Monday, March 31, 2008

Milli Vanilli & Beer

Sorry, I can't help it, I'm on a music kick lately.

Today's thought is inspired by the boys that could boogie, just couldn't sing, Milli Vanilli. You remember them? They had the hit song "Girl you know it's true", had a few good months of fame and then it was pointed out they were lip-synching. Oh, the shame! They were essentially banished from the world of radio and MTV and the album made under their name never really to be heard of again. Now, I am not a big fan of pop music and certainly don't have anything great to say about the songs of the album, even though I do remember the song "Blame it on the rain" more than I should all these years later.

What was wrong with the album for those who bought it? I remember this, people tossed their tapes, recorded over them and generally spoke with utter disdain for the work... even though the songs hadn't changed. I often wondered why they just couldn't relabel the music to the real singer, who probably couldn't dance near as well as the cover boys. While the music as just as good (or bad) as it was the week earlier, the idea that 'someone else' had sung the songs was seemingly too much for the world to appreciate. Odd, really. As I often do, I have a beer tie-in.

What if you found out the beer you love was brewed by another brewery? Maybe not you, per se, because clearly you're an educated drinker who reads beer blogs in your free time - you know the scene. But what about those that blindly love [brand X], what would their reaction be if they learned the beer in their hand was really made at, and by [brand Z]. It happens you know, a lot.

I've been to a lot of breweries in the last several years and have seen a whole lot of beer being produced under contract by brewers not otherwise affiliated with the label they're making. Does that matter to you?

I'm not going to call anyone out on either side, it's just an observation I've made. Recently the Food Network fired a chef for misrepresenting his credentials. The guy was qualified and put on a good show, but fudging a few details about his status on certain jobs was too much - no questions asked, he was gone. And to really derail the post, I've known people who become upset upon learning that the breasts they've admired were enhanced - some opting to move on to another relationship because of the misleading 'nature' of it all.

I guess that's the crux of it all, isn't it? Are brewers that have their beers made under contract misleading us, or would they care if the beer-drinking public knew of the arrangement? I don't know the answer to that, it's a sensitive issue to discuss. Clearly, I'm just wondering here. I don't think most drinkers would care, honestly, but there must be a certain percentage of people who have a deep loyalty to their brand. I can't help but see them on a brewery tour for a company that makes beer on contract, in addition to their own beer, having them notice kegs or bottles of their brand and realize that X was made by Y.

Oh, in case you're wondering, it doesn't matter all that much - in my mind. If you have a brewer that knows his or her stuff, they're very detailed in their recipes and strict on their quality threshold - if the batch falls out of spec, it won't be released and the brewer is likely to lose a contract if they can't hit the spec.

Really, it's no different than thinking a certain brewer makes every batch of beer, when in reality he or she has a staff of brewers that also brew to recipe and have strict specs they're aiming for. Just like a contracted brewer, if the assistant brewer can't hit the brewmaster's specs, they likely won't be around too long. Right? Sure, there are some considerations that may impact a beer - like the water quality and fermentation conditions while a batch is getting to spec - but overall, contract brewing can be done very well, obviously.

Just a thought turned ramble. Thanks for playing.