Tuesday, 10 September 2013

From Draught to Craft

This blogger is not a beer drinker.. He is therefore completely ignorant of the niceties of beer and therefore eminently qualified to comment on developments in the beer industry.

In many countries in the world, people, especially men, gulp down enormous quantities of beer. Most of it is mass produced by the beer giants of the world - Diageo, Anheuser Busch, SAB Miller, Heineken and the like, including our own home grown United Breweries. Bottled or canned beer is by far the largest selling channel for beer - the one that keeps afloat the likes of Diageo, et al. But nuanced beer drinkers consider this somewhat of a travesty in beer drinking - apparently they have no taste. Hence the onset of draught beer which is served out of cask or a keg. Go to a pub  and barmaid will pour out a pint of draught, topped with a nice head. This blogger has a partiality to buying rounds for whoever he is with - not to taste the subtleties of the draught but to ogle at the barmaid - who is invariably pretty and used to men ogling !!!

But apparently even draught is "rubbish" to a true connoisseur (can such a specimen exist ?) Enter craft beer., something this blogger had not heard of before and hence this post. Craft beer is apparently produced by microbreweries -  small independent breweries and supposedly offer great quality, taste and variety. They have to be small - no giant multinational can qualify to make and sell craft beer. Craft beers have evidently loyal clientele and apparently possess great virtues of taste and subtlety.

If this is so, then this blogger was surprised to read that Jim Koch , the owner of Boston Beer with the famous Sameul Admas brand has become a billionaire. Good to see an entrepreneur succeed and become a billionaire, but since when has a billion been "small".  Apparently craft beer has been taking the American beer market by storm. Considering that every individual who can, does drink beer by copious quantities in that country (remember six pack was originally a concept of a carton of beer, before abdominal muscles usurped the term), you would expect the market to be flat, if you will pardon the pun. The overall beer market indeed is, declining by some 2%. But craft beers are growing by 15%. Thank you very much.

Perhaps there is a growing consumer fatigue with mass produced, similarly bland tasting food that the large food and drinks behemoths make. For improving margins, they have continued to chip away at quality and ingredients. That food is cheap, but perhaps far too much liberties have been taken in terms of customisation and taste. In many segments, the small food maker has started to grow. Just goes to show that the food industry is one of the most difficult to standardise and globaliise, for we will always have different tastes and demands. Even Nestle, the world's largest food company has a market share of less than 5% of the overall food market.

So craft beer it is. If you are in the US, go for Sam Adams. If in the UK, try BrewDog's fancifully named Hello, My Name Is Beastie. There are a couple of beer connoisseurs amongst this blog's readership. Learned comments and sneers are welcomed. This blogger is happy to buy them a round, for he rather fancies the barmaid !


Sriram Khé said...

No surprise that mass-produced, blah-tasting, inexpensive beer sales are flat. Bound to happen. It happened with wine and coffee. My guess is that, here in the US, the growth of those two drinks have also contributed to beer sales not increasing. I think it was a Seinfeld episode, which means it was quite some years ago, that talked about how it is way easier to suggest "let's have coffee" as opposed to "you want a drink?"

Not being a beer-drinker, and not into straying into bars in order to ogle at barmaids, means that I have exhausted my comments here. I certainly can BS a lot more, but I shall not :)

ps: barmaid???? ahem!

The Million Miler said...

I am an avid fan of Beer (gut notwithstanding) and have tried many of them. My favourite rightnow is a craft beer brewed in Marlborough (South Island, NZ, more famous for wonderful Sauvignion Blancs than beers). It's called Moa! Wonderful, tad expensive but possibly the best I've had. The next best is something that is uniquely Bangalorean - It's a light beer called Kingfisher Ultra. Never found it in any city other than BLR.
And ofcourse there is a draught on tap in prettymuch every pub here in Auckland. Interestingly the name of that draught is Buxom Blonde! go figure!

Ramesh said...

@sriram - You should really stop watching sitcoms. Imagine saying lets have a beer to a redhead. Similar to scoring a ton on the cricket field and then suggesting to your mates - lets have a coffee :):)

@Kiwi - One of the connoisseurs I was waiting for an acid comment from. Instead I get a polite tip on a Buxom Blonde !!!

Shachi said...

I'm quite pleased that even though I have never tasted beer, I knew about everything u wrote in this post - and some more :)...all thanks to my mommy group (all Americans), who is very fond of beer.

And, thanks to one friend's dad, who is an expert in brewing: http://faculty.bftv.ucdavis.edu/fst/Bamforth//

Whole Foods here has so many brew-at-home kits and a beer garten....lots of beer connoisseurs around in our town. I'm not surprised about the market being huge.

Ramesh said...

An Endowed Professor of Brewing Science, no less. If there is a definition of a connoisseur, he must be it !

Your mommy group is fond of beer ?? That's strange. Beer is very much a man's drink ......

Shachi said...

Ramesh - nooooooooo. Most women I know love to drink beer and watch football. Americans and Asians, including Indian.

Sriram Khé said...

aha, so that's why I have been striking out with redheads!!! In the language of cricket, what will be the equivalent of "striking out" as an expression????
(we use lots of baseball expressions when it comes to women, love, and sex. "striking out" ... "first base," "home run," ... have I forgotten the old days, or is there nothing like that based on cricket?)

Re. women and beer, oh, yeah, plenty of women drink beer and talk sports too. These are no exclusively "male." A few years ago, when two of our friends drove up here from Southern California, they wanted to check out the microbreweries that this part of the world is famous for. And, yes, both women. And, yes, this non-drinker went with them and had sodas!

I have my beer story from my early US years ... I am sure I will blog about it sometime ;)

Ramesh said...

@Shachi - Sports yes, even the pint or two yes, but I always thought serious beer drinking was a man's domain. Evidently I am hopelessly ill informed.

@sriram - Please don't pollute cricket with euphemisms from baseball :):)

Evidence is piling on that I know nothing when it comes to beer drinking habits of women. Although I must say when I have accompanied various worthies on beer binges, I have rarely seen a woman imbibe the quantities which the guys do.

Deepa said...

I was expecting a downpour of comments on this one :) Beer is everybody's favorite topic! Alas, I know nothing about it because I m not a beer person. And I do want to add here, gals from my (younger) brother's gen, would put men to shame when it comes to beer binging.

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - What are good young lassies doing going on beer binges?? What has the world come to :)

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

@Ramesh - according to a recent paper human beings first learnt to brew beer from grain and water before learning to bake bread. ("What Was Brewing in the Natufian? An Archaeological Assessment of Brewing Technology in the Epipaleolithic Period"; Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, March 2013, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 102-150). For the early human, drinking beer reduced the angst that was natural when early men were organising into groups. There is increasing archaeological evidence for this.

Beer is an integral part of our heritage as human beings. As Ben Franklin put it - "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy".

Whenever I used to go walking in rural England, the happiest discovery each time was to go to the local and drink the local brew. Over the last ten years there were more and more local brews to enjoy. My favourite is the India Pale Ale. This was brewed specially to last for the long sea voyage to India for British troops to drink. You could say the empire was forged in beer!

My wife used to detest the taste of beer. However, after the first pregancy, she suddenly developed a taste for it, and now when offered a dainty glass of wine at a Bombay party, she surprises her host by asking for beer!

Ramesh said...

@Ravi - Trust you to find an archaeological angle to beer :):), but please tell the good lady that I am mightily disappointed in her !!!

Vincy said...

Ramesh, I may disappoint you, but I am a beer lover too but with a very limited capacity to drink ust a pint. Craft beer is new to me. Will add to "Things to do ' list when next in US/UK. :-)

Ramesh said...

@Vincy - Oh yes - a pint makes you a connoisseur. Surely you wouldn't dream of going on a binge !!

But why beer, and not wine ? Or both ??

Reflections said...

Have nothing new to offer as I don't drink beer or anything alcoholic....drank tequila once tho and I didnt see what the fuss was all about anyway.

Just remembered a trip to Goa with friends back when I was in college and carting home all the beer bottles offered to me for my father...I think it was called Kings Beer;-D.

Ramesh said...

@Reflections - Really ?? How about a sip of the finest wine. Very ladylike ..... :)

But seriously Kings Beer ??????? If your friends from college ever see this, they will get a serious dose of bellyache from laughing.

Reflections said...

why are u laughing;-D..err I think it was called Kings Beer...it was small dark bottle compared to the usual ones and I seem to remember somebody telling me then that it was only sold in Goa or something like tht;-P

Matilda Hodgson said...

This blogger is not a beer drinker multinational can qualify to make and sell craft beer. Craft beers have evidently loyal clientele and apparently possess great virtues of taste and subtlety.Stoepborden

Ramesh said...

@ Matilda - Thanks for the comment and yes, I am not a beer drinker. Comment would have been nicer without the advertisement plug.

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