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Do Beer Geeks Owe the Big American Brewers a “Thank You”?

Last night I spent my evening watching Tony Romo do his thing (choke in a big moment) and my Jets do their thing (come up impossibly big with their backs against the wall).  During a break in the action, the same insipid beer commercial played for the umpteenth time – dude, you passed the bar exam! – and a random thought popped into my head.  Have us beer geeks benefited from the deluge of advertising for bad beer?  The answer might very well be “no!!!” but it’s something to think about. 

Big Beer has been advertising like crazy since the beginning of forever.  Many of us grew up watching sports as kids, and we’ve witnessed the tastes great/less filling debate (say what you will but Bob Uecker made those commercials work), the rise of Spuds McKenzie, and those frogs that go buud – wise – errrr.  This bombardment has been going on for over 60 years, since the end of Prohibition and the rise of television.  That’s more than three generations of psychological warfare.

These commercials drilled it into our little noggins that beer is the de facto drink for grown up guys.  They crowded out thoughts of wine or booze, and reinforced the idea that beer is the only beverage to sip while watching the game or hanging out with friends.

With beer firmly established as our culture’s preeminent adult beverage, the stage was set for makers of GOOD beer to thrive.  Without incessant schilling by Bud, Miller and Coors this may not be the case.  In a way they’ve created a social environment in which craft beer can flourish.

Of course you could argue that beer would be doing just fine without morons screaming “whassuuuuuuuup!” on our TV screens.  Beer has been widely popular for centuries, and many of the cultures that underpin our own (the British, the Germans, the Dutch, the Polish, the Irish, etc.) have deep traditions of beer consumption.  Beer was first brewed by white folks in North America in 1587, and I’m guessing this happened the moment the first boat made landfall.

“Sir, we’ve discovered a new continent!”

“Whatever, Ensign Eriksson, break out the brew kettle!”

So maybe beer didn’t need the help of the big boys to enjoy a dominant spot in our culture – it was already primed for success.

I actually don’t know the answer –  that’s the reason the title of this article ends with a question mark.  All I know for sure is I’m happy that beer enjoys the popularity it does in America, and it’s that cultural dominance that has made the craft beer renaissance possible.  If the billions of advertising dollars spent by big brewers are responsible for the growing selection of craft beers available today, I say “thank you.”

Of course we wouldn’t need a renaissance without all the skullduggery pulled by the big brewers since Prohibition and up until today, but that’s a different topic…

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Tags: , ,

Categories: Beer, Lifestyle

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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27 Comments on “Do Beer Geeks Owe the Big American Brewers a “Thank You”?”

  1. September 12, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I’d say no… I’ve heard Bud is a popular beer even in Europe, in countries which we consider having some of the best beers in the world… I don’t know how true that is, but I wouldn’t doubt it considering they have 70% of the market share of beer…

    • September 12, 2011 at 10:54 am #

      I guess advertising can make folks buy crap that’s worse than the crap they already like…

  2. September 12, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    So much to consider here. I might have to keep tabs on this discussion when prepping my October Session post: http://www.taleofale.com/2011/09/announcing-56th-session-hosted-by-me.html

    Another thing your post reminded me of was this Oatmeal comic: http://theoatmeal.com/pl/senior_year/pe

    • September 12, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Gotta love the Oatmeal. Are you writing the Session post for the Tale of the Ale?

      • September 12, 2011 at 11:11 am #

        I’ve written posts for the last two sessions. I’m surprised you guys don’t participate. You just respond to the prompt on the first Friday of the month. The host blog usually does a rundown. I receive a lot of love from those sessioners.

        • September 12, 2011 at 11:19 am #

          I’ll have to check it out – if there’s one thing we have it’s opinions…

  3. BeerSoaked
    September 12, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    The part I agree with most is “the stage was set for makers of GOOD beer to thrive”. And for that I’d say we DO owe the big American breweries a ‘thank you’. The craft beer movement has definitely got a strong foundation to build upon. The “BAB” set the stage, and now the craft beer folks are playing the music that people want to hear… am I taking the analogy too far? I sure hope so.
    Cheers!
    Beer Soaked Erik

    • September 12, 2011 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks, Erik. I think there’s something to it, but of course if the big brewers didn’t screw over the little guys there’d be no need for a renaissance at all!

  4. September 12, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Beer doesn’t need advertising. You ever see your favorite illicit drugs advertised? No, if it’s a good thing, people come around.

    • September 12, 2011 at 10:52 am #

      True, there is no crackvertising and they seem to be doing pretty well…

  5. September 12, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Lost in all this is the crap AB-InBev is pulling with distribution laws in various states, trying to handcuff craft brewers.

    • September 12, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      Not lost, but taken out of the conversation for purposes of clarity (tried to mention that in the last sentence…)

      • September 12, 2011 at 11:12 am #

        And so you did. It seems I’ve become too accustomed to the patterns in your posts and have missed key points on several posts lately. I better work on that reading comprehension.

        • September 12, 2011 at 11:18 am #

          Yeah, that or my posts are too long so you just skip to the comments…

  6. September 12, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    I think beer geeks do owe a certain thank you to the big brewers. But not for their usual big taste/less fill advertising, but for their attempts to push into the Craft market. With their seemingly unlimited marketing budgets, they push their own versions of craft beer onto a lot of people, pushing them to extend their taste and try something different than their usual swill. So now these average drinkers start getting a taste of ‘real taste’. And the door to all the other craft beers is opened, by those big American brewers themselves! They cannot possibly brew every craft style themselves, nor can they buy every brewery with a great new beer, so there will always be plenty of choice. Choices people will be looking for once you teach them that there is so much more then just plain bland lagers. For that, I am grateful!

    • September 12, 2011 at 11:04 am #

      I think you’re on the money Wim. I saw a girl with a bomber of Blue Moon at the beer store the other day and almost showed her what to replace it with. But I don’t want to be a beer douche and I figured she’d make the leap sooner or later.

  7. September 12, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    It wasn’t until the past year or so that there was even a mention of how Budweiser tasted in their ads. They are capable of brewing good, even great beer. Michelob Porter is a great example. Most of their market is looking for an alcohol vehicle. Nothing more, nothing less. Could be Bud Light. Could be Miller. Could be Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It’s all about image.
    Fortunately, what has happened, is the segment of the market that really is concerned with flavor, has dropped them like a rock to move on to beer with character. Flavor. Craft Beer, micro, however you want to label it. Great beer has been around a lot longer than the Big Three. They’ve had their day. We owe them nothing.
    There will always be a market for BMC beers, just as there will always be a market for Mcdonald’s and Burger King.

    • September 12, 2011 at 11:36 am #

      Mmmm…Burger King!

      Maybe I missed your point, Bob.

      🙂

  8. September 12, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    In my opinion, BB has made the rise of craft beer inevitable.

    • September 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      Agreed – they’ve created a market for a product that’s better than their own.

  9. September 12, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    I think we do owe BAB a little gratitude for setting the stage for craft beer success. In the way you’ve suggested of course, but also in a more subtle and recognizably smaller one. I’m not sure whether it’s my Gen X demographic tendencies or my iconoclastic nature, but when I can, I enjoy steering away from the big trend, the macro anything and whatever everyone else is bringing to the party. I wonder if other craft beer geeks feel something similar. We’re always on the search for the newest/rare beer. Hot nano breweries peak our interests. And Ungettables? Yeah we want what we cant get. That’s polar opposite of macro breweries and their marketing. It’s everywhere. It’s ubiquitous. This may give it more power than it deserves, but they’re marketing may even push me and other craft beer fans deeper into the craft beer scene.

    • September 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

      I get it – they’ve made us want beer, but not “common” beer, unless it’s a California Common, and maybe that’s even become too common for our tastes…

      We are fancy men indeed!

      • September 13, 2011 at 10:32 am #

        Yes, whenever I see a BAB commercial, it reminds me that I’d like a beer. But certainly not their beer. I think I’ll go to the fridge and grab something that cares more about flavor than calories, thank you very much.

  10. FatCatKC
    September 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    I think it’s the opposite. With the monumental advertising budgets of big beer the non-craft initiated think those beers are the only beers available. My first beer experience was with big beer and I hated it. Luckily I ventured on my own into craft but if I hadn’t I would probably not be drinking beer today. Too many of my friends/family who don’t like beer have tried nothing more than big beer. If the majority of people’s first experience is big beer I can see how it would drive people away from beer in general, craft or otherwise.

    • September 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

      But without all the beer advertising, we’d all be drinking wine and New York would be called Paris Nouveau (or something like that!).

      • FatCatKC
        September 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

        No one drinks wine because they don’t advertise.

        • September 13, 2011 at 10:48 am #

          Ahhh, very good point, FatCatKC! While they do advertise, certainly nowhere remotely close to the amount BAB does. What say you Jim? Wine (fine or otherwise) has done just fine without much advertising at all, comparatively. Having said that though, I don’t see huge global wine conglomerates trying to crush boutique wineries with mega millions in marketing, or at least it doesn’t seem as adversarial. The boutique wineries fair quite well against their larger competitors, largely because the consumer has been trained by the wine industry to buy what they like, visit your local vineyards and that if you look, you can find a great wine for $12 or $1,200–price doesn’t necessarily mean good nor does big or small producer. As a matter of fact, it’s kind of the opposite in wine. Little boutique and midsize wineries are usually perceived as superior because they can do a better job of focusing on their product. Kinda like craft breweries…interesting.

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