Quite the week it was in Beerland – and particularly since these two topics gave way to many emotions and replies, both here on the blog and on Facebook, a good reason to revisit them. Because if you ask me we’ve seen the start of a historical development in beer quality management – and a wrong that hopefully will be righted soon.
Let’s start with that error: Misset Horeca introduced a registration fee for its annual ‘Café of the Year’ competition. This competition, founded in 1994, has grown to be the leading award for bars in The Netherlands. For years all costs were borne by commercial sponsors, as well as advertisements in the associated magazine. Because some respected bars refused to participate for reasons of principle (they believe a registration fee is an unacceptable barrier for potential contestants, resulting in a highly devalued group of participants, as well as the title) the shit has hit the fan. Some participants and jury members muttered that ‘an award has a costly production, like travelling jurors and what they consume – and the participants get a jury report! Do you think running a marathon is for free?’
This comparison is obviously flawed by the fact that, for twenty years, NO registration fee was necessary. Changing the rules mid-game is acceptable in the end I suppose. But look further and see the registration fee (€ 119 is the lowest tariff) hardly having an impact on costs involved: this year, a mere 178 contestants go up for the title, coughing up € 21.182 at least – the rough equivalent of ten advertisements. I suppose it will easily cover travel expenses and plenty of beer and bitterballs, but it will never cover the costs of the award ceremony which takes place ‘during a spectacular event in Studio 21 in Hilversum, with celebrity hosts and a great show’.
Now this prestigious award, for the first time, has less dropouts than ‘winners’, I really hope Misset Horeca next year will undo two things: no registration fee, and an award ceremony in a regular bar, without ado, show and celebrities – but with plenty of beer and bitterballs.
And then there was Heineken Extra Fresh – a Very Large brewer’s reply to market developments showing decline of pils consumption, whereas all other beer styles show growth. They got quite some stick for it (‘So are they saying regular Heineken ISN’T fresh?!’ and ‘this is just marketing BS to cover up them claiming additional shelve space!’), understandably, and many consumers seem pretty cautious for the moment. Still I believe it is a landmark moment for Beerland!
The biggest improvement here is the shortening of the distribution chain, from lagertank to thirsty throat, and even more importantly, the fact it is completely refrigerated! Beer flavors are negatively impacted by light, time and temperature – and all three culprits are addressed at once: light-tight, completely refrigerated and as short a leadtime as possible. If this becomes common practice, as I have been pleading for years, the general quality of beer will be hugely improved. Now pray the consumer will keep it cold too, otherwise all efforts go to waste after all.
Like Marqt, opening a store with a fully refrigerated beer shelve, this is a landmark development in store- and product management. I really hope this is but the beginning and that all vulnerable beers, like pilsener, IPA, wheat beers and Hefeweizen, will soon all be completely cold in transit and in store. Darauf ein Bier!