It is always interesting when industry competitors come together to fight a common enemy. The latest such venture is the recently launched Let There Be Beer campaign.
Widely, and incorrectly, reported as an attempt to stage a comeback for British beer, it is actually aimed at restoring almost anything made from malted barley to the hearts of the nation – “lagers, bitters, Pilsners, stouts” – and to highlight the significant role brewing plays in the economy. To try to re- educate us Brits about beer is laudable indeed.
The industry is suffering from a systemic decline in volumes and the emergence of grocery retailers as a source of cheap beer for parties and big nights. Big brewers need volume sales to make the economics work, yet wines and spirits are winning the consumer pound.
The campaign has brought together some interesting bedfellows – Heineken, AB-Inbev, Carlsberg, the British Beer & Pub Association and Camra. The former group, one suspects, to provide the funding and Camra to add credibility.
The declared strategy is to focus on the diversity of the category and there will also be a big focus on pairing beer with food.
Although we wish them well, one cannot help forseeing some of the usual problems of these types of alliances – too many objectives, scope creep and inevitably he who pays the piper ultimately calling the tune. The result is often bland mediocrity and a lack of focus.
The early signs are there. The website homepage, billed as “an informative and exploratory resource for beer lovers” highlights Belgian-style beers, stout, continental and flavoured lagers. It tells us that Stella is our favourite tipple and provides a Beeropedia wheel to help us in our selections.
What it doesn’t show is any common understanding of, or empathy with, real consumer behaviour and the language they use. It talks about a beer’s features, not its benefits, and treats all styles with equal weight. It is assumptive.
Nonetheless, I look forward to discussing with the lads on Saturday what we should be drinking with our burgers. Surely, it has to be beer.