Back from a few days on the road and I am shocked - shocked!! - to find out there is an underworld of bootlegged beer out there. The news today comes from the Netherlands but this could be happening in your home town:
People drinking a beer in Amsterdam have a big chance of it being an unbranded brew. Hospitality businesses are serving illegal beer en masse to get out of stranglehold contracts they complain they have to sign with the established brewers like Heineken... Many cafe and restaurant-holders quietly put unbranded barrels under their taps, because they can save 25 to 50 euros on purchasing and the customers do not taste the difference, Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool reports. The unbranded beers come from brewers with overcapacity in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Insiders in the drinks trade believe that 60 percent of the established hospitality businesses take this route.
Hmmm: "because they can save 25 to 50 euros on purchasing and the customers do not taste the difference." Isn't that odd. In what other product category could a merry oligopolist demand "stranglehold contracts" when the consumer can't perceive a distinction between the oligopolistic version from a discount one? And then there is that idea in the story's headline: "Most Heineken Beer in Amsterdam is Fake." Can a beer actually be fake? Sure the branding may be stolen and now doubt an example of widespread commercial fraud - a zwendel even - but does that make the beer in your glass fake beer? If you can't tell the difference? Isn't it really just switched? Or is there something so elemental in Heineken or other macro-brews that can be falsified in such an elemental way?