From the Field — 17 April 2012

After four grueling years of studying marketing in college (we all know how intellectually demanding those pesky marketing degrees are known to be), I find myself not behind a desk figuring out how to trick some teenager into buying some new electronic that will surely stunt their social development, or convincing a target demographic that this new pill is the answer they’ve been searching for, but instead sitting at a bar having my ninth discussion about how good Beer X is and why craft is so awesome. I certainly did not see that one coming, however much I may have wished it.

In a time when a job selling anything doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing in the world (I mean, everyone is trying to save a buck here and a buck there and here I am saying “spend away!”) I find myself regularly apologizing that there is simply not enough beer to go around. This is, as some may believe, in a word: Ridiculous. In another: Fitting.

I am a part of that 24-32 demographic that seems to have fully embraced the craft beer revolution. The interesting thing about this group? We’re all pretty much broke, yet we have no problem shelling out $12 for 10 oz of absolutely delicious beer. True story: I personally drove on a completely bald tire for six months because $90 was too much in my mind to pay to replace it. However, an equivalent amount spent in an evening on beers was totally acceptable and rational in my mind. It’s called priorities, people. If I am going to spend my cash, it’s going to be something worth every single penny that I can thoroughly enjoy, like a beer with actual flavor and backbone, who needs a tire? I have three others.

So how is it these craft breweries that seemingly show up out of nowhere, with next to zero marketing or advertising, are whooping the rumps of those “Big Guys” who spend millions of dollars aggressively jamming how totally cool and awesome tasteless, boring (yet affordable!) beer is down our throats? What are they missing?

The answer is simple: everything. These booming craft breweries have gained their cheetah-like speed simply by focusing on the quality of their product paired with a lengthy courtship with those of us who drink this breed of libation. They haven’t had to create massive showings of hilarious campaigns to convince us their product is worth our dollars. We trust our craft brethren. This is the mark that Big Beer can’t seem to grasp. The following is by far my favorite example of how they just doesn’t understand:

A commercial series is out there right now where a group of dudes are out at a bar, all drinking some light commercial lager that will go unnamed. Then, their friend shows up and orders a different brand of commercial light lager….BLASPHEMY! The first two gentlemen proceed to rip into this poor sap about how he has “Lost his man card” for ordering, essentially, the same beer in a different color bottle.

OK. Someone please explain to me how ANY of these guys retain a man card when they’ve all basically just ordered something which any woman in the craft beer community would drink only to rehydrate? Is that mean? Too bad. You’re a grown man. Drink real beer.

We don’t care how funny your commercial is. We don’t care how hot the model is. We don’t care that the bottle alerts us to varying degrees of coldness. We care about what is actually in that bottle. We care about where it came from. I want to know who made it. I want to know what hops were used. I want to know the story behind the beer. I want to go online and be able to watch a video of the guy who brewed it telling me what it takes like. Sure, I’ll still laugh at your 30 second spot…it’s probably funny, you’ve spent a lot of money on it, but I am not wasting my hard earned dollars on a six pack. This is the key that, I believe, the Big Guys just do not get. Some are starting to pick up on it, boasting that they do actually use hops, or that they’ve won awards in the American Light Lager category, but there’s still a ways to go.

That’s what makes craft beer so special. This is why we sit around having not only conversations, but full on debates about each breweries offerings. It’s not about what’s cooler, or funnier, or comes with a golf bag. There’s a level of intensity among the craft drinkers that the big guys can only ever dream about tapping in to. You’ll be hard pressed to walk into a bar and find yourself smack in the middle of a debate on the best Light Lager, but walk into any craft beer bar in the country and it wont be long before someone starts talking about lacing, or their favorite barrel aged stout, or when they visited that brewery last week. We have our favorites, our stand-bys and go-to’s, but we are forever willing to try something new, to give something a chance.

Like they say…it’s what’s inside that counts.

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ashley.stima@gmail.com

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