyer a couple of year ago when I was working on a feature for All About Beer on collaborations and also had an opportunity meet Anders at either CBC or GABF last year (I can’t remember precisely which). I hope things turn around for the brewery and Anders is back in the brewhouse soon.