Friday, April 1, 2011

The Session #50: How Do They Make Me Buy The Beer?

Another month, another Session. On April Fool’s, no less. This one is hosted by Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog, who asks, among other things, for us to ruminate on the conscious and unconscious mental calculations we use to purchase beer. In other words, he gets to play Freud to our collective nuerotic and hysteric beer drinking Dora. Good thing I get to drink beer while I wax poetic about my personal beer math.

I’m an easy sell. If they make the beer, I’ll certainly consider buying the beer. After all, I like trying new beer, and I like brewers that are willing to experiment. So I’ll pretty much try anything once. For example, the massive influx of saisons over the last two years has been a real boon to my palate, as not only did I get to try numerous different examples, I got to compare them with the Old World examples that defined the style. That, my friends, was some good drinking. However, the litmus test for a second purchase of the same beer comes down to the quality of the product as well as the brewery’s ability to consistently repeat my experience—it doesn’t necessarily have to perfectly repeat the experience, but it does need to be consistently enjoyable. At the same time, there are certain experimental beer varieties that have already worn out their welcome in my book. Like pumpkin ale. This year, I tried Jolly Pumpkin’s La Parcela, only because I knew it wouldn’t be the standard fare. But Jolly Pumpkin is one of the few breweries that has a carte blanche signed by yours truly. They could make a Tiger Blood beer and I’d buy it with no questions. Actually, Jolly Pumpkin could probably go far more extreme, and I doubt I’d bat an eye. Which I guess means that my thoughts on a brewery also count in the accounting.

I can, however, be turned off by the advertising choices of breweries. I do on occasion make snap judgements about beers, mainly based on labels, which on occasion impedes my beer sampling. Sometimes this bites me in the ass. My initial reaction to Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye was to dismiss the beer because of the dorky hot rod-themed label. Yes, that was a mistake on my part, one that I rue to this day. My bad. Other beers, however, earn and actually deserve my scorn. Beer labels that objectify women’s bodies, or that use racially or sexually charged language (or in many instances, do all three) don’t deserve my business. I’d say they don’t deserve anyone’s business, but the engrained nature of sexism and racism in the global economy is a conversation pretty much no one likes having—for most people, socially conscious beer means enviromentally friendly beer, not examining their own belief patterns. After all, that might take the fun out of beer. And as the beer math goes, for most people that doesn’t compute.


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