Further to my previous post about the Beer Innovation Summit, I've been thinking about what beer innovation actually is and how important it might be.
Many breweries like to think they are innovative. We’d like to think we are, to some extent, although to be honest we often feel like we are lagging behind and copying too much. But then, is there really anything new in the beer world?
Obviously there are some new things happening; spirit cask aging, strong beers, crazy freeze distillation, mixed up beer styles and many, many things. But aren’t these just variations on a theme?
The big multinationals come up with new things from time-to-time. Widgets in beer cans to make the beer seem like draught smooth flow. Perhaps extra cold is an innovation only made practical by improvements in cooling technology efficiency. Perhaps putting the lime into lager, so that its ready to serve on draught, is a fairly clever idea?
As I move my business forward I have to consider what might be innovative enough to maintain interest in my products. Indeed, I’d like to expand my customer base. All of this requires a stimulation in our brand.
What I don’t want to do is just re-invent the wheel and call it innovation. I know we’ve been accused of copying in the past and I’m keen to try and avoid this where I can in the future.
But what does constitute real beer innovation? Perhaps the reader has a view that is different to what the “innovative” brewers believe? Perhaps the reader doesn’t think beer innovation is necessary at all. If so, how do we excite a new and youthful beer drinker? I can tell you one thing for sure, if we don’t innovate, even if the innovation is in the message rather than the product itself, beer will continue to lose appeal in the face of wine, spirits and RTDs.
The picture is of my Great Grandfather with his car. I’m not sure of the date, other than early 20th century, around a 100 years ago. You may wonder what this has to do with beer. The motorcar has changed a lot in 100 years. However, they all generally run on four wheels, have some sort of energy to rotary motion converter and carry people about. The 100 year old car has some appeal to the enthusiast, but most people like the modern version. Indeed, most people who buy cars lust after newer models, even when the changes are slight.
Photography has also changed in this hundred years, silver nitrate is no longer the main compound that enables it to happen.
In a hundred years beer has changed a lot, but it is still a fermented alcoholic beverage made from grain. Most people like up-to-date brands; tradition and stagnant brands tend to fail.
I don’t know if my Great Grandfather drank beer. If he did I doubt the beer he drank would be of interest to most of the population today. However, I would like to own his car.