Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Cult Of Beer

I was reading an interesting article this week. I offer some extracts here...
"At this point I discovered that... has fans, in the same way that pop stars have fans: diligent and thankless defenders of the faith who have no truck with naysayers or unbelievers"
These fans display
"...a patronising superiority [that] certainly speaks of a passion that might be lauded were it not so blind."
They are loyal and prepared to defend the work they admire, so that a new release meant
"...a force field was created [and] dissent was quickly and violently repelled."
This included monstering critics, by
"...making full use of... internet forums to anonymously smear... professional reputations."
Other critics observed that to criticise is to "park oneself beneath the cyber gunge tank".

The author was Andrew Collins in the Radio Times, who was talking about fans of film-maker Christopher Nolan, but I was struck by how this description could be applied to some brewers. Most notably in this country, a certain punk collective in Aberdeenshire, whose 'fans' sycophantically laud every marketing stunt and new release, and will attack dissent and criticism.

Collins notes that "the internet makes it easier for communities to grow up around individuals". In the US craft brewing scene, it's clear that some brewers have been so successful at this, that they are synonymous with the beers they brew in the eyes of fans and drinkers. This extends to the fan communities that drink beers and congregate online.

Is a Cult Of Personality a Good Thing for craft beer? Are figureheads and 'celebrities', lightning rods to attract new drinkers? Or should the beers speak for themselves?


Leigh said...

I think that anything that gives a beer, or a brewer, personality is a good thing. It shows that beer consumers are buying into ethos, rather than *just* taste.

rabidbarfly said...

For the most part I agree with Leigh, although there are some rather irresponsible marketeers out there who create headlines for the papers/websites without thinking that maybe joe/jo public might think it's a bit over the top and maybe don't understand quite as well what these people are trying to do, it could alienate them almost by accident.

Barm said...

Having enthusiastic and loyal consumers is a great thing for a brewery without a big marketing budget, but BrewDog seem to have acquired a layer of sycophantic fanboys as well. I can't think of any other UK brewery that does that, or why anyone would want to.

Mark Dredge said...

I think it's a good thing. It cool to have a few rock star brewers. And they wouldn't have got there if the beer wasn't good. Once there. however, they have to keep up what they've started and not go too far.

Sid Boggle said...

Yes, I generally go with the trend of the comments, though I'm not sure I'd go with beer as 'ethos'. Let colour-supplement tarts find something else to use as a shorthand for their 'lifestyle'.

And, having now read Dredgie's 'Beer' feature, I wish I'd written this piece with that in my thinking. Nice piece, Mark...

The Pub Diaries said...

Businesses can see great success on the back of a figurehead and the PR value they bring, but you can end up suffering from over familiarity. A bit of the Gordon Ramsey "oh shit not him again"... I met Simon Theakston a few years ago and while happy to shake his hand, drink his beer and tell him that I prefer it to Black Sheep I couldn't quite understand the guy next to me almost wetting himself, thrusting his camera at his girlfriend and in his words "THIS IS ACE"... No. It's a middle aged man in a car park!