Had it not been so sad, I would probably still be laughing about a newspaper article that appeared in De Volkskrant, a Dutch newspaper not normally known for its sense of humor. It is written by Peter de Waard who regularly writes on business and the economy. Saturday, 26 November 2016, he published an article called ‘Speciality beers conquer The United States’. In this piece, labelled as ‘an analysis’, he pictures himself as someone who has spent most of the past decade under a rock – and that rock was far, far away from planet Earth. Without any fact checking he also quotes Bavaria Brewery’s Chief Commercial Officer Peer Swinkels and both must have been on some real bad mushrooms, if you ask me.
In fact Peter must simply have copy-pasted a press release by Bavaria Brewery and spent more time on changing the text looking like he wrote it himself than on fact checking – the article is so off that, had it been a beer, it would have been a glass of Bavaria tasting of yogurt. Then again, it could have been the newest addition to their Radler family. Welcome to the family, yogurt!
The article starts with stating ‘the amount of breweries in the US has suddenly exploded’. Wow – where were you, Peter? The phenomenon of an increasing amount of breweries is happening since the late nineties, and has been exploding since 2012. Hope you slept well the past years. Then follows a piece of edited Bavaria Brewery press release, announcing their take-over of a US beer import company that holds the import rights for beers by Palm Family Brewers, a brewery recently also acquired by Bavaria. Swell, neat and yippee!
Peter than pictures the USA as ‘the world’s most trendy beer market, because of the influential entertainment industry’. Wow – wait a minute, there’s a new view on life as we know it. The incongruity of this statement is backed by nothing, no further explanation whatsoever, thank God, because I feared for a minute Peter was going to attribute the American Beer Revolution as the rest of the world but him has witnessed it for the past two decades to the heirs of Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, the Joint Hotel & Casino Owners of Las Vegas and some Hollywood producers. It makes as much sense as stating ‘spinach and broccoli are the world’s healthiest vegetables, because of the influential entertainment industry’.
Another incongruity is to be found in Peter’s count of Dutch breweries: according to him there are now 350 breweries, of which 330 are single-man operations. Wow. I’ll hand him the count is difficult, but surely is well over 425 these days – but claiming only 20 out 350 are employing businesses is – again – so far away from reality that one starts to question the intentions behind the article. Is the public relations department of Bavaria Breweries so afraid of their small brothers and sisters they try and deny them, while breastfeeding lazy reporters? It can also be a simple case of dyscalculia, because Peter claims the world’s ten biggest breweries are supplying 90% of the American beer market. In your dreams, baby, and make better use of Google: you’re basing yourself on 2014 figures, and wrongly too (11 breweries). In 2015, those big guys were already down to less than 85%, taking into account all of imported beer is not only comprised by the world’s top-ten biggest brewers. Even Bavaria exports there, and it doesn’t make that top-ten list. That is, yet, of course.
Talking about Bavaria, which started this whole article in the first place: what was Peer Swinkels thinking when he said ‘the USA lacks a real beer culture. That is to be found in five European countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech, Germany and Great Britain. These countries stand for quality beer.’? Well, I’ll be shootin’ fish in a barrel (think a nice southern drawl here, for reasons of special effects, please). I am proud of Dutch beer, and I am proud of Dutch breweries – I believe the Dutch beer culture is rapidly developing and Holland may actually be one of the leading beer nations in Europe in the next years – but to put my native country’s beer history and culture at par with that of Germany, Czech, Great Britain or Belgium, no, I would rather hacksaw my left leg off than to so insolently put a claim on the stake. I’ll even hacksaw the right one, too. But I’ll still be kicking ass.
When it comes to quality beer, and denying American breweries brewing that, you have to be either on very dangerous mushrooms or very much wanting to deny that your own contribution to the world’s beer heritage is, besides a very tolerable lager and a commercially extremely forward alcohol-free beer, mainly consisting of an endless series of psychedelically flavored Radlers and ditto alcohol free lagers, plus an equally endless series of high-gravity brewed beers that come packaged at high to very high ABV’s in private label and discount-priced half liter cans, that jointly have wrecked more palates and ruined more souls than any other brewery.
Unfortunately, the Press Release I am sure Peter de Waard based his article on has not yet been published on Bavarias Press Release web site. It holds another rather interesting release, though, on the launch of their new campaign ‘Welcome to the Family’. It boldly states ‘The new campaign shapes the image of Bavaria as the biggest independent family brewery in the world <….>’ which suggests being on some really bad and dangerous mushrooms is common practise within the brewery’s staff and management. I mean: you can be a family-owned brewery for almost 300 years (in 2019, the tricentennial will be celebrated), you can buy a family-owned brewery like De Molen, you can buy a family-owned brewery from Belgium – it doesn’t make you the biggest independent family brewery in the world. that would still be Heineken.
Believe me, the next thing we will see is Bavaria Brewery claiming centuries of experience in craft brewing, and brewing craft beers. In fact, they already do: in that same press release it reads “Craft beer, brewed by family traditions – All Bavaria beers are brewed with passion to the family traditions that goes back centuries and consist of natural ingredients.” We’ll excuse them the spelling mistakes. Let’s hope though they will not start believing themselves that buying a brewery buys you the tradition, or the craftsmanship, or the values – or the customers. Unless, of course, you are really into real bad mushrooms.