Autumnal Splendor and Things that Inspire

As the weather turns cooler, and the leaves crunch beneath your feet thoughts often stray to hearty stews, cozy fires, and good company sharing a delightful libation. Fall often evinces thoughts like this, inspired no doubt by the splendor of the season, and the crisp breeze carrying the scent of autumn through the air. I find that I become more selective with regard to the beverages chosen to mark the season, and those moments that take on a greater significance. Many people intentionally pair their beer with the evening’s planned victuals, and often do so with painstaking precision. I am perhaps not that particular, but I do enjoy the process of merging flavors in a way that elicits the best qualities of both the food and accompanying brew. What I have more recently taken note of is the story behind both, and how much that factors into my decision.

Cooking heals, and the process has an almost meditative power. Selecting a recipe is more than meeting a list of dietary restrictions, and flavor preferences; it also involves the history of the dish. How, why, and for whom was it created? Granted there are not always answers to these questions, but it certainly is intriguing to embark on the voyage to uncover them. The national dish of Cuba, Ropa Vieja is a perfect example of this. Legend has it that a peasant had no meat to feed his family, so he decided to take his old clothes and put them in the stew pot. While it cooked, he thought about how much he loved his family. When he uncovered the stew, the threadbare garments magically transformed into the delicious shredded beef stew (resembling tattered clothing.) Miracles, inspired by love, created this dish. Fanciful? Perhaps. Delicious? Definitely!

This wee tale leads me back to the accompanying beverage. What inspired a brewer to make a particular beer? Was it love? Was it history? Was it something more? Not all brewers share the muse behind the conception of a brew, but when they do I find myself intrigued and more inclined to give it a go. Make no mistake, a well told story behind a creation will not make up for lack of quality, or cleanliness in the process. Will consumers select beers with no significant story? Absolutely- if they are well crafted. Often however, one can tell when a brew was uninspired, as it shows on the palate. Similarly, a thirsty connoisseur of malted beverages can taste the inspiration behind it. Brewer’s Alley Wedding Alt is an example of an extremely well-crafted alt beer with an equally inspired story. Brewer Tom Flores created this very personal beer to mark the most auspicious occasion of his very own wedding. It was brilliant, and so well received that it became an (annual) seasonal offering, much in demand.

Other breweries in Maryland have also created beers motivated by personal stories, or historical events; just take a gander at Union Craft Brewing’s Duckpin Pale Ale. Duckpin bowling was invented in Baltimore, and neared the point of extinction (if you can use that terminology for a dying sport) when Union Craft released their homage to the Baltimore institution. The sport was invented around 1900 by a couple of Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famers while drinking beer in a billiards hall (although the specifics of this are open to historical debate.) Union wanted to get in touch with what made Baltimore great, and its rich history of craft brewing was a perfect analogy to the once thriving sport of Duckpin bowling. The sport and the beer have both surged in the past five years, and it would be impossible to separate the revival of one from the success of the other!

To have a muse behind the crafting of a fantastic beer may not be a significant factor to some consumers, but for many it will most assuridly lure them to open their wallets and give it a try!

Beer for thought!

Inspire, Incite, Revile- What’s in a name? What’s in a campaign?

This week social media was aflutter reacting to a new Czech Beer Aurosa. When I hear ‘Czech beer’ the first thing that comes to mind is a traditional, exquisite Czechoslovakian Pilsener. That however is not quite what Aurosa is. The backlash has been tremendous. Why? Perhaps less due to the name, or even style of the brew than the campaign.

One visit to the web page immediately lets the visitor know that Aurosa is a sophisticated and elegant premium beer representing a collaboration of art (as witnessed in the marble like design of the bottle) and the craftsmanship of the brewer that breaks stereotypes and benefits local small artists. Wow! On the surface this seems just fine, as most craft beer folks enjoy supporting local businesses and artists. As one navigates the site, things take an intriguing turn, one that is potentially fraught with deeper meaning, and that is what has the craft beer twitterverse quite agitated.

Aurosa is advertised as a beer crafted specifically for a woman, embracing (and copyrighting) the tagline, “First Beer for Her”, #Beerforher. I am a woman. Do I need a beer brewed specifically just for me??? Hmmm….  On the website I am informed that this beer represents the tenderness of a young lady, and the strength and perseverance of women that succeed in any venue, whilst never sacrificing femininity. Lofty ideals for a beer. As expected the response was a range of rants mostly along the lines of ‘women drink the same beer as men’, which is absolutely true. Other (not unexpected) interpretations of what the name actually means (no it isn’t sexual) were also floating about. I am not the first to take up the conversation of women and beer marketing. Morgan Childs wrote a lovely expose on this topic a few months ago addressing statistics, women, styles, and preferences where she briefly touched upon the controversial Aurosa brand.

It is easy to be gender-offended but I wanted to dig a bit more and think it through before determining my emotional vs. logical response to this new (?) beer- which has technically been around since November of 2015. The first thing I discovered was that this beer might in fact be quite pleasant. A strong, unfiltered, semi-dark (Vienna malt) lager, if well-made is quite appealing. I am always willing to try a new beer- the stumbling block in this case isn’t the beer, but the campaign that reviles so many. The most significant factor to me however is the brewer/founder, Martina Smirova. Yes, a woman who happens to have three Master’s Degrees- all centered on business and marketing. This was her idea, her dream fulfilled, working in collaboration with other women also trying to make their artistic goals a reality. Without an interview, which I am currently trying to secure, I must surmise her true objective based on my research of Ms. Smirova. Considering her resume and business partnerships with various (female) artists, I honestly don’t see malintent. There appears to be no femme fatale, or a misogynistic angle here at all. I see a businesswoman trying to find her niche in the industry.

Czecholslovakia (now The Czech Republic) has a long history of strong, smart, independent women like Vera Laska, the famed resistance fighter that once topped Hitler’s most wanted list. That hasn’t changed. Based on what little I know of Ms. Smirova, I would glean that she is very capable, quite independent, and clearly intelligent. After all, no publicity is bad publicity now is it? Good or bad, Aurosa is the topic of conversation, now garnering very strong name recognition. Perhaps this was her strategy all along?
Na zdraví