Celebrating Independent Gainesville
As you we look forward to this event next Friday, consider the following:
Can Beer Save America?
(The entire article is worth the read. Thanks to MA for the tip.)
Though thinly veiled as a mechanism for better drinkability, the new “punch-top” can is obviously developed as the first specifically engineered to shotgun beer — that is, specifically designed to drink beer in a way that makes sure you don’t actually taste the beer. The unique selling proposition of the campaign is incredibly blatant in its embrace of the low-price/high-volume model: It is screaming at you to buy the cheap product exclusively because everything about it — the beer and even the can — is aimed at helping you pour it into your body without even having to taste or savor it. In this “punch top” innovation, Miller is effectively acknowledging that its customer base is those who drink only for volume — and it’s trying to thus convince more beer enthusiasts that speed drinking is a virtue.
The craft brewing industry, by contrast, is going in the opposite direction, trying to direct the beer-drinking population away from volume for volume’s sake. Visit a liquor store with a wide selection of microbrews and you’ll find an ever-more diverse selection of specialized offerings, from double IPAs to sour beers to barley wines. Notably, many of these products are sold in smaller sizes — four-packs or single pint-size bombers — making their price-per-ounce of beer far higher than the typical macrobrew. Additionally, what innovations the industry has made to beer technology tend to be fundamentally different from those of the macrobrew companies: They tend to be aimed at making the beer itself actually taste better (best example: Left Hand’s breakthrough creation of a bottled, widget-free milk stout on nitro).
In the competition for the future of drinking, both sides are obviously trying to exploit their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. The massive macrobrewing corporations are trying to take advantage of their size and corresponding ability to produce volume — all while playing down the fact that their beers have little local character or quality. The craft brewing industry, composed mostly of independent small and medium-size businesses, know they can’t compete in a volume game, and so they are trying to promote quality and diversity. It’s a straightforward fight — one that may seem only interesting to drinkers, but one that truly transcends the inebriation industry. It underscores both consumer shifts and questions about what kind of economy we want in the future.
Will we be a country of high volume and low quality? Or can we become an economy of quality and price premium? Whether it’s drinking, buying computers or choosing what industrial policy to support, we are in the process of answering those questions.
A Macrobrew Economy — a high-volume, low-price model — asks us to compete with other such economies throughout the world, and the problem is that countries like China will always have lower-priced labor, more lax environmental regulations and lower production standards to win a battle that rewards more and cheaper for more’s and cheaper’s sake. By contrast, a Craft Brew Economy — a high-quality, lower-volume model — is a different proposition. It follows the German model, which, as Time magazine notes, is all about being “committed to making the sort of high-quality, high-performance, innovative products for which the world will pay extra.”
The choice is ours — and it starts with the beer in your fridge.