The Beginner Brewer: 5 Steps to Converting Someone to Craft Beer

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

5 Steps to Converting Someone to Craft Beer


Beer: more than just yellow fizzy stuff

Until quite recently over here in SA, if you wanted to drink something other than macro-brewed lager, you had to search long and hard for alternatives. There were very few local microbreweries, and imported beers that were available were mostly of the mass-produced, yellow fizzy variety.

Things have changed. Nowadays you don't have to go to the obscure little corner in the weird liquor store anymore to find good craft beer (well not all the time anyway!).

No doubt, things can get a whole lot better. Personally I'll start believing in true beer revolution when more Cape Town beers are available in Jo'burg (and visa versa), and when I can get the occasional shipment of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA, but that's for another conversation.

The point is, if you love the diversity of beer in general, and craft beer in particular, it can be disappointing to see how little this enthusiasm is shared by those around you.

Today's post is about converting your friends, colleagues, and loved ones to craft beer. Amazingly, this is not always as simple as one might think.

Then again, it's not really that surprising given that SAB Miller's (and other macros') global marketing budget is large enough to fund things like revolutions, or say, a manned mission to Mars. They've invested heavily in creating loyalty to their brands and have incredible marketing and distribution engines to back that up.

So for the majority of South Africans, choice in beer still means choosing between different lager brands. Note that I didn't say different types of lager.SAB's offerings of Hansa, Castle, and Black Label are all varieties of American Premium Lager, as they all include large percentages of adjunct (maize) in the grain bill.

The exception here is of course Castle Milk Stout, the last remaining beer in the South African SAB  portfolio that is not a lager (although it is apparently brewed like a lager, so I'm not sure if it qualifies as a proper stout either).
Craft Beer = Taste Diversity

So, if you want to enthuse others about craft beer, it can be difficult to get past this mindset that brand diversity = beer diversity. Below are 5 suggestions on how to tackle the challenge:

1. Don't be a beer snob. I think if you're a beer geek like me, you've probably made yourself guilty of this at least a few times.

Enthusing people about the world of beer requires a lot of positive emotion and energy, which is exactly the opposite of what beer snobs are about. The beer snob sees his or her knowledge of beer as an instrument best suited to disparage those who do not possess it, and that's just not cool.

Just because your friend likes packing away a six pack of Black Label on a hot day does not make him a Philistine. Ultimately, beer is a wonderful thing to enjoy, and the way to convert people to craft is to show them just how much more there is to beer than the macro brewed lagers.

So, celebrate the diversity that beer has to offer by providing options rather than criticising your buddy's keg of Castle that he brought to the barbecue!

2. Start off gentle. If you've convinced someone to try some craft beer (good on you!), your enthusiasm may get the better of you.

In your rush to impress them with the wonderful world of Craft, you may be tempted to push your favourite 9%, 80 IBU, face-melting, double IPA into their hands. This is probably not going to have the intended effect.

Most people need a gentle introduction to craft beers, just like most people need a gentle introduction to other left-of-centre foods like oysters, caviar, or roasted Mopani worms. Try a friendly Pale Ale, or a refreshing Weiss. Before long, they will be ready for that Baltic Porter flavoured with oyster wee.
Speak to this guy:
He knows how to make Liquid Awesome

3. Let them speak to a brewer. One of the best things about craft beer (and the craft movement in general), is the closeness of the brewer,or baker, or coffee roaster to the person consuming their handiwork.

You don't have to interact with an anonymous brand or some fictitious character dreamt up in a marketing department.

You can talk directly to the person who made the beer with his or her own hands. Take your friend to a microbrewery tour and let them interact with brewers. That's one of the most powerful ways to appreciate the care (and passion) that goes into making artisan beer.

4. Invite them to a homebrewing session. If you're a homebrewer, it's a great idea to invite your pals to assist you in a brew.

Apart from the welcome help that provides, it also demystifies the process of beer making. Most beer drinkers have no idea what really goes into beer or how it's made. Once you let them taste the grains and smell the hops that go into beer, they will be more likely to want to try different varieties of beer.

5. Take them to a craft beer festival. There are at least 4 or 5 craft beer festivals each year (and they keep popping up in ever greater numbers) that showcase the South African craft beer scene. If you're in another country, chances are that craft beer festivals number in the hundreds. Nothing convinces novice beer drinkers of the merits of craft beer more than being able to drink a large wide variety of good beer (often paired with really delicious craft food).

Apart from the beer and food, the general craft vibe also sells people on the artisan experience. In my view it is often more quirky and friendly than the typical guzzle-until-you-fall-over beer festivals targeted by big commercial brewers.

I hope you've enjoyed this post; let me know what you think. Now let's go out there and convert!

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{Picture credits: Beer taps: stoicviking; Yellow beer: NguyenDai ; Brewer: visitflanders (All cc-by-nc-sa 2.0)}


4 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Dustin! Much obliged--It's always great to get feedback like that.

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  2. Nice blog bud, glad I found it! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that! Hope you keep on liking it!

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