Breaking through the bottom of the barrel

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old faithful
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Postby old faithful » Sat May 28, 2005 3:22 pm

You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Mine is that some small brewery beers mentioned on boards like this one just aren't that good - I think Sleeman beers are all good.

Gary
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Postby Rob Creighton » Sat May 28, 2005 3:35 pm

I agree with you Gary that the Sleeman folk have done a superb job at establishing brand identity, producing beer and keeping their facilities running at capacity. Actually, there is no comparison in North America. Sleeman has built their volume in a population base 1/10 the size of the Sam Adams client base in a similar time frame.

On the whole, I like almost all Sleeman branded beers. I have recently tried the Original Draught and the beer is not bad at all (though a little light for my tastes).

That being said, the marketing launch for the Original Draught does leave me cold. My view of this is longer and wider than the actions of Sleeman's. We (the brewing industry), spends an inordinate amount of time telling the consumer how little flavour we have left in beer and how we will do everything we can to eliminate the last bit because we know that our consumers don't like the taste of beer.

If the big guys want to know why overall beer volumes are dropping, they need look no further than the marketing weenies they have hired out of the consumer goods sector. The craft breweries emphasize flavour as do even some of the big Euro's (Grolsch as example) but the North American message is "lets see if we can get the temp south of zero so you don't taste anything.

Sleemans Original Draught is their entry into the mainstream beer sector where 60% of all beer is still sold. They are doing it at premium prices so if they get away with it, it will be a major success for shareholders like myself. BUT, they should be very careful with the message they send because it can contribute to hurting us all. And, the 1st ads just aren't very good so I object anyway.

Signed: Rob the contrarian
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Postby old faithful » Sat May 28, 2005 5:19 pm

Rob, I agree with you much beer advertising is not that good and frankly offensive to those who value good beer. But to me most advertising is of that character. It tends to be bland and uninformative, I think that is the nature of the beast.. E.g. even Creemore's ads were not that much better than what you object to. They had a folksy edge and really did not impart that much information (e.g. 100 years behind the times). Many beers enjoy good growth without any advertising: Coors until relatively recently did not advertise at all, or hardly at all. And the growth Creemore had before the buy-out was really achieved by word of mouth and the inherent quality of the product. I too wish advertising was different and I personally believe ads should convey meaningful detailed information. But if they don't it doesn't bother me that much. The beer is what counts.

Gary
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the problem with sleeman's marketing

Postby Josh Oakes » Sat May 28, 2005 5:55 pm

The problem I see with the marketing isn't that they are using macro marketing. It's that they still come off sometimes as attempting to potray themselves as something other than a macrobrewer. Consider the Canadian beer drinker. This person wants to buy a beer and has a lot of choices. Perhaps Blue and Canadian aren't offering an attractive price/value proposition. Hardly a shocker - this has been the case for many years now. The drinker can improve the price/value proposition in two ways. Lower the price and you get Lakeport. Obviously, the beer isn't as good, but with the present very low quality level of the "mainstream" brands, the decline in quality isn't that much relative to the decline in price. Ergo, the recent success of Lakeport (or in the west, Mountain Crest.

On the other hand, the proposition can be improved by spending more and getting more. In Canada, if you try that, what are you going to end up with? Hopefully something really tasty, but given the relative distribution of the really good brewers this probably isn't the case. Instead, the drinker ends up with Sleeman Cream Ale, Keith's, Rickard's, Steamwhistle or some other beer that is only marginally distinguishable (if at all) from what Blue and Canadian have to offer. So the drinker pays more, maybe gets more, but is it enough to justify the cost? Suppose it is. But now we have a problem. The drinker has taken a little baby step from mainstream beer. It's still golden, bland and fizzy. Maybe dark, bland and fizzy in the case of Rickard's, but the bland and fizzy is the most important part because dark beer is hardly a shocker to people these days. I mean, they are well aware of its existence.

Microbrewers are in on this, too. Most of them make a "premium lager". So the consumer gets the idea that "premium lager" is a pretty important thing in the beer world. That even microbrewers, the guys who tinker around with weird stuff, place such value on this premium lager could give the drinker the impression that this is the pinnacle of beer? After all, if the pinnacle of beer was something else, wouldn't the microbrewers be worried about that instead? Surely making the best beer possible is their raison d'etre.

So taking this back to Sleeman, if that's what people think microbrew is, this will not result in differentiation of the category in the mind of the consumer. Without that differentiation, the drinker will still be scared shitless when they try a real beer, something with body, flavour and colour. It's an old Anheuser-Busch trick. You kill the category by making a mockery of it. That the microbrewers themselves are helping to kill their category by making cowardly beers (and yes, I understand that bottom-level micros are basically a market of their own and that's fair enough for a few companies).

To me, microbrews in Canada (outside Quebec, anyway) need to differentiate themselves from the Sleemans, Okanagan Springs, Keith's, Rickards and all the other pretenders and that's going to require marketing savvy and braver beers. The worst part is, this isn't some formula I pulled out of my backside. It's worked all over the US, from Michigan to San Diego, up to Seattle and back to Boston.
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Postby El Pinguino » Sat May 28, 2005 5:58 pm

I have to also agree with Old Faithful on this one...I enjoy Sleeman beers, and the new Original Draught is quite drinkable. I was faced with the task of bringing beer to my last baseball game, and could not bare bringing the usual molbatt stuff, so this was a compromise (albeit overpriced).

The PR from both Heinekin and Sleeman can be expected. Th'yre not goign to waste time on brewing details when the PR is meant to sell large amounts of beer.

PR is done for the media. The media send it to the masses. The masses drink the beer.

Some of us can have fun poking fun at the factual errors, but then again teh PR is not a "fact sheet" either. The people writing these releases know they can get away with it, so why not?
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Postby old faithful » Sat May 28, 2005 6:36 pm

I don't see Sleeman as trying to be something it isn't. Its Cream Ale has always tasted the same as today (if anything it is better now than it was 15 years ago). The ads have changed a bit but not the beers. Sleeman has introduced a variety of beer styles. The flavour profile appeals to a lot of people who will never appreciate more characterful beer, but also to many who do. There are many ways I think to participate in the beer market, quality can exist on different parts of the taste spectrum. Sleeman offers more taste than Labatt or Molson, its beers are not comparable at all in my view. Maybe some of the people who like Sleeman will graduate to yet more assertive beers. That is good and here again Sleeman is a bridge and a positive force. For those who don't want more taste, they will stay with Sleeman/Creemore and be happy. And maybe that basic micro lager Josh mentions satisfies that need. A good example in the dark ale area is Upper Canada's. It is not complex but is a good beer with a defined brown malt taste, much more so than, say the Rickards beers (which I don't like very much myself, to me they taste kind of ersatz whereas Upper Canada tastes real). That doesn't mean the brewers who focus on rich beers of high quality (malty, hoppy, fruity, etc.) don't have a place, they do because they can exploit the niche that exists, maybe they can grab some of those Sleeman-ites, maybe grab some wine share, maybe even grow in a big way, I don't rule it out (and wish all those players well). Look if I had my choice real ale would be in every bar. But I don't see how a Sleeman affects any of this, to me they are only a positive force.

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Postby Josh Oakes » Sun May 29, 2005 12:02 am

old faithful wrote:I don't see Sleeman as trying to be something it isn't. Its Cream Ale has always tasted the same as today (if anything it is better now than it was 15 years ago). The ads have changed a bit but not the beers. Sleeman has introduced a variety of beer styles. The flavour profile appeals to a lot of people who will never appreciate more characterful beer, but also to many who do. There are many ways I think to participate in the beer market, quality can exist on different parts of the taste spectrum. Sleeman offers more taste than Labatt or Molson, its beers are not comparable at all in my view. Maybe some of the people who like Sleeman will graduate to yet more assertive beers. That is good and here again Sleeman is a bridge and a positive force. For those who don't want more taste, they will stay with Sleeman/Creemore and be happy. And maybe that basic micro lager Josh mentions satisfies that need. A good example in the dark ale area is Upper Canada's. It is not complex but is a good beer with a defined brown malt taste, much more so than, say the Rickards beers (which I don't like very much myself, to me they taste kind of ersatz whereas Upper Canada tastes real). That doesn't mean the brewers who focus on rich beers of high quality (malty, hoppy, fruity, etc.) don't have a place, they do because they can exploit the niche that exists, maybe they can grab some of those Sleeman-ites, maybe grab some wine share, maybe even grow in a big way, I don't rule it out (and wish all those players well). Look if I had my choice real ale would be in every bar. But I don't see how a Sleeman affects any of this, to me they are only a positive force.

Gary


Well, the thing is that while you are entitled to your view in its fullness, this does not mean that I am wrong. Even John Sleeman has admitted in past that people will only pay so much extra for his beer. Why is that? Because it's not that different. It is baby steps - at best (ie not Cream Ale, Honey Brown, Light, Clear, Arctic Wolf) - from macrobrew.

As I said, if they didn't send out false messages to the marketplace about their nature, I'd be cool with it. But they bill themselves as a craft brewer. They say that they don't play the discount beer game. They say they've got a brewing tradition back to 18whatever. These are bald-faced lies. They lie to the market to attempt to confuse drinkers as to what craft beer is. They're not the only ones. But in doing so, they succeed for themselves while helping to kill the craft beer category in this country.

Don't get me wrong, I wish the company and the Guelph factory all the success in the world. As the macrobrewer they are, competing against the unbridled arrogance and cultural evisceration that define MolsonCoors and InBev. I just want them to stop lying to consumers and stop pretending to be a microbrewer.
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Postby old faithful » Sun May 29, 2005 5:51 am

There are many viewpoints on this to be sure.

I wanted to say too I will be at Volo today around 3:30 p.m. and if any board member stops by will be happy to chat about this or other topics. Time to drink some beer, one of the world's great beverages and which I feel has great potential for growth in the quality categories!

Gary
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Postby old faithful » Sun May 29, 2005 4:53 pm

Well, didn't see anyone I knew (except Ralph) but had a nice tasting and chat with Ralph. The Granite's cask IPA had a formidable bitterness - likely dry-hopped. I think I like it less hopped, but it was good. The Holy Smoke of Church Key was great - very smoky unlike some recent brewings. The Choulette Ambree was okay - good brown malt character, somewhat tart and not quite what I remember from France, but still enjoyable. The terrace is nice on a day like today, all the life of Yonge Street is there to observe and if tired of it Volo thoughtfully provides the Sunday New York Times. A nice spell on a Toronto Sunday...

Gary
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Postby Philip1 » Mon May 30, 2005 10:21 am

I just caught Rob Creighton (presumably the same one who posts here) on ROB TV discussing these advertising gimmicks - wearing a Stonehammer T-shirt. Yes, the beer industry's advertising ("our beer is ice cold" type of thing) does seem to be sending out the message that their beer is basically lacking in taste. Rob said it might explain why beer sales are down. But I was just over in N Ireland a couple of months ago and noticed something I'd never seen there before: People drinking light beer, in public! Coors Light has a major advertising campaign going with ads on buses and commercials during Formula One and European Cup soccer all emphasising the word "refreshing" and showing hip-looking black American males working up a sweat playing inner city basketball. I couldn't help but notice how many young males (the kind who used to make fun of North Americans for drinking 'wussy" light beer) were ordering this beer at Belfast pubs. Before I left in 2001 I'd never even seen Coors Light in Ireland and now after a few well placed ads the beer is all the rage!
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Postby old faithful » Mon May 30, 2005 10:41 am

This represants a long-term change. It has hit Ireland which used to be conservative and less economically developed than other parts of the West; that has changed. The same thing happened in England, but earlier: lager (thin and lighter-tasting than bitter and other ales) slowly displaced the traditional ale. Ale is still available, but it occupies a small share of the market. Back in the 60's and 70's it was European names and international brands (e.g., Carling, Carlsberg, Skol, Heineken) that attracted first women, then young males, then almost everyone in Britain. (Before the war the same thing had happened on the Continent). Later the American brands became the thing (once A-B and Coors decided to move aggressively in foreign markets). Ireland cannot be exempt because its society is changing (has changed) into a modern white collar-based economy. As Jackson has written people who sit behind a keyboard all day won't sink 10 pints of the local ale like the now-disappeared miners used to. Data mining isn't the same thing.. They want something perceived as being lighter (even if it really isn't) and will drink a more diverse range of beverages, and probably less overall than used to be the case per capita. This does not mean the traditional drinks will die out. Guinness has for decades increased its growth and sales in many markets. It has become a specialty drink and will always be available. But it has changed, too: it seems lighter than ever, served almost always very cold, and marketed in a way to make people think it is akin to a young hip drink like Coors Light. The market there, as here is becoming diverse for beer: there will be Guinness and ale (e.g. the 'Smiddick' drinkers) always but probably less of them; Coors Light and Miller Lite will grow; craft beers will grow (e.g. Porterhouse in Dublin and London); price beers will become more popular (as is happening in Germany to a degree); and the mainstream (in U.K./Ireland) draught lagers like Heineken, Stella, Carling, etc. may get squeezed. It is an old story but new for Ireland and probably Ulster, too.
Last edited by old faithful on Mon May 30, 2005 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Steve Beaumont » Mon May 30, 2005 1:51 pm

Just as a point of interest, a recent (or current; I didn't note the date) issue of Marketing magazine features a full page commentary on Canadian beer advertising, in which a marketing guru slams it for being repetitive, out-of-date and irrelevant to beer drinkers. And that's from someone whithin the advertising industry!
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Postby Cass » Mon May 30, 2005 2:15 pm

Here is the link to the Marketing Magazine article:

http://www.marketingmag.ca/shared/print ... 8806_68806
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Postby GregClow » Tue May 31, 2005 11:31 am

OK, let's get back to the original point of this thread - making fun of big beer company press releases! Here's one - anyone want to take a crack at it? :D

Made with pure Canadian honey, Labatt Genuine Honey launches in Ontario

TORONTO, May 30 /CNW/ - Beer drinkers are buzzing about a new honey of a beer. Just in time for the warm summer temperatures and the start of Canada's beer season, Labatt Breweries of Canada is launching Labatt Genuine Honey, a new premium Labatt lager made with pure Canadian honey.

"We're launching Labatt Genuine Honey for people who want a honey beer but won't compromise on taste or quality," said Bob Chant, Director of Corporate Affairs, Labatt Breweries of Canada. "At $25 for a case of 24 bottles, Labatt Genuine Honey is a really great deal. And, because it's brewed by Labatt with pure Canadian honey, beer drinkers can be assured its genuine high quality."

Labatt Genuine Honey is a smooth-tasting, refreshing amber lager that is naturally aged. It was developed at the Labatt centre for innovation in Labatt's hometown, London, Ontario, one of four global InBev centres of excellence for beer research and development around the globe. It has 5 per cent alcohol by volume.

"At the end of the day, beer drinkers care about taste," said Renee Claude Beauchemin, Labatt brewmaster. "We've taken our time to ensure that Labatt Genuine Honey, like all the beer we brew, delivers superior flavor. It's made with pure Canadian honey, has a smooth finish and is definitely worth the wait."

Labatt Genuine Honey is available now at The Beer Store and LCBO Combo Store locations in Ontario for $12.80 for 12 bottles and $25.00 for 24 bottles. It is being supported with a marketing campaign that includes print, outdoor and television advertising.
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Postby pootz » Tue May 31, 2005 12:40 pm

I guess the oxymoron in that ad blurb is the bit about "premium beer" in the buck-a-beer market....can't have both unless you PO the share holders by tanking the Inbev typical +100% profit margins.
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