Can Beer save America?
In the fevered battle between the macrobrew behemoths and the craftbrew insurgents, both sides are digging in for an epic confrontation.
The history of the face-off is illustrative. For decades, the big brewers (Anheuser Busch, MillerCoors, etc.) have marketed their products less on the basis of taste or quality than on identity branding. What you drank subsequently became a statement not necessarily of what your taste buds enjoyed, but of your self-image. The Miller versus Budweiser wars and Old Milwaukee ads, for instance, were so often a pitch to guys looking for working-class street cred. Meanwhile, Pabst Blue Ribbon lately has been pitched as a retro-themed statement of hipster style.
This kind of marketing made a certain sense, because while macrobrew brands are certainly appealing, the actual beers in question are basically terrible. Produced through the macrobrews’ low-price, high-volume process, they don’t contain high-quality ingredients, they don’t contain much alcohol and, thus, they simply don’t taste good. Knowing this, the macrobrews have logically designed their marketing campaigns to focus on everything (the can, the type of people who drink it, the logo, etc.) but the actual product. Indeed, if there’s one ubiquitous reference that macrobrewing companies make to the beer itself, it’s usually one telling you how cold the beer is or should be — a temperature that, quite deliberately, helps hide just how bad the beer actually is.
The obvious assumption in this business model is that Americans generally reward low price over everything else, and specifically preference beer that is cost-effective to drink in mass quantities, rather than beer that delivers more alcohol or taste in less volume of liquid. In other words, the model assumes consumers see beer as a homogenized, undifferentiated commodity and that therefore less can never be more. In this view, more is always more, and since cheaper means more, cheaper is inherently better.