Sunday, March 20, 2005

Boston Beer's Jim Koch shoots himself in the foot ... again.

The essence of my beef with Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company and mastermind of the Samuel Adams line of beers, is his bizarre fondness for randomly spraying mixed marketing signals across the airwaves.

Koch is like a child with a new squirt gun, and his obvious instincts for self-aggrandizement often have the effect, intentional or otherwise, of demeaning the very "good beer" genre that he purports to champion.

Consider that the image of beer as a whole constantly is being cheapened, weakened and gutted outright by the juvenile advertising strategies of America’s megabrewers.

You’d think that a company positioning itself as a “craft brewer” would not emulate such harmful marketing campaigns, but when Boston Beer rolled out the “light beer we previously said we’d never make,” the television ads were every bit as embarrassingly sophomoric as anything conceived by Pete Coors or August Busch IV.

After this degrading debacle, the marketing for Samuel Adam’s lurched crazily back to the simply inane.

An actor portraying the beer’s namesake, suitably garbed in Colonial dress, would suddenly appear and woodenly toast the camera as though auditioning for a junior high school play.

If you think this sort of advertising plays to the clueless denizens of Louisville’s Fourth Street Live, a.k.a. the target demographic of Sam Adams, then kindly come examine the proverbial bridge we have on sale today.

Certain ads in this series still are being televised, including one in which three young men enter a good beer bar and ignore the best beers of the world, opting for a Sam Adams (cue the Colonial dork, please) in what amounts to a leering swipe at European import snobbery.

And so, having spit in the face of the European beer heritage, the ever-expedient Koch now offers an advertisement that exalts the superiority of genuine German hops, including the obligatory pose in which the founder buries his face in hop cones while German-accented voices testify to his faultless logic in selecting such good ingredients for his beers.

Our man Jimmy seems to be having a perpetual identity crisis. Light beer is bad … no wait, actually it’s good – as long as we make it!

And, import beer snobbery is bad … no wait, it’s good, so long as it applies to the hops we buy from Germany and not our imported competitors from the very same country.

On and on it goes, and where Koch's blatant hypocrisy stops ... well, you know the rest.

Says the Curmudgeon: Good beer is good beer, period. All of us, even Jim Koch, who are on the side of good beer need to focus our energies on behalf of good beer and against mundane, tasteless and insipid – yes, "bad" – beer.

The question remains: Which side is Jim Koch really on?

(I would refer you to the Sam Adams web site as a courtesy, but the fact that visitors must endure two age checks before entering has soured the Curmudgeon on the experience).

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