There are those out there who are all over the latest developments in craft beer. There are also a great many others out there who aren’t….
I do wonder what these people think is my thing. When all people know of you is that you’re ‘into beer’, that becomes your entire persona in their minds. A relative bought me a Budweiser gift pack one year as she knew I was “into beer”. You can’t fault the logic, I like beer, so she bought me beer. However, would you buy a wine connoisseur a bottle of blue nun? Obviously it’s the thought that counts and I know she made the effort to get me something she thought would appeal to me. But what’s interesting here for me at least is what people perceive that I’m ‘into’, when they hear that I’m ‘into beer’.
For those of you reading this, you probably have a far more educated knowledge of the sort of beer that I am interested in, aswell as an understanding of most of the terms and language used in conversations about it. But to those who can’t see and hear from the other side of the curtain, what do they envisage?
Firstly, I imagine they perceive large quantities being consumed. Fair enough on that one, I probably do drink more than average. I’m conscious that it doesn’t become excessive but I do have a session drink every now and again.
Next up is the biggest mis-conception for me, stereotype one. Many people simply see it as being into real ale and therefore envisage all the stuffy stereotypes that the 1970’s CAMRA member would have attributed to him. It’s a perception that hasn’t moved on a great deal from that time to be honest. The perception is that I drink beer from those big handpulls attached to the bar and not the gassy stuff out the raised outlets either side of the handpulls with the humorous clips and funny names. I probably go to what they refer to as the ‘old man bars’, most likely attired in scruffy jeans and a ‘Lager is for wimps’ T-shirt, slightly, no heavily faded as it was originally acquired in the 70’s in exchange for the correctly branded bottle caps….
But that’s as far as their thinking goes, they don’t see any further than that and to be honest they don’t need to.
So taking the above rather satirical perception, how far is the reality from that? I don’t drink in what I perceive to be old man bars, although no bars are off limits in my mind. I like pubs with character but I like stylish environments with interesting features. I like pubs filled with interesting people and that mix should be diverse and not limited to one particular stereotype. As for beer, well I am a fan of cask but in most instances I much prefer keg, which come out of those taps raised up at the end of the bar rather than the handpulls in the middle. I wear what I believe is fashionable attire for a man of my age. I’m no funky hipster but I like to think I aim at the smarter end of the smart casual barometer.
From where I stand the difference between stereotype one and the reality above are significant, its two very different people. But I’m up close and personal with this, I can clearly see the differences from where I stand. However, for those who don’t stand so close the edges of the two things blur and maybe they are so far from the craft beer bubble that the two scenario’s blur into being the ones single thing.
I went to Uni in Leeds and I remember when I was down there that there were those who would often refer to people from Sunderland as Geordies, based entirely on hearing their accents and having no other knowledge of their provenance. But to me I was amazed that they thought the Sunderland accent was the same as a Geordie accent, when I was so used to knowing how different words were pronounced in an entirely different way by Wearsiders when compared with Tynesiders.
This perception of craft beer is exactly the same thing. To a great many people there is no craft beer bubble, it’s all just beer and the social scene hasn’t changed a lot, other than faces being different and names being different, but people going out to pubs and clubs on a Friday and Saturday night is no different at all and that’s all they see. Hence why there is no qualms whatsoever in buying me a Budweiser gift pack as a Christmas pressie.
Why does this matter? Well in the most part it doesn’t, but consider how do we reach out to new consumers? The starting place has to be to understand the viewpoint of those you’re looking to attract and as the industry grows it appears all the more on potential new consumers horizons, the next stage is to draw them closer to the industry with intelligent marketing and good sustainable practices. And the closer they get the more they’ll see the finer details and the distinctions and hopefully the colourful world of craft beer will spark their beery imagination.
Which leaves one question still to answer…..
I know you’re all wondering but the Budweiser gift pack contained branded bottle of said lager, branded glass for said lager to go into and branded peanuts to eat while drinking said lager. So that’s beer and food matching? It’s almost craft!?!