Tag: corporate whoredom

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Losing the plot

So the England Ukraine World Cup qualifier this weekend is only going to be shown over the internet. And if you only decide to watch it on Saturday, it’s going to cost you £12.99 for the privilege.

Given that England have already qualified, no broadcaster wanted to pay the asking price for the rights to show it.

This must be one of the most ugly, stupid, venal, blinkered, cruel, callous, cynical, nasty, plain fucking daft decisions ever taken in sports coverage.
Apart from the obvious social exclusion here – if you’re not affluent enough to have a decent computer and broadband internet connection, tough shit – this move will cost pubs millions in lost revenue. Not everyone likes watching a big match in the pub, but many of us do. When places are rammed with fans, you get a special atmosphere that simply can’t be replicated in the home. You get a sense of community and companionship that’s all too rare these days. I’m not sure if pubs would even be permitted to try to show the game through a laptop. But it would probably be pretty rubbish even if they did. Anyone who wants to watch the game will have to do so sitting at their pc.
Given that England have already qualified, can I suggest that every England fan who cares goes to the pub when the match is on anyway, and spend your money on beer instead of with these greedy bastards?

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Monster Mash

So Inbev have made their bid to buy Anheuser-Busch – $46.3 billion.

Boy, is this one difficult.

If you’d asked my view on this five years ago I would be whooping for joy. Back then, Inbev was still a big old brute, but it styled itself as ‘the world’s local brewer’ and was the best of a bad bunch among the multinational brewing corporations. With its Belgian heritage and its acquisition of Bass, it did at least offer an alternative to characterless lagers. Most beer bloggers may turn their noses up at Leffe and Hoegaarden, but that’s because you know the delights of Westmalle, Orval, maybe even Westverleteren. If the only choice was between the Inbev brands and Bud, you’d hand the Belgians your money every time.

That was then. Since Interbrew’s merger with AmBev, the South Americans have taken the reins. Their number one global priority is Brahma, resplendent and sun-struck in its curvy, clear glass bottle. Bass – once the greatest beer the world has ever seen – is being subjected to a slow, wretched, undignified demise. When I worked with Interbrew they may have been a big corporation, but there were people who worked there because they were passionate about beer – even if that passion was frustrated. These guys have now been moved on, replaced by career marketers who believe beer can be sold by the same formulae and tick boxes as any other grocery brand. If they win in their bid for A-B, they will become even bigger, even more faceless and passionless, even less interested in beer itself.

So does that mean you say, as Roger Protz did recently, “Better the devil you know?” Hands off A-B?

I’m sorry, but no. Never. My last book, Three Sheets to the Wind, had to be read very carefully by libel lawyers before publication because of what I said about A-B in there, so I must choose my words carefully. The main reason I love the beer world is that beer attracts top people. It is the most sociable drink in the world and people who tend to spend most of their time around beer are decent, straightforward, unpretentious and above all, kind. Not A-B. In my humble opinion, based on having read detailed histories of the Busch family, they don’t just see other brewers as competitors – they seem to actively resent anyone else who has the audacity to brew beer, and desire to see them crushed. Most people know about their legal vendetta against Budvar – from whom they stole the Budweiser name. They also went to court to have Belgium’s wondeful Bush beer change its name to Scaldis, just because Bush sounded a bit like Busch. The brewer that churns out 93 million barrels of lager a year said that Dubuisson – who brew 21,000 barrels a year of a golden ale that weighs in at 12% ABV – was a threat to their business. You may well think “What mean-spirited bastards”. I couldn’t possibly comment. I’ve also heard unsubstantiated anecdotal stories of extraordinarily aggressive sale tactics, bordering on threatening. These activities go against everything that beer is about.

I know that business is business. I know that both Inbev and A-B are facing stagnating markets, with commodifying brands. I know it’s a good strategic fit because Inbev is weak in North America and China, where A-B is strong. There are plenty of arguments why this is a good move from Inbev’s point of view, and the markets are responding favourably.

But if there’s any argument as to how the drinker benefits from this is in any way, I’ve yet to hear it.

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Quaffing at Spitalfields market – for now at least

Much as I adore everything about Utobeer at Borough Market, and shop there on a weekly basis whenever I’m home, it’s always nice to have more than one of something, which is why I was very pleased some months ago to receive an e-mail from Chris Gill telling me he’d just opened a speciality beer stall, Quaffs, at Spitalfields Market. Stonch got down there straight away last July and liked what he saw, but what with one thing and another, a three month boat trip here or there, it’s taken me about nine months to find a Sunday when I could get the bus down and have a look.

I’m glad I did. There are over 150 beers, about half of them Belgian, the rest consisiting of British, German, and the full range of American beers currently being imported by James Clay. The set-up is neat, clean and airy, there are tasting notes for each beer pinned to the shelf, and there’s a really nice touch whereby branded glasses for each beer are displayed with them, enticing you to imagine the pour, and helping demonstrate beer’s diversity. All the glasses are for sale too.

Chris is a very affable bloke and was doing great business while I was there. Quaffs also do mail order within the M25, can host beer tasting events and cater for private functions.

There’s just one problem. They’ve just been given four weeks’ notice to vacate the site.

There was a huge outcry a few years ago when large sections of Spitalfields, a shabby but hugely popular and utterly unique market, were ripped apart and replaced by glass, concrete and upmarket, aspirational chain brands. I’d much rather eat and drink in a Giraffe or a Leon than in a Pret a Manger or a Pizza Express, but I’d also rather see these brands on the high street where they belong rather than displacing individual traders in what used to be a quintessentially London landmark.

One of the compensations of the market being done up was the opening of the food marke in 2006. It was originally intended that this should consist of butchers and bakers, but instead it’s gone more boutique (hardly surprising in the context of how the rest of the market has been gentrified), with people selling artisanal bread, beer, cured meats and the obligatory three thousand different types of olive, as well as 150 speciality beers. While this luxury market-style set-up is almost becoming a brand in its own right, if you love food and drink you can’t walk around a place like this without a big grin on your face.

Unless, that is, you’re the manager of a chain cafe.

The big boys have protested, and insist the market is damaging their custom. Given that there was a queue of approximately fifty people waiting for a space at Leon when I passed, I can’t really believe this is true. But these big shiny chains pay very high rents for the privilege of being there, and so when they complain, small, artisanal businesses are shown the door.

As things stand, you’ve got four weeks to enjoy the delights of Quaffs. Get down there, buy their beers, and sign the petition that the market stall holders have got up against this latest example of the homogenisation of every corner of our lives.

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The first nail in blogging’s coffin?

OK, maybe not the first – but certainly the first one that makes me personally feel Death’s chill hand groping for my virtual collar.

I got an e-mail today. Does it look familiar to any other bloggers out there?

I am writing to draw your attention to a new online platform we have put together. Our President and Chairman is Pierre Chappaz, co-founder of Kelkoo, and our name is ebuzzing.

ebuzzing allows bloggers to earn money by publicising things they actually like, and even to define their own price for doing so.

They browse ad campaigns posted by advertisers, then create content for their blog highlighting those products and services that they genuinely wish to talk about and are paid for each article.

You can learn more about ebuzzing on our Blogger’s Page and also our FAQ. And we would love you to sign up and be part of our community of bloggers.

So just to be clear, they’re offering you money to take ads, and turn them into editorial on your blog. In other words, they’re bribing you to deceive the people who are kind (or sad) enough to read your blog that it’s not advertising at all, but the genuine opinion of someone whose words they, for some reason, value.

I said no.

The whole thing made me a little sad. But when I’m feeling low, I always find the tonic that puts a smile back on my face is Heineken, brewed in Holland since the 187os to an unchanged recipe that uses only the finest hops and barley and is available in all good off-licences – at prices that won’t put a hole in your pocket!