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The Spirit of Independence

July 1, 2010

The 4th of July is coming up, a day when we celebrate our nation’s independence by blowing things up and drinking heavily. In the spirit of this great holiday, I’d like to exercise my first amendment right to rant about an annoying trend I’ve noticed in the beer industry.

Corporate beer giants like Budweiser and Coors seem to have given up on the whole art of brewing, and appear to be solely focused on coming up with ridiculous gimmicks and commercials to sell more of the same old boring, bland beer they’ve been churning out for decades. When I see things like color-changing, or wide-mouth cans, I can‘t help but laugh. Who exactly do these gimmicks appeal to? If I had to guess, I’d say they’re the same people who watch MTV regularly and are easily distracted by shiny objects. The latest shameless gimmick I’ve seen is the “vortex bottle” from the people who make Miller Lite, an idea that could only come from the company that came up with the genius marketing strategy of inventing the word “lite” (because everyone knows that misspelling words is hip these days).

At times it seems as if these corporations don’t employ any actual brewers, or at least don’t listen to them, because even their “specialty” beers are lazy and uninspired. I can just picture a bunch of executives sitting around a big table, debating about how to further dominate the beer landscape.

“So, what can we do to tap into this craft beer craze? What are these guys putting in their product that makes it so appealing?”

“I don’t know. Wheat?”

“Great. We’ll throw some in the Bud Light and call it Bud Light Golden Wheat. Who wants to go to lunch?”

No individual company is really to blame here, but I feel like this trend speaks to a larger problem. Big-name commercial brands are able to overshadow and outsell craft brewers simply because they are usually more convenient and widely-advertised, not because they’re better. These beers are appealing in the same way that fast food is appealing, in that they serve as a relatively cheap and readily-available option, but something is lost in the process of settling for convenience. What happened to supporting small business and encouraging quality and integrity? Settling for convenience sends a message to these corporate brands that their gimmicks and relentless advertising tactics are the best course of action, and I think we can all agree that this should not be the case. Even though independent craft brewers have seen a significant increase in sales over the past couple decades, they still only represent a small fraction of the overall beer market.

I guess what I’m saying is that as an American, I’d like to see us move away from the stifling influence of commercialism and focus more on supporting independent American craft brewers, who value the actual craft of brewing great beer over simply looking for ways to cut corners and increase sales. Do yourself and your local brewer a favor this 4th of July and try something different. I know I’ve said it before, and I hope I’m preaching to the choir here, but in the spirit of independence, it just seems like the right thing to do. Don’t do it for me, do it for America. But mostly, do it for beer.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul B permalink
    July 3, 2010 1:01 pm

    Yes, you are preaching to the choir. The mass marketers know what they’re doing: selling one dimensional beers to folks who don’t want to think about what they drink. They want something cold and unchallenging…and cheap! How many bud lights could I buy for the price of a single bottle of Chimay?

    • July 3, 2010 2:09 pm

      True, that’s why I compared these beers to fast food; they’re cheap and easy. The point I was trying to make is that sometimes it’s a good idea to spend that extra dollar or two to discover better beers from local or American-owned brewing companies (Anheuser-Busch, for example, is no longer American-owned, and most of their breweries are now overseas). Craft beer runs the gamut from relatively cheap to fairly expensive (Chimay and other imported beers tend to be the most expensive), so for those who are tired of one-dimensional, unchallenging beers, it really is a good idea to shop around.

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