Another week, another controversy. This weeks flare up is all about Heineken Ireland’s statement that some of their products have been sold as “Craft” beers by some unscrupulous publicans. The statement is here and confirmation that the Irish Consumer Watchdog is following events. I’m sure Heineken are quaking in their boots.
First things first, in all these things, the blame game is played. So who is to blame? Is it the big evil corporation? The publican? Our toothless regulators? Who?
Let’s take the issue at hand, Heineken Ireland products, which could be white label rubbish, or more likely Fosters, Beamish were sold as rebadged products. Under the guise of craft beer. Sneaky buggers! It’s clearly our beery overlords at fault here right? I don’t think it’s that simple.
This is my take on the whole bloody thing.
1: The Publican / Licence Holder
Ok, we all know the pub game is a hard game and it has been for years. I think most pubs struggle with their unique value proposition, in fact the pub scene is Ireland in my opinion is quite homogenous. Loads of screens? Check. Loud music? Check Same beer offering? Check. You might as well go to McDonalds. There are of course, notable exceptions to this. But in the main thats my opinion on the pub scene.
We’ve seen that pubs are closing at a high enough rate, for any number of reasons, but the pubs that are in prime tourist areas make enough dough during the busy times to keep em going through the lean times. This of course does not give them an excuse to con customers. In fact it makes this all the worse from that point of view, given that nearly every county in the country has a brewery whether they be a physical brewery or contract operation leaves know excuse. These venues have displayed absolute laziness and cynicism in vast quantities. In an often paraphrased statement, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of crazy.
So publicans, what is your value proposition? In an evolving market how are you changing to keep with the times. Current customer habits? Just don’t try and fool a consumer with a more sophisticated palette by doing this sh*te, thanks.
2: The big bad corporation
Ok, so we know corporations act like psychopaths, this is clearly the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Heineken are clearly not beyond blame here, and no doubt the publicans behaviour was facilitated by sales reps eager to stamp out the competition by offering up white label/low volume heineken brands for these venues to con customers. The fact that Heineken Ireland was thrown under the bus by it’s parent is an indication of something. It’ll be interesting to see the results of this investigation. But at the end of the day it is Heineken’s business, to sell beer! Even if they have resorted to allegedly underhanded means of doing so. This is why they are under investigation separately by the above named consumer watchdog. Though the whole industry needs to be looked at in my opinion.
3: The Consumer.
Oh no, the consumer, they’re the victim in all this. Right? Partially. The victim of being conned by the cynical practices of certain publicans, yes. But ignorance is no defence either. If it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, guess what, it’s a duck. So i’m gonna give you a quick checklist if you want to have tell tale signs that all is not what it seems.
Does the pump clip have a brewery name on it? No, then it’s probably something bad
Does it say the ABV & Style? No, then it’s problem something bad
Can the pub tell you where it’s from? No, then it’s probably something bad
Does the pump clip say where it’s brewed? No, then it’s probably something bad
When I say something bad, I mean some Machiavellian under handed craft beer wannabe. At least Guinness have the balls to put their name loud and proud on their Brewer’s project and Hop House 13. Heineken do not. They make Cute Hoor, and Orchard Thieves. Did you know that? Well now you do.
4: The Local Brewers
For all the complaining that people have done regarding the venues that were selling that rubbish. How aggressively were the local breweries chasing the account? I mean, you could brew a beer made with unicorn tears and everything, but if you can’t sell it then whats the bloody point? Brewers made good beer, but sometimes the selling skillset isn’t there. Take it from someone who’s worked in sales, you’ll hear a lot of no’s and you have to be persistent and learn how to overcome objections.
Sadly we don’t yet have a local beer culture anywhere near the prevalence of the UK where you generally will see on cask, or tap a beer from within a 20 mile radius. But this won’t change unless brewers get smarter and better at selling their products. Relying on the specialist beer bars around the country is all well and good, but surely the focus should be the local area, and getting as many accounts as possible.
So in summary, Publicans, stop being sneaky, Big Beer, stay classy, Consumers, ask bloody questions of what you’re spending your hard earned cash on, and Brewers, brew and sell more beer.