«Switzerland, a land of brewers» was the title of an article in the Swiss-German newspaper “Der Bund”. The article was built around the fact that by now more than 1000 breweries are registered at the Swiss customs authority. As in pretty much every newspaper article about this topic it also mentioned that this number means Switzerland has the highest brewery density per capita in the world. Considering each and every person in Switzerland “only” drinks 54 liters of beer a year, this sounds like an awful lot if not too many breweries.
Like every year we asked our friends about their last year and prodded them for some foresight into the next year. Considering how varied this “beer thing” is, it’s no surprise the answers were equally varied. However, looking through the answers, it becomes crystal clear that one topic moved our friends, it itself being rather murky though. So, before we head any deeper into 2018, let’s quickly have a look back.
The other day I learnt what a “boss pour” is. The Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine defines it as «A stylistically improper and aromatically challenged pour whereby the pourer fills a glass to the rim without leaving a head on the beer, in vain hopes of impressing friends on social media.» Having an Instagram account, I immediately knew what it was referring to and it gave a term to what has irritated me for a while. But let’s first take two steps back.
Beer is to Belgium as Cheese is to Switzerland as is Guns to the US as is ceviche to Peru: you can’t separate the two. At home we have a book called “1000 Belgian Beers” and browsing through it you’ll notice that there’s a plethora of breweries you’ve never even heard of. Thus when we got an invitation from Flanders Investment & Trade to drink… uhm, I mean discover, beers from the area, we obviously had to go. The event catered to people in the gastronomical and retail industry, and we were there as a multiplier, apparently, to spread the good word about Belgian beers. All with the intention of these beers hopefully being available in Switzerland soon.
“Pure mountain spring water, the best hops and the finest malt provide the unmistakable taste of our unique beer.” Sound familiar? Must. Because it’s written in similar form on many labels of traditional lagers. But since paper is patient and can’t fight back, the question naturally arises: is what it says on the beer label true? Is it really the case that these three ingredients have a significant influence on the taste of beer?
When you are into beer, you will eventually hear about the Reinheitsgebot. And superficially you’ll be impressed: 500 years of tradition, single handedly saved the German people from starvation and from getting poisoned. Once you read a bit further, you will realize that these heroic tales are more legend than reality. And while it’s okay for a little child to believe Robin Hood and Wilhelm Tell were actual people that lived, as a grown up it’s time to accept the fact that these people are fictional characters, just like the Reinheitsgebot.
Kentucky Sausage Fest by Amager and Against The Grain, My Name Is Ingrid by BrewDog, Mexican Cake by Westbrook, Imperial Donught Break by Evil Twin, and you name it. Beer and brewery names are essential components of any beer label, along with the logo.
If a beer label is supposed to encourage people to buy it, how do you sell a beer without a label at all? True, it would certainly stand out, among all the colorful designs. Is it all just a marketing ploy? Not if there is a very logical explanation, as in this case.
We sniff it, make mental or real notes of citrus and melon, caramel or coffee. On the palate, we can experience incredible flavor variety, or be bitterly disappointed. Mostly already forgotten is then what I would like to focus on in this series of contributions: the (beer) label, the label.