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Archive for May 28th, 2009

Heavy load

Heavy load

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten tries a new angle – this time it is not Norwegians stocking up on beer, wine and stronger stuff in Sweden. It’s Swedes doing the same in Germany.

Expensive toll bridges, petrol and ferries means they have to buy quite a lot for this to be profitable. But they do. Legally.

The European Union has large quotas for alcohol. And if you can convince the customs officers its for personal use, the sky is the limit. Or, more precisely, your car.

While the beer list is not remarkable in scope, with those prices there are temptations for everyone. I wouldn’t mind paying 3.75 € for a 75 cl bottle of Duvel. But if you look at the promotional flyers on their web page, most customers go for Danish or Swedish beers to take back home. Not the most green way to arrange things….

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I am not a Luddite, and I have no strong views on sticking to traditional methods when brewing or serving beers. Sure, I know the difference between cask and keg, but sometimes, and in some countries, you have to settle for the second best.

But innovation takes place in fields far removed the craft beer world as well. Like in Switzerland. With slipping margins and the big brewers devouring each other, some Swiss guys think the solution is to prolong the shelf life of pale lagers.

A marketing man named Adami Jean Nicolas tells us that dissolved or residual oxygen in beer is a serious problem. With his new tool you can measure contamination  in parts per billion.

I beg to ask if oxygen appearing as a result of a natural brewing process can be called contamination. And I would add that brewing for flavour instead of volume is something that may be considered.

Productivity gains are key to increase the brewery’s margins, says Mr. Nicolas.

I’ve discussed this view of the world with other beer hounds on various occasions. We often scratch our heads and wonder why the big brewers don’t focus more on quality. One reason is that they are trained as mechanical engineers in a German tradition. Keeping the machines running without any glitches and keeping a steady output at a stable quality is the only thing that matters. That the finished product is intended for human consumption is of minor interest.

If you brew according to these principles and hire marketing men who don’t really like beer, you end up in the present situation. A desperate scramble for dwindling market shares – while the craft brewers are doing pretty well. And they don’t lose a moments’ sleep worrying about that oxygen that makes up one part in a billion.

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