We’re all paralysed these days. Hard to know what to know. Hard to know who to trust.
There’s so much choice today. So much advice. So many opinions. I pity the young. Their whole lives being played out across screens. How do you know if something really happened if it’s not on Instagram? How can I possibly remember whether or not I went to the Great Wall of China, unless I have a selfie to prove it? I have so much trouble choosing what to watch on TV these days that I usually don’t bother.
So try choosing a beer to drink at the end of the night. I probably have about 100 different bottles at home waiting for their turn. And at our shop, The Beer Boutique we have over 300 just waiting to be plucked off the shelves. You can see the terror in the newbies’ faces as they cross the threshold. Where to start? They don’t recognise anything. There’s no Budweiser or Carling or Doom Bar with which to seek comfort and start the journey.
We’re there of course to help. To advise and to guide. Amongst those of us who work there, we’ve tasted most of the stock (tough job, right?). But it’s still hard to convey taste – such a personal thing. And that’s where the label comes in. Something appealing. Something striking. Something different. The label is often the final push that customers need to commit.
It’s surprising to me how poor a lot of the labels are. An afterthought. After all the care and attention that’s been put into brewing the beer, a bland boring label is stuck on the front and out it goes. To sit on the shelf and gather dust.
But equally, it’s great to see when the product and the packaging come together and work. The beer sells itself. Again, this is personal but some of my favourites would be ToOl, Mikkeller, Siren, Brixton, Vocation, The Rare Barrel…I could go on. There are a lot of good ones out there. But they are outnumbered by the poor, the ill thought out. And it does make it harder to sell the beer.
The one exception is The Kernel whose ‘anti-branding’ does it no harm at all. The quality of the beer and its growing reputation means it can keep focusing on the beer. No one cares what the bottle looks like.
Like the best things in life, there are no rules. But it’s clear to me from time spent in the shop that when the labels are right, and the beer is good, it flies out the shop. And I’m all in favour of that.