Monday, September 27, 2010

Skoal, Cheers, Prost: Drinking lite ain't what it used to be

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 11:19 PM

According to recently released beer industry figures, lite beer sales are down are whopping 9 percent while craft (microbrew) beer sales are up an equally whopping 12 percent. An easy case can be made for the fact that craft beers simply taste better and lite beers, well, they don't taste like much and as beer drinkers get more fussy -- well, you get the idea.

Certainly the difference in taste between the lites and the crafts is a given. But what appears to be the more subtle factor in the sales fortunes of both types of beer has to do with advertising. Lite beer ads are high on dork factor and low on creativity. On the other hand, craft beer ads can be intelligent, clever and informative.

An example of a well-crafted (bad pun) mircobrew ad campaign is the one conducted by the Wasatch Brew Pub and Brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah. An ad for their Polygamy Porter brew in the past included the tag line: "take some home for the wives." Currently that brew's label carries the line: "why just have one?"

Both tag lines raised a fuss in Utah but ended up putting the brewery on the national map and resulted in all sorts of spin-off merchandise sales.

Meanwhile, America's megabreweries continue to insult our intelligence with stupid formulaic television ads. The ads are all the same basically imparting the message that every beer drinking male between the ages of 21 and 25 is a meathead. A meathead who, will always choose a lite beer over an attractive young woman. And if we believe the lite ads, all women between 21 and 35 are knockouts.

Now if the lite beer swilling male in the ad isn't choosing a brew over a girlfriend, he's acting stupid in a bar that's full of attractive women including a tough-talking woman bartender.

The unintentional subliminal message of these megabrewery ads is, "you're a jerk if you drink our brew." It must be getting through, hence the drop in sales. Who wants to belly up to the bar, order a lite and immediately be dubbed a loser.

Back to taste for a moment. This past summer, a Wall Street Journal columnist decided to do a blind taste test of every major brand of lite beer. The result of his test was: all of the ones he tested were tasteless and an insult to the classic Pilsner style of beer they're supposed to imitate.

So what to derive from all this? Time to go hoist a rich tasting local craft brew.

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