Comment - Beer - Twitter, Reconsidered
Larry Nelson is taking the concept of Twitter to its logical conclusion
This month, Larry Nelson prefers to keep it short.
My daughter, improbably already 16 yet still in diapers as recently as a minute ago, has just completed her end-of-year exams. These were her GCSEs, a milestone in the British educational system. I’m pleased that she’s quietly confident, in the determined manner she gets from her mother that she has done well. Good for her: Phoebe has worked hard for this and if it isn’t evident by now, let me state that I’m very proud of my first born.
Her preparation for ordeal by exam was an unexpected reminder that perceptions are changing. To wit: a detailed review of the Vietnam War for her history GCSE. Vietnam as history? I’m (just) old enough to think of the conflict as ‘current affairs’.
It’s a mildly amusing and oh, so slightly mortifying reminder that one is getting older. And, it’s true as well, when it comes to journalism specifically and correspondence generally. Which is to say that to date I’ve been no fan of Twitter, social semaphore at 140 characters or less. At its best, Tweets capture the moment and draw together disconnected, disparate and possibly desperate souls but it is undoubtedly death to civilised, intelligent, thoughtful discourse.
I’ve been joking that the logical end result will be the launch of TwitterLight, with a maximum of 40 characters. The format allows all of life’s key messages to be conveyed – ‘missed the train’, ’fancy a beer’ and, of course, ‘I love you.’
But, text messaging is already available for such necessities and perhaps this is all just churlishness on my part. In communication terms, we’ve moved on in how we process information, much more able to understand not only the message but the medium. Perhaps a 1,000-word essay is no longer needed in a world much better at processing information at speed. Life, as we like to think in the trade press, is no longer in the detail.
Instead let’s imagine TwitterFeature, essays of 140 words or less, comprising relevant new information adding to common understandings and on-going debates. It’s a realisation that some stories are being lost for the trees, obscuring the forest.
Let's give it a try, shall we?
Carlsberg big on innovation
Financial analysts and journalists were on hand in Copenhagen last week for an innovation and R&D presentation. Of interest were a plethora of products ready for market that aren’t quite beer as we know it. Chief amongst these is Skøll Tuborg, a mix of vodka and citrus fruits with beer, the Danes' competitive response to the success of Desperados in the French market. There’s also evident bullishness when it comes to their cider, Somersby, and big things may be in the offing in South-East Asia. It is already in Singapore and Malaysia and there’s talk of it being introduced into unspecified markets. With a new 75cl bottle with a cork enclosure on display, a sharing size that’d be attractive for restaurants, one wonders how long it’ll be before cider becomes a sensation in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and elsewhere around the region.
New insight into sessionability
Scotland has another entrant in its lower strength nitrogenated ale segment, a category perhaps unique to this part of the world. Wells & Young’s, seeking a younger drinker for its aging core demographic for Scottish ale McEwan’s, has launched Red. Sitting at 3.6% abv, with its sweet malt balanced by a surprising hop character, Red will fight for bar space with Belhaven Best and Deuchars IPA, and should enjoy some measure of success. Of interest was Paul Wells’ insight into sessionability, the chairman of Wells & Young’s pointing out that it’s the remnants in the glass that determine whether it is ordered again. “The important thing is to do your taste testing at the brewery on the last inch or two in the glass, because that’s how consumers drink,” he says. “Very often you find in breweries people are tasting fresh beer from the top of the glass but when you get into a pub or bar environment, it’s different.”
And so, reconsider beer judging norms
At the moment, there are at least four - arguably more - brewing competitions that can boast global reach. As you’d expect - and hope - the samples are served in the best possible condition, chilled to perfection. But, in the quest for beer perfection, are we losing sight of understanding what makes a beer one that consumers will return to time and again? There’s an arguable commercial disconnect between the all-too-perfect ways beers are evaluated in competition and the ways they are consumed in a pub or a bar. Certainly the ‘real world’ temperatures will be warmer, perhaps offering greater flavour complexity, and there won’t be considerable time devoted to aroma and colour analysis.
The value of visitor centres
A visit to St James’s Gate last month coincided with the arrival of thousands of French rugby fans in Dublin, in town to witness two of their nation’s finest squads square off for the Heineken Cup the following day. A trip through the Guinness warehouse found that many of these visitors had made their way to the spiritual home of the stout, learning about its history, the proper pouring technique, and enjoying a pint. This isn’t to say that Heineken scored an own goal by staging the cup final in Dublin, rather to highlight the considerable value of a well-invested-in visitor centre. (Imagine Irish fans in Amsterdam for a similar event, drawn to the Heineken Experience.) It means that Carlsberg’s plans for redeveloping its former brewhouse site in Copenhagen, which are progressing albeit slowly, will have considerable repercussions for the brand globally.
There is no such thing as an original thought. Or so it has been argued, as far back as the Old Testament, as in Ecclesiastes 1:9: “There is nothing new under the sun.” Perhaps everything is a synthesis, that all we create comes from a multitude of sources, conscious and unconscious. But, in the age of the Internet, it may be possible to put this aphorism to empirical test. Could it be that the absence of a registered domain name is proof positive of an original idea? To wit: TwitterLight.com has already been registered; TwitterFeature has not. It’s all yours: and for those of you (if any) who bothered to word count the above entries, 140 words may not always be enough for full expression.
Life, it transpires, happily remains in the detail.
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