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Archive for the ‘beer marketing’ Category

Vespa & Humla front

A quiet alternative

I’m not usually pushing news about the big global players in the alcohol industry. But when they reach out to small individual producers to do a collaboration with no strings attached, I don’t mind.

Jameson Whisky, which belongs to the Pernod Richard group, has been doing a series of collaborations with craft breweries with the same concept – beer aged in used whiskey casks. This time around, Grünerløkka Brygghus in Oslo was invited to join in, and head brewer Kjetil Johnsen has made a limited edition Irish Rock Porter.

This is a Baltic Porter (brewed with lager yeast, if that is of importance to you), which has spent some weeks in casks which were just emptied of whisky. It’s a one off, so don’t expect this to find this outside Norway or for promotional purposes for the destillery.

There was a launch last night in Oslo, and I am happy to report about a very drinkable beer. The whiskey character comes through in a subtle way – it has a lighter touch than scotch whisky barrels with all their smoke or bourbon barrels with a lot of vanilla. Sure, you feel the booze, and the oak plays its part. But it an easy drinking and elegant beer. Grab it if you can.

The tasting was held at Vespa & Humla, the new brewery tap of Grünerløkka Brygghus. They still have their main pub, but the new one is tucked away next door to the brewery.Expect to find a full list of their own brews and a relaxed atmosphere – and good home cooking.

Kjetil with beer glass. Kjetil has every reason to be pleased with his whiskey barrel beer.

 

 

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The reason for me being in Aberdeen?.A group of journalists, writers and bloggers were invited to visit BrewDog to see the brewery, talk to the founders and sample their beers. Not bad at all.

 

I’m not going to retell the BrewDog story once again. Eight years on from modest beginnings they have created a household name across Europe.

 

They expect to brew 16 million liters this year, but they keep expanding, and with the new facility opening later this year, they will have a capacity of 40 million liters.

 

A new canning line was being adjusted while we were visiting, and the automated packaging makes the more tedious part of the process less manual.

And it’s become a sizeable company, 150 working at the brewery and in the administration, 400 in total if you include the bars.

The brewery tap

DogTap

There are two things that impress me:

  • The attention to detail
  • The focus on people

 

The details: The brewery is spotless, from the huge grain silos to the small pilot brewery. There is an in-house lab, there is a tasting panel, there is a tireless quest to make sure the beers are not only consistent, but that they keep improving. And there is still the youthful spirit of trying out the new. While the Punk IPA is making up much of the volume, there is still the steady stream of new beers, some of them exclusive, some experimental. We sampled the wonderful IPA Born to Die 04.07.2015, fresh from the bottling line, where the best before date is the main selling point, underlining the point that fresh IPAs are for drinking, not for cellaring. On the other hand, glass in hand, we walked up the road to their barrel aging facilities, where an amazing range of beers lie maturing in their oak casks and a lucky few keep sampling which ones are ready to be released as they are or blended into something new.

BrewDog barrel aging

James looking for the right barrel

The people: James and Martin, the duo behind the company from its humble beginnings, are still in charge, and they had set aside plenty of time to talk to us. Eight years on, they still seem to have great fun. It’s been amazing story, I am fond of retelling the tale of a ratebeer gathering in a cellar under a pub in Glasgow in 2007 where two rather nervous young men were presenting their first two beers, Punk IPA and Rip Tide. The bottles did not even have labels at the time. Now they are running a huge company, evoking strong feelings for and against their public image.

 

They do not seem very concerned that some camps have strong negative views against them, but they were very pleased that my British colleagues told them that they have an impeccable reputation for taking care of their staff, training and mentoring them and making them able to do their job in the best possible way.

This includes the ones working in the BrewDog bars, these are places where the customers can be assured that the staff knows a lot about the beers they serve and that they can make good recommendations.

If you are in the Aberdeen area, the brewery, in Ellon, North of the city is open for tours, or you can just visit the Dog Tap bar and brewery shop.

There are buses from central Aberdeen.

 

There is a BrewDog bar in central Aberdeen, too, with a very decent beer list, including guest beers. Very lively on an early Friday evening, nice to see that the crown was farm more mixed than I expected, with women and the above 40 age bracket well represented.

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Sure. I know a lot about Norwegian beers and Norwegian breweries. But there is still a lot of ground to cover if my book is to be under every Christmas tree.

This week I sent out a questionnaire to all the breweries on my list – a list it has taken quite some time to compile. Facebook, word of mouth, public registers, applications for licences…

The immediate response was very positive – particularly from the ones starting up this spring. A major challenge will be to have really up-to-date information about everyone actually brewing on the day of the deadline.

And I’ve called out for photos of bottles and glasses, for labels to use on the cover etc.

My main advantage? That there are very few opportunities to market beer in Norway. You cannot even have a brewery logo at a football stadium. A book giving telling the story about your brewery and your beer is a way around this.

The response has been very positive. There will be some technical things to adjust – getting the questionnaire available in various formats, setting up a dropbox account with the book designer etc. But the general message is that the initiative is very welcome.

And I already have two invites to come and visit breweries.

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There are vintage ads. And there are vintage spoof ads. The Dangerous Minds has an article about the advertising parodies of MAD Magazine. The publication was able to survive without any outside ads – meaning they were free to make parodies. The tobacco industry was often the target, but there were some breweries among the victims as well.

This one is from September 1956. More ads on Jasperdo‘s Flickr account.

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Mosaic Single Hop IPA

Single hop IPA from Kolonihagen

 

There are several companies who claim to be the first organic (økologisk) brewery in Norway. Reins Kloster in Rissa, an hour’s drive from Trondheim is probably the winner. Their beers have a growing distribution in restaurants, bars and shops in the region, check their web site for a list. Close behind is Kolonihagen in Oslo. They have sold beers in their cafes/restaurants since last summer, and they have now signed an agreement for supermarket sales. Kolonihagen is opening a new restaurant in Hamar in a few days, which will also feature a micro brewery. Their brewery is not set up yet, but they aim to have their own pilsener on tap.

There are two more making their first brews right now – Eiker ølfabrikk in Mjøndalen, near Drammen and Grim & Gryt in Hareid on the western coast.

This has not been a major trend in Norway so far. Our farming is small scale compared to the rest of Europe, and most consumers (myself included) feel that the food generally available in the shops is healthy enough.

But this is a niche market, and I think there is a potential here. And, if you insist on buying organic food, it makes more sense that it is produced regionally, or, at least, nationally and not sent halfway around the globe.

Barley field

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I got an invite to a beer launch in Oslo a few weeks ago, but I could not fit it in my schedule. I answered back that I’d be happy to try the beers anyway, and a week before Christmas I had two cans delivered at home.

The idea is simply to combine two Scandinavian brand names to get extra coverage for both. One of them has many decades of changing fortunes, the other a relative newcomer. Scandinavian Airlines used to be the pinnacle of sophistication ca 1963, while Mikkeller is a big worldwide hit ca 2015.

The airline asked the brewer to make two beers for the business class of their long distance flights. The result: Sky High Wit and Sky High Red Lager.

The beers are supposed to compensate for changes in how we experience food and drink on a plane. I cannot comment on that aspect, but I took the two cans along to our cabin in the mountains, 950 meters above sea level.

The wit is true to type, hazy yellow with a fluffy head. A refreshing beer with tones of citrus and flowers. Light body, easy to drink, should have a broad appeal.

The lager is more robust. It has a lovely deep red color and a beige head. A rich aroma with malt and spices. Full bodied, lots of flavor, including caramel, red currants and burned sugar. EVen if the flavor is a bit diminished in the air, there should be plenty left.

Very decent beers, I am not convinced that they should be reserved for the business class segment.

And if SAS were truly bold, they would throw out Carlsberg and ask Mikkeller to brew a house beer for all their flights.

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There might be some minor adjustments to the Norwegian ban on ads for alcoholic beverages. This means  that breweries and cider makers may give some very basic information about their products. There will be now advertising as such, in printed or online media. It is really tough for a new brewery to promote their products to establish a brand name on the regional or national level.

But we are, to the dismay of some regulators, not totally North Korea. We are allowed to watch some sports on television. And these sporting events have sponsors.

Some of these sports events are unsignificant outside the Nordic countries. (Come to think of it, I don’t think the Danes care, either). We’re taking variations over cross-country skiing here.

Funny that  the Veltins brewery is a major sponsor of skiing. Their beers are not for sale in Norway.

I’d say the chances are good for finding Veltins in Norwegian shops during 2015.

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