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How to sell beer to everyone

22 Jul

Emma Inch from the Fermentation Beer and Brewing Show caught up with beer writers, Jessica Mason and Pete Brown to talk to them about their recent presentation at Imbibe live entitled: ‘How to sell beer to everyone’

Pete, himself, an ex-beer ad-man, describes how the beer marketing industry got itself into the macho world of lads and sport in the first place and Jess offers their six straight-forward ideas  to promote beer to more people – particularly for pub and bar operators.

Listen to the Fermentation podcast here, first broadcast on 22 July 2018. Skip forward to 49 minutes in for the 7 minute clip.

We Want Girls On Our Beer!!!

18 Mar

Don’t worry, we haven’t gone mad, this is the title of a recent blog by Crema’s Beer Odyssey that Emma has given us permission to re-publish. The title of this blog post is a direct quote by a brewer and reveals insight into some of the decisions being taken about beer labelling and branding:

There has been a great deal of discussion about offensive branding in the beer industry recently. Not that it’s a new thing. Some of us have been talking about it for years. But it is certainly gaining momentum now. In the current social climate people have less and less tolerance for discrimination and exclusion. After all, it really isn’t asking all that much to treat everyone equally is it?

At the Brewer’s Congress in November 2017 the Portman Group was referenced in numerous presentations. Speakers from breweries whose products had been reported to the Portman Group for breaching their Code of Practice (on Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks) discussed the process of responding to these complaints.

Beavertown and Tiny Rebel had both been reported to the Portman Group by members of the public for issues with their packaging. Almost identical complaints were received, referencing the sections of the code relating to clear labelling of a beverage as alcoholic, antisocial behaviour, immoderate consumption (NB only against Tiny Rebel), and having particular appeal to under 18s. In short, the implication was that these 330ml brightly coloured cans featuring stylised cartoonish art work might lead to children wanting to drink them. The complaint against Beavertown was ultimately not upheld but the one against Tiny Rebel was.

To be clear, the Tiny Rebel and Beavertown presentations were not specifically about these complaints but they certainly formed part of the story they were telling. I would like to think that they were shared at the Congress for the wider benefit of those in the industry who could learn from these experiences.

Later on we had Alistair Taylor from the Advisory Service at the Portman Group give a presentation on the role of the organisation and how they can benefit breweries. Essentially they exist to regulate the packaging of alcoholic products via their code of practice. In hindsight, there was nothing wrong with the overall message in this presentation – publicising their role and explaining how they can help breweries is definitely something the Portman Group should be doing. But in the heat of the moment this message was a little lost.

When the presentation displayed a complaint about a beer (Wye Valley Brewery’s Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout) which had been reported for breaching section 3.2 (d) of the code (a drink should not… ‘suggest any association with sexual activity or sexual success’) this was greeted with disbelief by the audience. The Congress had begun that day with Jaega Wise’s presentation on women in the beer industry, including many examples of offensive packaging: this audience was not prepared to sit back and accept that this particular complaint had not been upheld because the packaging didn’t breach the code.

If the audience found the packaging offensive then how could this not be in violation of the code? The answer is that the code in its current form mentions sexual references on beer packaging only within narrow margins: a product should not suggest that it makes the consumer more attractive or that it leads to ‘sexual success’ which is actually quite an unpleasant sounding, masculine phrase. Possibly even a little dated.

When I started reading through previous complaints I was shocked to see that the Wye Valley Brewery complaint is the only one the Portman Group have ever received concerning sexist packaging. I have seen and heard many complaints about lots of different examples of sexist and offensive packaging. If by any chance you haven’t seen enough of these already you need only visit Pumpclip Parade. It seems unbelievable that only one of these examples has ever been reported to the Portman Group. Is that because people are not aware of the role of the organisation? Are they unaware that members of the public can report products directly? Or is it because even if they did report a product the code isn’t fit (in its current state) to deal with these complaints?

In January Jaega Wise was announced as elected south east director of SIBA. On February 27th a press release from SIBA stated their intent to create a marketing code of practice for their members. There will be an industry discussion on this topic at the BeerX conference this month. Entries to SIBA competitions are already screened to exclude any offensive product branding and in the future this could be extended to all beers sold by SIBA members.

A CAMRA statement from December 2017 by their National Executive they are in agreement with SIBA that sexist branding is not going to be tolerated at their festivals or in publications.

“We abhor sexism and will take action against any CAMRA member who, by their words or acts, is disrespectful of any individual because of their gender. We expect the behaviour of those who work with us, whether in campaigning or at our events, to be consistent with our values. We condemn those who use sexist images or slogans to market their products and will not condone them being stocked at our beer festivals or promoted in our competitions and publications.” 

In the United States, as with all things craft beer, they are ahead of us in tackling this issue. The Brewers Association updated their marketing code of practice in April 2017 to include an additional two lines, stating that beer advertising and marketing materials should not:

  1. contain sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public; 
  1. contain derogatory or demeaning text or images.”

I think it would be desirable to include something similar to this in the Portman Group code of practice.

On Wednesday 28th February I attended a meeting at the Portman Group to discuss how their code might evolve to reflect the current climate with respect to offensive branding of alcoholic products. The code undergoes review every five years and the 12 week consultation period will open shortly (likely to be April to June). Anybody is welcome to express their views. So I would encourage anyone with an interest to get involved and have their say.

Any changes to the code will require the existing guidance notes to be rewritten in order to support the code. This means we are not likely to see the new code in action until the end of 2018 at the earliest. But this time next year we might have a code which is fit for purpose.

Hopefully we will reach a broad consensus across the industry with the Portman Group code providing a minimum standard which all producers of alcohol are required to meet, with a similar marketing codes from SIBA, and supportive policies from CAMRA and the London Brewers Alliance. It is important that all relevant groups are on the same page otherwise we might end up in a position where a particular product’s branding is deemed acceptable by one group but not by another.

It is no coincidence that the Advertising Standards Agency conducted an evidence-based review of gender stereotyping in advertising last year. You can read the full report here Depictions, Perceptions and Harms. It’s very interesting stuff. If you dislike those product adverts on TV which display men as incapable of performing the simplest of household tasks, you’re going to like this.

The times, they are a-changing. Finally.

Further evidence that we are all heading in the same direction is provided by two recent examples of breweries deciding to change their product branding in response to numerous complaints on social media. Both breweries were experiencing reputational damage from the complaints they received but they chose to resolve the issue in different ways.

Castle Rock’s Elsie Mo is a golden ale which first appeared in 1998, featuring ‘pin up’ artwork on the pump clip. In 2007 the brewery chose to digitally enhance the pin up a la Lara Croft and then in 2014 they decided to ‘modernise’ the artwork to show a woman in a pilot’s uniform, kicking up her legs to reveal stockings and suspenders. Eventually in January 2018 Elsie Mo became a pilot, who can be seen flying a plane (whilst fully clothed). You can read the full story directly from the brewery.

Station 119, a Suffolk brewery founded in 2014, also chose to go down the pin up route with their branding. Here is their description of the original imagery on their packaging.

Our labels take inspiration from the WW2 tradition of decorating the airplane noses which helped to popularise pinup art. This art form is considered by many to be a positive post-Victorian rejection of bodily shame and a healthy respect for female beauty.

Following some criticism of their branding at the close of 2017 the brewery opted to change their labels – not because they felt they got it wrong the first time, but because it was affecting sales.

Some of the responses to these positive changes made by breweries have been predictable but are still a little disappointing. The title of this blog post is a direct quote made in response to the Station 119 Facebook post announcing their new branding. Sure, it’s laughable that some people think that way, and yes these dinosaurs are in the minority, but in too many cases there is a spiky barb of misogyny underneath. So the work is far from over.

However, I feel more positive about this issue than I have for a long time. Yes, there is a (decreasing) minority of people who want to live in the past but regardless of their outdated views, we are moving on.

Do You Pass the Bechdel Test?

22 Jan

Here’s Emma Inch’s article from December 2017 about how The Bechdel Test could be applied to the beer scene:

‘Beer people are lovely people!’ and ‘The beer industry is a wonderful, friendly place!’ are things I’ve been told on a number of occasions since jumping boots-first into the scene a couple of years ago. And, for me, there’s a lot of truth in these celebratory statements. I spent the first two decades of my working life in an environment where I didn’t always see the best of how things could be. As a frontline social worker – and more latterly, a social work academic – I bore witness to desperation, deprivation, and sometimes degradation on a scale most would find hard to contemplate. I met many, many good people on both sides of the intervention divide – some of the bravest, warmest, creative, most intelligent people there are – and I have a lasting respect for them all. I also derived a great deal of satisfaction from my work, and felt immensely privileged to work alongside people in some of the darkest times of their lives. But, in terms of a joyful working environment, I can’t honestly say that it comes close to chatting over a mash tun in a breath-cloud cold brewery just as the sun is rising, or being handed the fullest, maltiest, fattest barley wine by a proud brewer with a grin so wide it must sting, or discovering a taste that will pin you forever to location, a time, an emotion, a memory that  will leave you changed.

But I’m lucky. First up, I’m an old-school butch dyke. I have a quiff and a comb, a pocket watch and a pocket knife. I don’t understand make-up and I sometimes get challenged when using women’s toilets. Men are occasionally scared of me, often confused around me, and regularly amused by me, but I’m absolutely not the kind of woman they want to sleep with. Secondly, I host a beer and brewing radio show, I write about beer for publications in which people want their brews featured, I won a British Guild of Beer Writers Award for Best Online Beer Communicator (I know – I’m shocked too), and I have a website, a podcast, a blog, and so – to my face at least – both women and men in the beer industry are lovely, and the environment in which I work is a wonderful and friendly place.

But I’m aware that’s not everyone’s truth. I don’t need to experience harassment in order to believe the women who tell me they are regularly harassed. I don’t need to feel the creeping nastiness of the belittling, objectifying, ridiculing, rejecting, grabbing, groping, saliva-spraying face of sexism, to know that it exists within the beer industry. I just need to see the dodgy pumpclips, engage with social media, and note the absence of women from many respected platforms within the industry.

But, as someone with a voice that occasionally grabs attention, if I see injustice, I also need to do something more.

I first came across Alison Bechdel and her wonderful ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ comic strip in the early-1990s when, as a newly ‘out’ lesbian I would scour literature to find any representation of queer culture. In those pre-Internet days, Bechdel’s funny, inspiring and moving series, populated by a cast of lesbians and their friends, was one of the few places where a sympathetic portrayal of ‘women like me’ could be found. Complete with their interests, intricacies and insecurities, Mo, Sydney, Clarice and Toni, held a mirror up to the lives of lesbians all over the Western world, fighting injustice and celebrating personal victories, and all the time providing a community to those of us who were struggling to find a place in our own.

But it wasn’t until some years later that I realised that a 1985 ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ strip called ‘The Rule’ had spawned a way of looking at the world that could be useful across many parts of life. The Bechdel Test – clearly explained in this short video here – is a benchmark or litmus test used to assess the presence of women in movies. For a movie to pass the Bechdel Test it needs to contain three things:

1. Two or more female characters with names…
2. …who talk to each other…
3. …about something other than a man.

This sounds fairly straightforward but, shockingly, around half of mainstream movies – some of our most well-loved films – actually fail this test, including the original Star Wars Trilogy, Slumdog Millionaire, Avatar, The Avengers, Finding Nemo, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and many, many more.

Of course, just because a film passes does not mean it necessarily advances women’s rights. The Bechdel Test doesn’t assess whether something is progressive or challenging: it simply assesses whether women are present in any meaningful way. And, in a world in which women’s voices are regularly silenced, the mere presence of women is extremely important.

Over the years, the Bechdel Test has been applied or modified to assess other areas of culture including literature, journalism and even software development. And from there I believe it’s only a short hop to applying it to the contemporary beer scene. It is vital for the future of the industry that women are present on discussion panels, leading or chairing conferences, part of magazine editorial teams, present in beer education, at the centre of judging panels, represented at the highest level in brewing or consumer organisations, and called on as the experts they are to be listened to and heard. Importantly, I’m not suggesting that women are invited into male-dominated spaces solely to talk about incidents of sexism, or what it’s like being a woman in the beer industry. Making time to hear those testimonies is important but they are not the whole story – remember in order to pass the Bechdel Test, women must be talking about something other than men or their experiences at the hands of them. Inviting women into otherwise male enclaves in order to give a ‘woman’s perspective’ is also patronising, reductive and ignores the intersectional nature of all our identities in which we are defined not only by our gender – be that male, female or otherwise – but also our race, age, religion, sexuality, abilities, and so much more. It also causes us to miss out on the vast experiences and knowledge that women have amassed in their chosen fields.

The contemporary beer scene is not alone in sometimes struggling with the representation of women, and there are many examples of great work in this area. But every time women are invisible in areas of influence, every time a beer is marketed solely at men, every time a ‘beer for women’ is produced, every time we have to remind people that women were the first brewers, every time a disagreement on Twitter degenerates into macho posturing, every time craft beer lovers are portrayed as people with beards, every time a woman has to justify why she likes beer, or why offensive beer names are unacceptable, every time sexist ‘banter’ is excused, every time beer fans are greeted on social media as ‘lads’, every time the ‘women don’t drink beer’ myth is perpetuated, every time the consumption of alcohol is accepted as an excuse for sexist, racist or homophobic behaviour, we all lose out.

Having trodden the career path I have, I’m not naïve enough to propose that we should all just be kind to one another. But, at the very least, we need to hear each other’s voices. And, as such, I will continue to ensure that each edition of Fermentation Beer & Brewing Radio is Bechdel Test compliant. And I promise to loudly celebrate anyone else who, within their own field of work, commits to doing the same.

Emma can be found blogging and broadcasting on her award-winning website https://fermentationonline.com/

Christmas Day Lunch – time to bring out the beers!

30 Nov

Here’s beer sommelier, Annabel Smith’s beer suggestions for Christmas Day:

Before you open that calorie laden bottle of Prosecco, or hangover inducing Chateauneuf-de-Pape with your turkey dinner this year, take some advice from the Dea Latis crew and reach for the beer.

Beer has no problem with any of the traditional comestibles we devour on Christmas day, and what’s more, it’s better for you, contains less calories and you’ll wake up on Boxing Day feeling far fresher!

We’ll start with a plate of smoked salmon for breakfast. Pour yourself a glass of refreshing, fizzy wheat beer, such as Vedett White, Erdinger Heffeweisse or Franziskaner Weissebier. Make sure it’s in a champagne flute; the carbonation and citrus will slice through the oiliness of the salmon with a knife, refreshing the palate and complementing the fish. For the veggies amongst you, bake a whole Camembert and serve with chunks of bread, accompanied by Leffe Blonde or Affligem Tripel. These beers blow wine out of the water with their sweet breadiness.

With a clear head, you can start on the star attraction – the turkey. Substitute the cranberry sauce with a cheeky glass of Titanic Plum Porter. The fruitiness of this beer is a perfect foil to the delicate flavours of white meat. If pork is your meat of choice, there’s no better beer than Jenning’s Cumberland Ale, it’s got a lovely apple peel aroma and flavour. For the nut roast gals out there, we recommend the gorgeous Brooklyn lager, full of toffee, caramel and sweet notes.

Onto the Christmas pudding, reach for Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger or Robinson’s Old Tom – both are full of stewed and dried fruit flavours which complement the richness of the dessert.

Here comes the cheeseboard, laden with Stilton, and we’re going to be drinking Theakston’s Old Peculier or Fullers London Porter. Both there beers tone down the metallic, coppery elements in the cheese. It’s a weird combination but it works so well!

And finally…well Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a chocolate or two. Settle back and sip a glass of Liefman’s Kriek to recreate that cherry liqueur experience

Beer Sexism: It’s Spelled Ale Not Male

5 Feb

Dea Latis supporter, writer and beer sommelier Jane Peyton writes for the Publican’s Morning Advertiser on sexism in beer marketing. Read ‘It’s spelled Ale Not Male’ here.

jane peyton

 

Creating gluten freedom in our pubs

4 Feb

Jessica Mason

The drinks editor for The Publican’s Morning Advertiser – Jessica Mason – asks pubs to consider selling gluten-free beer to meet the rising demand of food intolerance. She suggests that no-one ever asks for an allergy but they do just keep side-stepping the offending food/drink products and those that sell them….

Creating gluten freedom in our pubs

By Jessica Mason, 29-Jan-2016

Gluten-free beer used to be a bit of a contradiction and had a fairly poor reputation too.

Calling for a united front

19 Aug

Jane Peyton* has made an impassioned plea for beer as a guest blogger on Roger Protz’s blog ‘Protz on Beer’ – you can read the full article here: http://protzonbeer.co.uk/columns/2014/08/18/stop-the-squabbles–we-need-a-united-front-to-champion-all-good-beer but in the meantime here are some suggestions for actions that beer lovers might want to take:

  • Try to convert cider and wine drinkers to beer- – especially women. Fewer than 15% of women in Britain are regular beer drinkers.  Even a small percentage increase in women drinking beer in a pub would have a significant and positive effect on the health of the industry. However this is a huge challenge because one of the biggest reasons why women in this country do not drink beer is because they perceive it as being blokey.  Many beer marketing companies do not help because they market beer just at men, making millions of people assume that beer is a man’s drink and that women are not welcome at the party. Of course we know that beer is a gift from nature to all humans!  No one calls wine “female” — and it’s ludicrous to assign a gender to food or drink.  But if people insist on giving beer a male gender then they should read my blog on the Huffington Post where I write about beer having more female elements than any other alcoholic drink.  Read it by clicking here:
  • If your local pub serves food, ask the manager to include a beer suggestion to match with each dish on the menu. If they are unable to stock a wide selection of cask ales ask them to offer a wider selection of bottled beers and have a beer menu with description of style and descriptive tasting notes.  Food matching is where beer has no competition!
  • Write to local and national newspapers and ask them to include more positive features about beer, and if those publications have a wine column, ask them to print a beer column too.
  • If your local or favourite brewer is beholden to New World hops, encourage them to use British hops instead. British hops are more subtle than their New World counterparts, and that subtlety permits the malts to shine too, showing off the complexity of the beer. By doing so you will help to save the British hop industry and will taste just why British malt is renowned as being the best brewing and distilling barley in the world!
  • Join the Beer Day Britain project to deliver the world’s greatest national beer day – 15 June 2015. And also sign a petition I have started for the British Government to serve British beer at official receptions and to be proud to showcase our peerless national drink.  See details of the national beer day and petition by clicking here

Beer is such a joy-giving drink — more so than other beverage. So let’s celebrate and share it whether your favourite tipple is a pint of Spitfire, Carling or Gamma Ray.  Bottoms up!

*Jane Peyton is Britain’s Beer Sommelier of the Year, founder of the School of Booze, and author of several books including ‘Beer o’ Clock’. She is driving the idea for Beer Day Britain and has joined forces with brewers Sophie de Ronde of Brentwood Brewing, and Sara Barton of Brewster’s Brewing Company to work with the beer industry to make it happen.

 

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