Forgot to note the arrival of last week's Condé Nast Portfolio column on canning craft beer. Hats off to Dale Katechis and Oskar Blues for really launching the popular movement of canning craft beer. Other craft brewers have done it before, and a growing number since, but none before launched themselves headlong into it, and with such unself-conscious promotion.
And yeah, in this case, "unself-conscious promotion" was a good thing. Cask Brewing Systems, the company that introduced small-scale canning lines, deserves credit for making it possible, but Oskar Blues kicked it over the top by launching the marketing campaign they call the Canned Beer Apocalypse. It pays to recall that Katechis became aware of the new canning technology by reading an advertising brochure from Cask.
We have got to get over the idea that advertising and promotion are bad things. Like other examples in the Craft Beer Revolution (lagers suck, big breweries always make sucky beer), dumping on those who advertise is an overreaction to the deep bias against the Cerberus of macrobrewing, the BudMillCoors Juggernaut. Jim Koch dared to market and was reviled for it.
We, the geekerie, still don't seem to see the need for it. "If you brew it, they will come" is our simple watchword, but it just ain't so. I remember Chris Trogner at Tröegs telling me in 2006 , "We've been here for 9 years, and we still get people in on Saturday tours, people from [the local area], who say "Oh, hey, a new microbrewery! When did you guys open!" They didn't even know we were here." Tröegs is in plenty of local bars, available at all the local beer stores.
People aren't stupid, but neither are businesses that advertise: advertising works, if only to make people aware that you're there. There's good advertising, and there's lies on wheels. It continues to frustrate me to see the geekerie dismayed when they see ads from micros...although given their small slice of the market, you wouldn't think it would matter.
Thing is...the geekerie and their opinions do matter. I have pointed out how small a percentage of craft beer sales come from the dedicated geekerie, I have decried their demands that brewers brew more big/extreme beers as unreasonable, I have questioned the impact of online "reviews" and complaints. I'm right, but I'm wrong, too.
The geekerie do have an impact on craft brewing; it's real, it's constant, and if anything, it's growing. The reason is simple: who owns craft breweries, who runs craft breweries, who makes the craft beer? Geeks. Not all of them, for sure, but mostly, these are people who got into this biz because they love beer in a strongly wacky way. I know I did, and I know that most of the people I interview did.
So when I say that geeks only buy a small percentage of total output, that geeks' opinions are just those of a tiny part of the market... it's correct, but it overlooks the strong influence exerted through moral persuasion. Geeks are the reminder to the brewer of the kinds of beers they should be making to stay true to their passion. They are the voice of conscience, that may, at times, go over the top, but is always there to remind you of what you want to be.
And they appear to like craft beer in a can, so I guess it passes the geek test.