In ABC News’ online Money section, business writer Eric Noe has a piece entitled For Dessert, How About a Beer?. In the middle of the article, Noe makes the following revelation:
Sales of craft beers, the industry term given to unusually flavored or seasonal beers, grew at 11 percent during the first half of the year.
Let that sink in. ABC defines craft beer as either “unusually flavored” or “seasonal beers.” Perhaps if you listen very carefully you can hear a faint thumping sound. That’s me banging my head repeatedly against my keyboard. The only thing keeping my head from spinning completely around are the laws of physics.
Remind me not to go drinking with Eric Noe. “Here, Eric, try this Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. How about those unusual flavors? We call them hops.” I can only assume by “unusually flavored” he means that they actually have flavor, which is the reason sales of industrial light lagers are down — they don’t have much in the way of flavor at all.
The rest of the article is banal stuff — and old hat — about Miller’s new chocolate beer (Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager), Anhesuer-Busch’s chocolate beer, etc., something the craft beer segment has been doing for years. But, of course, to ABC it’s only news once the big players (you know, the ones who advertise on ABC) begin to make beer with chocolate or chocolate-like flavors. The article also touches on the recent spate of infused beers, beers with added vitamins, caffeine, etc. and manages to confuse those beers with ones having different flavors, too. Last time I checked vitamins don’t have a particular flavor, do they?
As far as I can tell, the author isn’t really sure what flavor is, I mean he seems confused about its very definition. For example, he reports that “Anheuser-Busch has gotten in on the act, too, introducing flavored beers like Michelob Honey Lager and Michelob Amber Bock.” The honey lager may have “a touch of honey,” as A-B claims, but does that really make it a “flavored beer?” More to the point, what flavors have been added to the Amber Bock? Malt?
Eric Shepard, executive editor of the industry trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights remarks in the article that “[p]eople are saying they want something more flavorful than just malt, yeast, hops and water.” No offense, Eric, but I don’t think that is what people are saying. Malt, yeast, hops and water are more than sufficient to make a bewildering array of rich, flavorful beers. This year’s Great American Beer Festival judged 69 distinct and different beer styles, only a handful of which used anything more than the classic four ingedients. This is exactly what craft brewers have been doing for twenty-five years. People do want those ingredients used to produce something that tastes like … well, something. They want it to taste like beer, for example. That would be a good start.
For the major breweries, creating specialty brands isn’t the problem.
But while microbreweries, which have lower operating expenses, can turn a profit by selling relatively small amounts of specialty beers, the bigger operations like Miller and Anheuser-Busch probably won’t see immediate profits from these newer products.
For now, the goal of offering craft beers may be to lure customers back to the major brands.
“So far, the big breweries haven’t proved particularly adept at selling craft beers,” Shepard said. “But it makes a whole lot of sense — this is where the market is going.”
I love the honesty of his remark, “the goal of offering craft beers may be to lure [my emphasis] customers back to the major brands.” People must be “lured” to drink the major brands. That says it all, don’t you think?