First, I apologize. This topic for this the 50th edition of The Session was all over the place. Messy even. Like mascara on prom night. Yet, it was a good exercise... at least for me. See, it allowed me to explore what we perceive we value about good beer. And, as I suspected, no one has the same idea. Second, I apologize. I really did not post my own post but as the point was an exploration of the factors you value that was sort of inevitable. So, my submission is the wrap up.I have broken the responses so far into five categories but many could be placed under more than one heading. I have come to terms with this.
1. The Question Itself
Fellow Canuck Bruce Ticknor at BeerTaster.ca explores the questions within the questions and comes up with three factors: novelty, price but most of all taste. It's deceptively simple as it's a matrix of interacting factors that have reciprocal negatives of boredom, irritation and disappointment.
Derrick Peterman in Belmont, California of Ramblings of a Beer Runner confessed particular interest as he works in sales. For Derrick, it's a "vexing mystery" considering "all the mental calculations going on in my brain as I stare at the beer aisle." I think he sees what I see in the question... which is complexity.
Sean Inman of Beer Search Party found himself "at Whole Foods staring at the beer selection for an uncomfortably long time" after he thought about this question. He's hunting for a formula. He hasn't found it. Just let him be. He's going to be thinking about this for a while.
The eponymous and anonymous writer at A Flagon of Ale considers this a "zen-like" experience. He relates to beer mostly as a home brewer so is particularly immune to influence. An interesting point and one I have often considered as a lapsed brewer myself. Why value something so highly that I can make quite easily myself?
2. Anaylsis of Behavior
Jay of Brookston Beer Bulletin and the Commissioner General of The Session considered his own history and found one over riding interest when reached for the wallet: when all else fails, go local. I like this line: "What once was taken for granted as not so much buying locally, but simply “buying,” people are again purchasing locally made or grown goods, the only difference is this time it’s on purpose."
Colin Jemmott in California of Five Hundred and One Beers (aka in Canada "Five Hundred and One Beer") sent me his link to his use of graphwork to explain the geographical implications of good beer. It's a reverse long tail, with California and Pennsylvania winning his trade - because he's lived in both states. But is it an assertion of his local-vore ways or regulatory restriction or trade dominance?
Like Colin, Simon Johnson the Reluctant Scooper of Nottingham used graphical representation of data to make his point. Unlike Colin, he is not relying on empirical data but subjective sort. Yet his graph is the best graph of beer drinking influences we have ever seen. No one else captured the Phil Lowry factor so well.
JayZeis at A Beer in Hand is Worth Two in the Fridge rejects price when he searches within himself. He'll buy anything with a new ingredient but most often relies on style and reputation. He know what sort of beer he wants on a give day - whether something Belgian or an IPA - and then finds a brewer he trusts to match his ever changing mood.
Conversely, dredpenguin of Surrey in the UK, controller general of A Beer on the Downs has five simple rules concluding with "Don't charge silly prices for your beer."
Thomas of Geistbear Brewing Blog in North Carolina dutifully took on the cheapest beer v. most expensive question and concluded that it's not the beer that counts at all. By the way, I thought cookie was a euphemism for something but then realized it was a cookie. Have a look and you will see what I mean.
Ohio's Tom of What We're Drinking thinks about novelty, sexism and how I am playing "Freud to our collective neurotic and hysteric beer drinking Dora." I don't even know what that means but I like it.
John Parker at The 441 Beer Wall selects based on price, style, rarity and his wish list. It is interesting to see that value in terms of price point remains a strong factor even with geeks.The reality of one's income and other demands on the wallet simply can't be avoided.
Jon of the oldest beer blog on the planet, The Brew Site, "thinking of the qualities that make me buy a particular beer" examines his personal factors and... err... narrows them down to six. He speaks most to price and, clever lad that he is, asserts: "...I don’t care how good your imperial stout may be, I will never pay that much for a single bottle..." Me neither... I think.
3. The Function of Advertising
Reuben Gray of The Tale of the Ale considers the place of advertising in his post "A Fools Session." He combines the day and the role of the ad, too, but in the end recommends word of mouth.
Stan of Appellation Beer insists he is immune to the powers of advertising. He suggests he is overthinking but, with respect, I think there is a little underthinking in there, too, because he actually examines a range of interesting concepts but may not yet see the forest for the trees. I know that sounds like I am saying "Grasshopper" but, you know, I was not really asking "what’s the best way to persuade me to buy a particular beer" though that is one excellent way to seek the answer to the question.
Greg at The Pour Curator goes the other way: "... design and branding matter; because we as people take mental shortcuts all the damn time." Greg teaches psychology at a career training institute and believes in strong branding "because consumers are unlikely to realize every single association they have with your beer." Interesting. Complexity not only feeds brand but demands it. Greg also calls me "immortal" but that's just the milk thistle talking.
4. Cheater Brewers
The (one and only real) Beer Nut of Ireland explains the New Brew Hoodoo and how "brewers don't have to put much effort in to get my attention." Interesting, he's not only understandably sick of re-badging one know beer for shop "X" as shop "Y"'s new and improved but he also is "slightly bothered" by geek brewers who put out "specials and collaborations that are simply blends of existing beers." Good points that imply you can turn off the most fearless customer with a cheater strategy.
Barry M, and Irishman in Germany and the man behind The Bitten Bullet, explores how German brewers are using price to create exclusivity that is fairly unwarranted. "Balking" is a word used. Sounds like craft beer in North America to me. But then it goes a step further and, adding to The Beer Nut's point, one brew simply rebranded can create a 500% prince increase. Unbelievable.
Jim Pavlik of Drinking Class is ticked off by craft brewers with false claims to historic reproduction (hear, hear!!!) and also gimmicky references to literature: "...they’re marketing. I understand that, but for the most part I don’t care." I like that.
5. Context is Everything
Joe Stange of Thirsty Pilgrim found himself stuck at a tropical resort with only one beer. He came to the rapid analysis: "It's available. It's piss. But I'm in the mood. And the price is right." So, he adopted it as his own because having a beer of one's own is what they all are when place and time come together.
There you go. There may be more responses that I will add when I get sent the link so this post is still in as much flux as the question suggests. One also appreciates that there might be a a bit of a challenge to folks in the trade to be so openly critical and, to be fair, the question was intentionally broad. I hold out for accusations as to the state of my wrap up as well. But, as you see, there was a lot to it but only in the sense of how the answer explains the question. And, as a result, it is I who is the Grasshopper so to you I bow.