Tag: Marketing toss. lager

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Foster’s (US) joins the Artois Academy of Marketing Nonsense

Oh dear.

Sometimes I feel have to apologise to the world on behalf of marketing.  Not because marketing has done something that’s my fault, but because I occasionally still work in marketing and no one else who does is going to do the decent thing.

I’ve just been writing a piece for Garret Oliver’s upcoming Oxford Companion to Beer on the subject of Foster’s, and I found this, the brand’s American website.  Here, on the landing page, we find a bold product claim that would put even Stella Artois to shame:

“Unlike other beers, [our hops] are added at the end of the brewing process to preserve their freshness.”


Foster’s is different from other beers because they add their hops at the end of the brewing process?

And the reason they do this is to preserve the freshness of the hops??

Just how wrong can someone be???

For those of my readers who may be unfamiliar with the brewing process (such as those of my readers who work on Foster’s in the US), hops add two key things to the character of beer (apart from their contribution to preserving it): bitterness and aroma/taste.

When you add hops at the beginning of the boil, the compounds break down, the alpha acids are released, and their pungent aroma disappears.  These hops add bitterness to the beer.

Towards the end of the boil you add more hops.  You don’t give these a chance to break down.  The aroma compounds remain intact, and these hops give beer its floral, grassy, herby, spicy or fruity notes.

This is standard practice across brewing, and while there are probably some beers that do not have a late hop addition, I don’t know of any.  Any book you read on the brewing process will describe an early addition and a late addition of hops as absolutely standard practice.  And Foster’s is claiming it is unique to their beer.

Attentive readers may also realise that Foster’s seems unaware why it is adding hops late in the boil.  They mention nothing about the aroma stuff I just described; they say it is to preserve the freshness of the hops.

If the person who write this had ever been near a brewery in their lives, they would know that even where brewers use whole hops, 99% of the time they have been dried and stored – they’re not fresh to start with.  And most industrial brewers such as Foster’s don’t use whole hops anyway – they use dried, concentrated pellets, or even hop oil.  Freshness has nothing to do with it.

What makes me angry about deliberate misinformation like this is that it helps no one.  Having worked on the dark side, I can tell you that they probably come out with bullshit like this because as a ‘premium’ brand, they’re looking for a ‘reason to believe’, a ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ that provides a rational basis for product choice.  They would probably argue that their ‘target audience’ is not beer nerds, but mainstream drinkers who have no knowledge of the brewing process.  They don’t want to hear too much information, just enough.  And if that information is heavily distorted or even wilfully wrong, they’re never going to find out, and wouldn’t care much if they did.

This is insulting the intelligence of the people they’re talking to – deliberately writing off any curiosity they may have.

It’s distorting the truth of the market, insulting all other beers.

And it’s exacerbating a problem facing craft brewer and corporate lager brewer alike: one reason wine is surging ahead, taking people from beer, is that it’s premium, yet easy to understand – it’s made from grapes.  There are different varieties of grapes, and you’ll prefer some to others.  People aren’t really aware of what beer’s ingredients are, what each contributes, and what the brewing process does.  It’s quite complicated, and that makes it hard to engage with. And when people who have a responsibility, or at least an opportunity, to act as ambassadors for beer, if they add to that confusion by wilfully, deliberately, further confusing, distorting and lying about the brewing process just to say something that sounds differentiating and simple, they betray their drinkers, their brand, and everything about beer.

And I don’t even have the energy to take them to task on what they go on to say about yeast.

Shame on you, Foster’s.  Next time, just stick to the image-based marketing that actually works for brands like yours.

More candidates will be inducted into the Artois Academy of Marketing Nonsense forthwith.

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“An innovation set to revolutionise the beer category”

Press releases. I get sent an increasing number of them.
Some of them are genuinely useful. Many others are completely irrelevant (when have I ever done anything that suggests a professional interest in female sanitary products?) Often they confuse what a press release should do – supply a writer with news, information, quotes and angles for potential stories – with a really crappy attempt at writing the story itself that would insult the intelligence and credulity of a three year-old.
I was thinking of sharing the most outstanding examples with you instead of simply binning them – perhaps introducing a ‘press release of the week’ feature – and then, I received one this morning that changes everything, redefining the entire genre.
The headline on the email from Zoo Communications crashed through my hangover and pulled me to attention – this was a prize scoop and no mistake: “Anheuser-Busch InBev UK launches Budweiser Brew No. ‘66’ – an innovation set to revolutionise the beer category”.
Wow! They weren’t mincing their words! Words like:
Innovation: defined by Dictionary.com as “something new or different”.
Revolutionise: “to effect a radical change”
Bud 66 eh? What could it be, this new or different thing that’s going to bring about radical change in the beer, um, “category”?
Because beer is going through a very exciting time at the moment, with plenty of innovation going on: we’ve got style mash-ups like ‘Belgian IPAs’, explorations in wood ageing beers, ingredients like strawberries or spices being added to beer, an endless search for new hop flavours from around the world, and regular smashings of the ‘world’s strongest beer’ record. What could AB-Inbev possibly be up to that could top that?
With shaking hands I clicked open the press release. Boy, Zoo Communications are good. Usually a press release gives you what you need to know, if not in the headline, then in the first line of copy. Not this one. More like a Steven King novel than a press release, it just continued to build the suspense.
AB-Inbev president Stuart Macfarlane declared Bud 66 “our most important business action in 2010”.
This is the world’s biggest brewer we’re talking about. Their ‘most important business action’?This really was serious.
But why were they embarking on such a radical, revolutionary departure? Why? Because according to Stuart, you, the drinker, demand it: “Consumers, and in particular consumers in their early twenties are looking for something new and different – and it’s up to us to continue providing compelling product offers that reflect their needs and tastes.”
Not just “new or different” but “new AND different”? Oh I’m almost pissing myself with excitement here, PLEASE Stuart, tell us what it is!
Halfway down the page, he finally gives in: Bud 66 is “A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”
I’m sorry? A what!?
“A lightly carbonated lager brewed with a touch of sweetness for a smooth, easy taste at 4% abv.”
Hang on a minute, that sounds a little bit familiar. Why might that be? Ah, the press release goes on to tell us: “Over the past few years, AB InBev UK has catered to the premiumisation trend with the launch of Beck’s Vier and Stella Artois 4%.”
Oh. Right. So a 4% lager still counts as ‘innovation’ if you’ve done it twice before in recent years then?
In fact hang on, it’s not that dissimilar to Bud Silver, the 4.1% beer launched by Anheuser Busch in 2006 which was discontinued a couple of years later.

So, apart from a few caveats:
a) it’s just a 4% bottled lager, which isn’t new to the beer market by any conceivable logical definition
b) it’s not new to A-B Inbev
c) it’s not even new to the Budweiser brand
d) it’s going to taste stale because it’ll be lightstruck, thanks to being in a clear bottle (unlike other Bud beers, to be fair)
e) no one wanted it last time something very, very similar was launched,
this truly is an innovation that’s going to revolutionise the beer market!
Well done, A-B Inbev! Well done, Zoo Communications!
Let’s have more where this came from!
“Hello, I’m Stuart Macfarlane, and this is a bottle of 4% lager. I swear to you I have never before – in my entire life – seen anything remotely like this. And neither have you.”