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Beer or wine: Telling the truth a good place to start

Curious timing. Today Evan Benn (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) asks the question, “What’s in your beer? Labels should tell you.” And at the Wine Spectator website columnist Matt Kramer asks something that it turns out to be related: “If You Owned a Winery … What would you do differently?”

Benn looks at a government proposal for beer labels that small brewery owners don’t like. He’s not buying their objections. Good for him. Granted, it’s complicated, there may be issues I don’t know about and the whole “standard-drink” discussion confuses it further.

However, even though Kramer writes about wine, his discussion about labels is just a relevant to beer. Take a quick look at this photo (from shortly after La Cumbre Brewing in Albuquerque opened in December).

What's on tap at La Cumbre Brewing in Albuquerque

A lot of facts, stuff that a lot of people don’t care about. Ask the person pouring beer a question and he or she may provide even more information — about the ingredients, or about process, or just what the brewer was thinking. Again, stuff of interest to a relative few. But if you do want to know you can find out. Labels should provide useful information and honest stories. And QR codes further extend that opportunity.

Here’s the CliffNotes version of Kramer’s list. You should be able to figure out where to plug in the word beer.

* I Would Tell the Truth.
“This may seem overly simplistic. But I’m here to testify that it’s nothing less than astonishing to see the number of times a winery sidesteps, obfuscates, or flat-out lies about its practices in the winery or its reasons for pursuing a particular course of action.”

* I Would Speak Up.
“The key point is not to hamstring yourself, but rather differentiate yourself from those who want your artisanal image but are not willing to pay your price.”

* I Would Recognize That My Label Is Really a Portal.
“I would redesign it in recognition that the label is—or should be—an invitation to the prospective customer to acquire yet more information about what’s inside the bottle.”

* I Would Always Hire Wine People.
“There’s a trend, especially among very big wineries or small producers seeking to break into the luxury category, to hire people from fields other than wine.”

* I Would Ask Myself, “Am I A Me-Too Winery?”
“The only way to become above-average is to impose a demand that what you offer is indeed superior.”

One Response to Beer or wine: Telling the truth a good place to start

  1. Pivní Filosof April 22, 2011 at 3:21 am #

    The excuse that most people don’t care about ingredients, etc. it’s quite lame, even though most people actually don’t care about ingredients, etc. I like DeMolen’s labels. I can get two bottles from beers that at first sight would be pretty much the same, but I will have a good idea of their differences even before opening them.

    Once that sort of information becomes commonly available, more and more people will learn how to interpret it and will sure appreciate it, just like it’s happened with wines.

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