Lagers, lifestyles and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Two stories, both rather long, to be considered in tandem:

Why Is Screaming Eagle’s Winemaker Making $90 6-Packs of Lager?
The headline nicely summarizes a 2,700-plus-word tale. After signaling he might not think much of the story on Twitter, Jeff Alworth followed with a blog post making that real clear. Paul Jones at Cloudwater Brew and Chris Lohring at Notch Brewing were equally unimpressed. But nobody is denying that this is a story about lifestyle as much as beer.

No Bad Days — Island Brands Wants to Cash in on “Cool Vibes” to Challenge Michelob Ultra, Corona
Did somebody say lifestyle? “[The founders] say they want their beer to function as a lifestyle brand, citing the pricey outdoor gear company Yeti as a successful example. The lifestyle Island is targeting is coastal, active, fitness- and sports-oriented; the brewery’s ambassadors—who are compensated via discounts and free beer—include wind surfers, kayakers, and Crossfit influencers.”

Make no mistake, authentic/traditional/craft beer is also about lifestyle. Thinking about that I tracked down a conversation I had with Saint Arnold Brewing founder Brock Wagner in 2003.

“We’re trying to add 10 customers at a time. The big brewers are trying to add a million. We’re in different businesses,” he said. “We both make something called beer, but they don’t really taste much alike. The big brewers are of a completely different mindset. A-B has more in common with Coca-Cola than they do with us. That’s not to say their beer is bad. It’s just different from what we make. If you look at their advertising you see they are trying to sell lifestyle.”

I asked him what Saint Arnold was selling.

“I think we’re selling a really good beer. We want you to think about what you are drinking. I’ll think about the beer when I first taste it. After that I’m sitting there with my wife and with friends shooting the breeze and it becomes background. But periodically I will think about the beer again. I’m not so naïve to think that advertising and marketing don’t make a difference. People like to be marketed to, they like to have the affirmation that what they are drinking is good.”

Is a $15 price tag on a half-liter bottle some sort of affirmation?

PS – a few afterthoughts.

– Given that we are talking about lagers, a few words from Matt Brynildson at Firestone Walker:

– One bit of math I did for myself to get some perspective. Scroll to the end of the Hanabi story and you will see the 6-packs are half-liter bottles. So each 6-pack is 3 liters (101 ounces, compared to 72 in a 6-pack of 12-ounce bottles).

The brewery released 1,000 6-packs of Winter, or 30 hectoliters (25.5 31-gallon barrels). That’s half a batch at Live Oak Brewing (chosen because the Austin brewery is mentioned in the story).

– My favorite comment of many about Hanabi was from “diamond king” shep: “Even though Russian River is literally in the heart of wine country, STS Pils does not exist to these people. Lager is swill. Beer an afterthought. But you turn lager into a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel and these folks are in!”