Wednesday 14 July 2010

Beer is about friendship

I wonder how much business is done over a pint. The parish council, the village cricket team wicket maintenance roster, locating a builder to re-lay your drive or point your gable end or asking the local mole catcher, who can always be found supping a pint of Smelly Ferret, to sort out the little beggars who are making your lawn into an accurate scale model of the Himalayas. Perhaps in the big nasty cities these things don't happen, but around here many important tasks are organised over a pint, often the plan actually works out OK, despite and perhaps because alcohol is involved.

Somehow, people who drink beer together generally get along. Many a niggley grudge is swept aside when a pint or two is had. It seems to be the same when it comes to business that actually involves beer. I am lucky enough to come into contact with many people in the beer world, some are writers, some are brewers, some just work for breweries selling or communicating about beer, but it is a friendly and sociable community that revolves around beer. The sociability of these people fails, in my view, to fall into characterization associated with the size of the brewery, indeed, I note that Pete Brown recently looked at The Big Boys and compared and contrasted the attitudes of various multinational beer producers.

Personally I notice the attitudes of various brewers that can manifest themselves in subtle ways. I've written about Fullers, who I think are what I'd call a friendly brewery. They care about beer. I've also condemned Marston's, who have taken over our local Jennings brewery and succeeded in making that less friendly than it used to be. Yes, I know in that case they have the legal right to do what they do, but it is still a symptom of an aggressive business that happens to brew beer rather than a bunch of people passionate about beer who are making a business out of it.

Looking at Pete's piece, my interpretation is that AB InBev are the least friendly of the lot. Molson Coors seem to be the most friendly. Any reader who follows this blog regularly will know that there is perhaps a bias from me here; Molson Coors have buttered me up a little and there is no denying that. But, and this is the important thing, there has never ever been any legal agreement between myself and the good people at Burton. They promise me a few things and importantly deliver them despite there being no contract, and in return I say a few nice things. So long as I don't have to say anything more about Carling than recognizing the very important financial contribution it has to their business everyone is happy. Of course Molson Coors do make some nice beer too, like White Shield, which is a symptom of a company who is serious about beer. My free stock is running out, I might have to go and buy some soon, which I will happily do, as I think it's really tasty.

In contrast my experience of AB InBev is completely different. I understate in this post how the InBev crew had metaphorically pushed me out of the way when I was packing up from an event. The fact that there was just two of use to shift our equipment and but an army of them didn't cross their minds. The fact that we were already parked and in the middle of loading and would have only been a few minutes was insufficient to stop their bullying. They were actually quite rude and when I wasn't looking stole tools out of my tool box.

I also know that AB InBev will happily renege on promises to sponsor events, apparently it is OK to do this if there is no contract in place.

Jeff Pickthall has also written about the misleading advertising that surely insults the intelligence of most serious beer fans. Perhaps they can legally state that their beer only contains four ingredients, but it's not really the point.

In my view, out of all the commerce involved in the beer industry, AB InBev repeatedly manage to sink outside the scope of the friendship of beer. I doubt very much that beer writers will start saying nice things about them any time soon, but I suspect there will be an increase in condemnation if there are not a few important things sorted out.


Jeff Pickthall said...

And Molson Coors manage to be relatively friendly without using Comic Sans!

Ed said...

White Shield is too sweet. It's never recovered from when it went to King and Barnes...

Neville Grundy said...

"I wonder how much business is done over a pint."

In my years as a trade union rep, I found that a lot of business was sorted out over a couple of pints, either at lunchtime or after the meeting was over. Compromises were reached that for some reason couldn't be in the formal meeting. I'm not sure why, but it's true ~ perhaps because people were more relaxed and less uptight. Plus, I suppose, the talk in the pub wasn't minuted.