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What do ‘image seeking’ beer drinkers pick?

IPA - Woman and hopsMerlot does not suck.

Oh, sorry, this is a beer blog. But before returning to beery talk this wine fact just in: Merlot made up 20% of the wine purchases made by a group labeled “image seekers,” called that because they like to others to think they know a lot about wine, according to a 18-month study called Project Genome, conducted by The Nielsen Co. and released by Constellation Wines.

It seems that not everybody saw the movie Sideways. Or maybe consumers talk one way and buy another. Project Genome defines “image seekers are consumers who use the Internet to harvest factoids about wine and like to experiment with trendy wines and packaging.” However, when they bought wine for home it was merlot.

So what’s the beer of image seekers?

According to IRI the best selling craft style nationally is Pale ale. But in various parts of the country the leader may be Pale ale, wheat beers, bock or amber lagers.

Sour beers? Those red-hot Italians? Barrel aged? Nowhere to be seen.

How about IPA? Fifth in three different regions and fifth overall — with a bullet (up 34% in supermarkets in 2007).

Perhaps the next merlot.

8 Responses to What do ‘image seeking’ beer drinkers pick?

  1. SteveH March 13, 2008 at 5:21 am #

    “Merlot does not suck.”

    Nor does Light Lager (for the most part), but I think we need to keep in mind that Miles, in Sideways, was actually railing against those “image seekers,” non true wine lovers, who didn’t understand how Merlot was just a pretender to the wine throne and Pinot Noir was the true king of red (in his opinion).

    Sort of like beer advocates who see IIPA or RIS as the end all, be all of beer and Pale Ales, such as SN, are mere starter beers (never mind the light lager alluded to above).

    Then again, Miles’ extemporaneous, passionate speech on why he loves Pinot so much is more honest and far deeper than any emotion I could ever put to words on my favorite beer! Maybe I can hire a script writer? 😉

    Bottom line, how can anyone pick a true favorite with so many to choose from?

  2. mallace March 13, 2008 at 8:26 am #

    “Image seeker” is kind of a vague term…and the study definitely did not define the term as I would have. Merlot is the most-sold red wine varietal, so I would put it out there that anyone who drinks merlot as an “image seeker” is really drinking more as a “trend follower.” Maybe that’s the image they are seeking; I don’t know. To a certain extent, I think most people do create a certain image with the products they surround themselves with, whether this is intentional, desired, or not. I know that I personally think there is more cache–more “image creating”–in drinking something that shows breadth of knowledge rather than knowledge of current trends. I’d rather drink a Finger Lakes lemberger or a PA chamborcin or a Pouilly-Fume and have to explain it than drink a pinot grigio with an alternative closure or package that everyone knows.
    And merlot gets a bad rap, anyway. We can’t forget that it is the base for almost all Right Bank Bordeaux, including many first growth chateau. The bad merlot epidemic is the fault of overproduction (I’ll go ahead and blame California), much in the way mass produced beer has disparaged the good name of pilsner.

  3. Stan Hieronymus March 13, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    If I interpret it correctly: The study – and it is worth remember that Constellation is really gung ho on “helping” the overwhelmed buy – identifyies these image seekers as people who are willing to experiment.

    But their everyday wine remains something they know, merlot.

  4. Sidney Porter March 13, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    where is the actal list. Which region is bock leading? That really surprises me, I rarely see bocks anywhere…unless they are including shiner bock and amber bock as bocks.

  5. Sam March 13, 2008 at 10:52 am #

    Okay,I thought the article was saying the “image seekers” who like to look like they know wine buy the “fancy/high rated” wines (maybe pinot noir, a Beaujolais) when they’re out so everyone can see that they know good wine, but actually buy the “common” merlot to enjoy behind closed doors….implication being they’re really “overwhelmed” or “satisfied sippers” in “Enthusiast” clothing. To Stan’s point, it’s probably Constellation winking at the “image seeker” to say “we know you like us, our study shows you and others like you like us, you are all cool, so our wines must be cool, so please start drinking our wines in public”

    Who are these “image seekers” in the beer world? Typically I’d say the Heinenken, Becks, Stella drinker at the clubs who wouldn’t be caught drinking a Bud/Light in public, but mostly has Bud in the fridge. There’s also a smattering of them drinking craft, they’re easier to spot at big beer festivals as they have one two crafts, and then sneak over to big guys tent when you’re getting a real fill.

  6. Jeff Alworth March 13, 2008 at 11:05 am #

    But were the image-conscious drinking Pinot Noir, clearly the highest-status of all wines. (Not that, you know, being from Oregon compells me to make such a point or anything.)

  7. Stan Hieronymus March 13, 2008 at 11:16 am #


    That must include Shiner, but probably not Amber Bock (which outsells Shine, BTW). And the region is South Central (including Texs, so it all makes sense).

    The tops sellers in each region:
    Calif – Pale
    West – Amber ale
    Plains – Wheat
    Great Lakes – Seasonal by a mile, obviously not a style but a catchall, with Pale ale second.
    Mid-South – Pale ale
    SE – Amber Lager (that would be Sam Adams)
    NE – Seasonals, variety packs and finally a style: Amber Lager

  8. Stan Hieronymus March 13, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Jeff – Oregon Pinots make The Abyss a bargain.

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