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Can Hype Ruin a Beer?

I’ve been giving the phenomenon of hype a bit of thought lately.  We see it everyday in our daily lives.  You gotta get the new iPhone, the new Mini Cooper ;), that new blockbuster movie was awesome!  We hear it so much we generally begin to ignore it in our every day lives, its just a part of the furniture.  I can ignore hype as well as the next guy, except when it comes to something I really want.  I know, that is like saying as long as I don’t care about something I can rise above the hype, but when it is something I like or even love, hype takes on a new meaning.

Take for example last week’s release of Canadian Breakfast Stout from Founder’s Brewery.  The hype surrounding that release was pretty big.  For a midwestern beer that no one (relatively speaking) had ever heard of before the hype was huge.  But when can hype backfire? Certainly hype drives sales.  I think Pliny has sold out in hours for the last several years, and Russian River keeps that hype going by making it a very limited release.  But for my brother Jim, all the hype almost ruined that beer for him when he finally got a taste.

Sam Adams comes out with Utopias every other year in very small batches and at a very high price point.  This beer seems to do well every time it is released.  Again in Jim’s eyes it is one that lives up to the hype…but not enough for Jim to shell out the $200 for a bottle.  I however loved Pliny, and thought it lived up to its billing, and Utopias..forget about it.  That stuff is awesome.

So my question is can hype ruin a beer for you?  Sometimes the hype around a beer can actually affect what your expectation for flavor is. Two examples of this for me are Foothills Brewing Company’s Sexual Chocolate, their Chocolate Stout, and 3 Floyds Dark Lord of the infamous Dark Lord Day.  Both were good, but not as fantastic as I thought they would be.  Did the hype impact the flavor? No.  Did it raise my expectations to a point where it would be difficult for the brew to make good on them?  Definitely.

I love beer, and when a good one comes out and it has some hype around it, I like anyone else (Excepting Zac Early, because he is impervious to hype) want to get a taste and would go to some measure to make that happen.  That said, I’m pretty isolated out here in Idaho, so I am used to not tasting a lot of what I’d like.

How about you? Does Hype affect your taste buds?  Do you give in to hype and get the latest greatest thing (lookin at you Jim, you Mini Cooper driven fool) for your beer cellar or electronic cache?  Let me know your thoughts on hype as it relates to you.

-Don

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48 Comments on “Can Hype Ruin a Beer?”

  1. Michael
    October 12, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Marketing hype is like elevator music, best ignored. The only benefit tends to be to the manufacturer. At best, gives us a new beer to try, at worst drives it out of the affordable range for the 99%.

  2. Don
    October 12, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    That is true Michael, Hype can elevate prices to a ridiculous level. There are even some breweries that are trying to keep this from happening by refusing to fill growlers and only having certain brews available on tap. That said, I think the draw is like a sirens song to many brewers, and they know they can get a quick influx of cash by hyping a beer release.

  3. Rob Crozier
    October 12, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I’ll admit that I get caught up in the hype sometimes but, for me, its usually a let down. Scoring a hard to get bottle of something is great but I often find that it wasn’t worth the trouble. Recently scored bottles of Founders Blushing Monk and DFH/Sierra Life & Limb 2 and could have easily lived without the trouble of getting them because they were both mediocre at best. I’m all for the the stuff that I can easily buy on the shelf as the enjoyment comes from the fact that if I like it, odds are I can go back into the same store a few days later and get another bottle. I’m the guy who liked Rush in their 2112 days but stopped liking them once they became popular.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      Rob, its safe to like Rush once again. And if you get the chance go see a live show, they are awesome! I have a bottle of Life and Limb I picked up a couple days ago, as well as one I picked up last year. Gonna put a little age on the new one then do a flight. I think that should be a good way to compare the two. I guess the question is, were the beers more mediocre because of the hype, and you had both the fact that the beer was just ok, and the fact that you thought they would be great combining to dash your expectations?

      • October 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

        I think the problem w/ specialty beers such as Life & Limb, lies in the fact tho we’re looking for new and different (and better), we don’t want it to be too different from what we’ve come to like and expect. I liked Life & Limb well enough, but I didn’t try to compare it to say New Berlin’s Ranger IPA or Clipper City’s Oatmeal Stout. It is its own thing and the fact that they used birch sap means that its probably the closest thing to real birch beer that I’ll ever taste. So it was a unique experience.

        Having said all that, its still not likely to be on my regular shopping list.

      • Rob Crozier
        October 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

        I guess I was expecting to taste a great beer based upon the hype and both beers disappointed me. I do have another bottle of L&L so perhaps some aging will do some nice things to it. As for Rush, I did see them live a few years ago and they definitely did not disappoint. I did see them before – on the Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres tours in the late 70’s.

        • Don
          October 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

          Yeah, I saw them twice in the last few years. Both shows were great, however I think I preferred the outdoor show even though we weren’t as close. Sound travels better outside than indoors. I’m actually looking forward to opening the L&L #1, but I want to get some age on #2 before I do, so I can compare the two.

    • October 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

      Rob, what about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? Does he speak like an ordinary guy?

      • Don
        October 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

        Speaking from experience, yes, he does speak like a normal guy. Just sings in falsetto. He can no longer hit the really high notes from his early years, sadly.

  4. October 12, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    What you’ve said is true about any product–hype is akin to someone telling you the end of a good book or movie before you get to read or see it. Because of this effect, I try to avoid previews and critiques whenever possible (and I absolutely abhor the previews on TV!) If a review is bad, I may decide not to buy or use a product (and possibly miss out), if its a rave, I may be disappointed.

    On the other hand, I like comparisons–i.e., ‘This beer reminds of Goober’s Hazelnut Stout, chewy, hoppy, etc., etc.”–as they can give me a feel for whether a given product might be up my alley or not.

    My tactic is to keep an eye out for a likely new beer (or book, or movie), check the local vendor to see if they have it or can get it, and then decide for myself.

    We all judge the quality of our experiences subjectively–what’s good for me ain’t necessarily good for you. So I say, avoid the hype and decide for yourself.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

      However as a blogger, it is hard to keep outside influences from getting in. For example the Sunk Punk I wrote about yesterday. Brew Dog does their own special brand of hype, and if I could get a bottle of this I would pay dearly to try it, and I would probably be disappointed once I tried it. But I would have had the experience that so many will not.

  5. October 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    With all the hype surrounding this topic, I thought this post would be better…

  6. John
    October 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    If you make good beer people will drink. Just make enough so we can all try it!

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      That is the eternal dilemma in this new age of craft beer!

    • October 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      A codicil to that: and make it inexpensive enough that we can all afford to try it. You won’t see me buyin’ a bomber of beer for 50 bucks or more!

      • Don
        October 12, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

        I’m pretty sure John has, and I’m pretty sure I bought one from him for quite a bit of scratch too!

    • October 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

      This is a good point. Hype or image used to sell beer is for corporate, adjunct rice drink makers. Corporate models of business put marketing and hype over the quality of their product. From what I understand (as I have yet to open my bottle of CBS), that Founders beer was going to sell out fast without the hype. It’s supposed to be that good…Wait, or is that hype?

      • Don
        October 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

        You point out a critical thing here Zac, and I know you didn’t mean to. But is it hype or shortage that drives the popularity of beer. I think it is hard to tell some times.

        • October 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

          What’s interesting is that with beer, hype is created by the community (beer enthusiasts, bloggers, beer tickers, etc.) when the beer is rare. If the beer is great and we can all get it anytime we want, ratings and hype die down a bit.

          In music, hype is different, but I haven’t formulated how just yet. It’s sure to come in a blog post.

        • Don
          October 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

          I think that hype in music is a death sentence. It creates the stereotypical “Flash in the Pan”. I wouldn’t call Elvis Hype, that was charisma and greatness. Hype can really kill someone’s music career, just ask Nilla Ice.

  7. October 12, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    It ruins it for me-I hate to see craft beer turned into a fan boy thing-I am not sure the beer is worth it-and it seems to me that it is bucket list for some beer geeks-I might buy a ticket to a limited release party that is dignified but to take place in a free for all or camping out for a beer is nutz.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

      I’d agree to that. If I can’t buy it at my local bottle shop, or easily and reasonably purchase it online, I’m pretty much SOL.

  8. October 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    This is a tough call Don. I find that life is all about managing expectations, and I generally try to keep my expectations pretty darn low. I had the Pliny The Elder about a month ago and I was disappointed. It’s not that it was a bad beer, but I was expecting a “Choir of Angels” when I took that first sip. It didn’t happen (The Alemonger was apalled by my reaction by the way). A solid beer for sure, but not the religious experience that I was expecting. I bet that if I went back and tried it again, I would probably like a whole lot better now that my expectations have been brought back down to earth.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

      I’m funny that way. Jim shared your experience, but I thought it was crisp and citrusy, and could balance on the head of a pin! Loved that stuff, and wish I had a source for it. However, Jim shares your opinion. He thought it was way overhyped and that it was just meh. However, I can surely identify with your expectations leading to a mediocre experience at best.

  9. October 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    As a Michigan resident, I was pissed to find out Founders only allocated 21% of CBS for instate distribution. For such a small release of a hugely hyped beer, I think at least 50% should be shipped in state. I just opened a bottle last night, and it was absolutely fantastic and worth the hype. I think it would have tasted just as amazing without the hype. But I’m not going to lie, when something is hyped up, it makes me want to try and buy it that much more.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

      Agreed Audrey, however even with your paultry 21% you still got some, and I have none. Not one bottle made it into Idaho.

    • October 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      But you’re only 2% of the American states, so you got 10x more than your share! 🙂

  10. October 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I certainly feel as though hype can affect the expectations of a beer. No matter how much money is spent on advertising a beer will affect its flavor though. Although, a bit of time very well may alter the characteristics of a brew.

    On the flip side of the coin, I love being surprised by beer that I’ve been told is mediocre at best, and then really enjoying it for myself.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      Agreed Blake, I love finding those hidden gems. One I’m loving right now is Ninkasi Brewing Total Domination IPA. I love that stuff, and it is just this side of Pliny for me, so where I can’t get Pliny, and TD is on tap at several places around the valley I’m in heaven!

  11. October 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    The most interesting thing about the hype around certain beers is determining the source of the fuss. While the situation is somewhat unique for each brewery/beer, a brewery isn’t creating hype simply by not supplying an amount greater than or equal to the demand. The demand usually sky-rockets after consumers hear that only a small quantity will be produced/released. For that reason, I tend to put the “blame” for hype on the craft beer geeks-although many breweries welcome and support clamoring for their products as it ultimately increases their brand’s awareness and top of mind. I have attended several brewery-only bottle releases (including those at Foothills and Cigar City). For me, the entire event was much less about those few bottles I left with in hand and much more about the great time I had while there, drinking great beer and meeting brewery staff and other attendees. To me, the hype should be around that sense of community at events like that (which aren’t attainable on eBay later that afternoon at a 1000% markup). Ultimately, raising your expectations for a beer due to hype is crazy, since most of the hype itself is driven by people who’ve yet to try the beer and are reveling in its awesome rareness.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

      Well that is a well thought out comment AJ. However if I have to attned an “event” to get a bottle of beer, unless that event is in my bottle shop, forget it. I’m not the hippy Woodstock type. I think you have to have some of that spirit in you to get into those sort of things. However at least a limited release gives me a shot of one day tasting what they produce.

  12. johnking82
    October 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    I don’t let hype influence….I thought Dogfish 120 was horrible.

    I think Dark Lord is a good beer, but not one to drop hundreds on. I gave my tickets away to charity this year instead of making profit.

    I agree with A.J., the bottle releases are about the party.

    Who knows, CBS could be off and all those people just wasted their money. Myself included…but I bought mine at the store.

    • October 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

      I agree w/ you John, I didn’t like DFH 120 either.

      • Don
        October 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

        You can be in the BGWHDFH120MIPA Club too! 🙂

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      I hated 120 too. We should start a club and call it BGWHDFH120MIPA. (Beer Geeks Who Hate Dogfish Head 120 Minute India Pale Ale). Whadya think? Pretty catchy huh?

      • Jeff
        October 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

        I actually disliked 120 the first time I tried it as well…as it was not at all the hoppy kick in the teeth I had eagerly anticipated…but I tried more another day…and knew what not to expect…and have come to really enjoy it more with each bottle since.

        • Don
          October 13, 2011 at 9:28 am #

          My Brother has said that too. He said that if you think of barleywine, and drink it when you are in that sort of mind frame, 120 can be great. For me it was a drain pour, but I would be willing to give it another try now that I have a much different expectation.

        • October 13, 2011 at 9:40 am #

          Bottom-line for me is that Barleywine & DFH120 are sweet and high ABV (like Malt Liquor). I generally don’t like beer that is sweet and high ABV. QED, 120 ain’t real ale and I don’t like it. (I don’t like sweet wines all that much either, so…)

        • October 13, 2011 at 9:33 am #

          120 is mis-labeled as an IPA. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not an IPA. We should just all accept that it’s something entirely different and take it for what it is…whatever that may be.

  13. October 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    A bit much to remember methinks!

  14. October 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Wait. What?

  15. October 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    I think hype can ruin a beer if you allow it to do so. I wouldn’t say that I’m impervious to hype. It often affects how I perceive many things before trying. If I’ve unsuspectingly bought in, I’m usually let down. If the hype has actually caused my expectations to be lowered, I can be pleasantly surprised.

    All I know is that some of my favorite beers are decidedly un-hyped (Great Lakes Lake Erie Monster DIPA comes to mind). Conversely, I am often not impressed with overly-hyped beers. In those cases, I’m usually annoyed that that I just shelled out $15-25 dollars for a bomber.

    This has given me an idea for a post. Thanks.

    • Don
      October 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

      Anytime Zac! And yes you are impervious to hype. You have to be, because you are our voice of reason.

      • October 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

        I’ll take that as a compliment.

        • Don
          October 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

          As it was intended.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. On Hype « Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement - October 14, 2011

    […] of us are impervious to hype. We see through the hype and see things for what they are. Sometimes we completely ignore the hype […]

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