Friday, September 28, 2007

Along Came Paulaner

There's an inner struggle at work here. On the one hand, there's a desire to "damn the man," deny the corporate monstrosities, stick my middle finger in the air and tell InBev, SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch, and Heineken to die. On the other hand, there's beer like Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Lowenbrau, Pilsner Urquell, Franziskaner, Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, Grolsch, Guiness, Red Stripe, Murphy's, and countless other; all owned by either InBev, A-B, SABMiller, or Heineken. These are all good beers despite their corporate ownership.

The only conclusion is that there isn't a solution. There are some great brands owned by world-wide beverage conglomerates. The bigger problem is access to the brands not owned by world-wide congolmerates. That's the real nefariousness of the world-wide distribution systems. They have the money and power to force these brands, but unfortunately the vast majority of their sub-par brands, on unknowledgeable retail outlets. Why are "high end" restuarants serving Amstel? Why are high end restaurants serving St. Pauli Girl, Leinies and Rolling Rock as "premium" beers? The answer is usually because they care more about their wine selections and they are generally uneducated about beer selections. It's a shameful situation. Take a look at L'Etoile's wine list. I invite you to locate their beer selection on that website; yet a Loterbol Blonde would compliment their chicken entree very well. Of course, maybe the problem is that they can't charge $150 for a bottle of Loterbol Blonde; but they can for Deus.

This is a problem with the retailers and restaurants. Retailers and restaurants especially need to stop being lazy about beer. Stop listening to what the distributors want you put on your shelf and your table and get out and know your product. Take some pride in your selections.

Educate your customers on styles. This is done regularly for wine, both formally via in-store tastings and informally by talking to the customer and making suggestions. Restaurants even more so. Customers frequently ask for wine recommendations. If good and interesting beers were offered, they would ask about those as well. As much as they can be useless, shelf talkers can't hurt; use them (by the way, one of the projects we are working on here at MBR is to create shelf talkers for use at retail). Educate your servers on beers like you educate them on wines. Make sure your wine stewards know your beer selection inside and out. Make sure your bartenders know your beer selection inside and out.

There's no reason that high-end beers like Cantillon, Abbaye Des Rocs, Girardin, Panil, and others can't be sold regularly or served in restaurants paired with fine food. It's not really the customers' place to demand these at restaurants and retail; for the most part these outlets are take-it-or-leave-it. But, if the restaurants and retail took the time to be educated on these beers, there is ample opportunity to differentiate the business in a crowded "wine-centric" marketplace. Retaurants like Brasserie V and The Great Dane at Hilldale have proven that customers are eager for these beers and eager to learn. Bars and Retail like Maduro and Star Liquor and Steve's and Riley's have shown that education and selection can sell these beers.

Here's the offer: If you are a restaurant or retail outlet and you are serious about improving your beer selection drop us an email, we will be more than happy to be an unbiased, independent guide and help you find quality beers that match your food and get you pointed in the right direction.


Appearance: copper/golden amber and crystal clear, 1/2 inch foamy head, strong bubbling action

Aroma: bold and malty, strong bread-like aroma, mildly sweet, with nice flowery and complex hoppiness

Flavor: upfront sweetness with a light caramel flavor, the malts are very subdued, but combine with each other nicely; the hops hit from the get-go, and hold up nicely through the finish adding a clean, solid end; very little aftertaste

Body: medium-light, with moderate carbonation; burpy

Drinkability: I've already finished about 1/2 of it and I've just been tasting it; irresistable

Notes/Summary: this is a fantastic oktober; like Spaten it's what Oktobers should be; I'm not sure I could pick a "favorite" between this and the Spaten; while I really like both, I have a nagging sensation that they could be better

Recommendation: very highly recommended. The only downside is the relatively high price to buy this in Wisconsin; in terms of value, Capital gets you close enough for better price

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