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Arrogant Bastard AleThrough out the past two years, every time I went to Round Table Pizza for lunch at UCSD, I would pass by a tap for Arrogant Bastard Ale. Today I finally found out what it is about, and here is the exclusive report for the readers of this blog.

If I knew Latin it would’ve sounded nicer, for now here’s the account in English. I saw, I drank, I was conquered. I might not have found God, but I knew it is He who gave me the nudge. Too often we fail to see a good thing that is right before our eyes, not to speak of the things that are right behind them… It took me two years in this case, God knows how many in many others!

Such was the impact that I started a search for more info on ambrosia and I came across an interview of Greg Koch, the maker of Arrogant Bastard Ale. If I was a fan before, I stopped short of becoming a fanatic after the read. This guy seems to have a clear idea of what he expects out of his work. He is doing what he wants to do, he knows that not everyone shares a desire for high standards, and he seems to accept it. As to how high the standards are: ABA might not be what Bheeshma would’ve begged for on his death bed, but that’s only because Greg Koch was born much later.

For the readers of this blog, here are the important excerpts from the interview (replace beer with any other product, the points made here are equally valid):

What’s standing in the way of Stone’s world domination?

GK: We are. The only styles of beer that will ever have the chance to dominate the world are light lager styles. Because of a set of realities, I would say that there is little to no chance of this not being true. Those realities are:

1) The generic consumer does not want something that challenges them. They want safe and familiar — even if they know that it is not the best choice or the best for them — as long as they don’t have to think. Thus the success of McDonalds, Kraft singles, Pringles, Bank of America, Lipton Iced Tea, Oscar Mayer Bologna, Ford Escort, etc. Generic products for generic consumers. The reality is that the majority of the people in this world are generic consumers.

2) In beer, I see there are two major schools of thought to creating and selling: Product driven marketing or Advertising driven marketing.

“Product driven” means that the beer must speak for itself. If there is advertising, it is generally aimed at simply creating awareness that the brand exists. Most of the reason the consumer chooses this brand is because of the beer itself. These brands must be good as they rely on word of mouth. If they are not good, their chance for wide success is quite limited due to lack of a significant word of mouth, or worse, negative word of mouth. The target audience for “product driven” beers are people who seek out better, new and more unique beers.

“Advertising driven” means that the brand owners concentrate on pushing the beer through advertising. Since the vast majority of the public is of a “generic” mind, the product cannot exceed that level. Otherwise, they are spending money sending their message to a population that does not care about or want extra quality or uniqueness. As you know, much of the approach for these brands is “lifestyle” based. In other words, they try and tell you that if you drink their brand you will be the life of the party, or that you will be transported to a tropical frame of mind, or that you will attract the opposite sex, or that you are an original thinker, etc….

3) Since we make “product driven” beers, we will never reach the mass public and therefore we will never dominate the world. That’s OK. I only want to be popular amongst those who make CONSCIOUS decisions about the beer they drink.

It is my theory that if ALL beer advertising was suddenly banned (TV ads, magazines, billboards, sports sponsorships, free t-shirts, little blinky buttons with brand names, beer promo girls, etc.) and people only had the beer itself on which to base their purchase decisions, all fizzy yellow beer brands would suffer a minimum of 50% loss in sales volume within a half generation. Then Stone might have a shot at world domination!

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Have you ever had a Budweiser?

GK: I have sampled countless brands of beer. Some I have enjoyed immensely and some I have not. Without being brand specific, I tend not to gravitate towards brands that are not known for being honest, true to style, additive free or otherwise meeting up to a high set of standards.

Growing up, I drank fizzy yellow beer. It was all that was available. I didn’t know any better. I moved on.

I run into many people who use the “It’s what I grew up with, that’s why I drink XYZ brand of fizzy yellow beer” excuse. Bullshit. It’s because you got used to a generic taste and have decided not to move on. That’s OK, but the fizzy yellow beer drinker should at least be able to acknowledge their own reality. They don’t want to expand their horizons. There’s a reason why better things in life are referred to as “acquired tastes.” you may have to work at developing your palate, but when you get there it’s nirvana!

I think it was the rock band RUSH that said “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

PS: One more thing that the Arrogant Bastard Ale made me realize was that the pinnacle of civilization was when alcohol was discovered, the rot set in shortly after that.

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Written by kowsik

August 27, 2007 at 07:12