Session Impression

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Recently I was reading another Blog about ‘session-ability‘.   This is a new-age marketing term (actually stolen from the past) used to describe the drinking or consumption characteristics of certain Craft beers.   The blog itself, if you’re a beer drinker, is very engaging.

Read it here.

Before I give my thoughts on what a ‘sessionable’ beer might really mean to us, let’s examine a few more beer marketing terms and notions.

Drinkable – if your beer is drinkable, I suppose that means that you can, you know, drink it.  Or drink lots of it, I guess.

Less-filling – if your beer is less filling, it would mean you may not be as bloated if you drink a whole bunch of it.  It still fills your bladder, however.

Cold-filtered – many beers are filtered to get out the crap and junk you wouldn’t want to drink, like impurities, bacteria or gunk.  Interesting how the industry is using their mandate to not poison us as a term to make their beer somehow more desirable. Here’s picture from Wikipedia showing some of the stuff filtered from beer, during the brewing process:

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Just like any other product, brewers use stories, imagery, feelings and brand identification to sell their products.  They want to convince you to be thirsty and to be loyal to their brand and to drink lots of their beer.

Sessionable !  A beer is sessionable if you can drink lots of it and it doesn’t distract too much from the activity you are doing or conversation you are having, concurrent to drinking.  And, it may have a slightly reduced alcohol-content from a regular strength beer, such that you can engage in a longer session – drinking lots and lots of beer.

Maybe it’s just me, but the last time I managed to limit myself to one or two beers, instead of a whole epic ‘session’, I enjoyed it a lot more.  In fact, I have a tendency to regret anything epic I do in regards to alcohol, and I presume this is a fairly common feeling.

Beer glass photo by Rob Nyugen, via Creative Commons. No changes.

PONG !!

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No, not that Pong.  This Pong:

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Beer Pong.  You know, that game involving ping pong balls and Solo cups and lotsa heavy drinking.

And we can find beer pong ‘kits’ and other drinking paraphernalia at local grocery stores and big box (department) stores that sell beer as an extension of their grocery department.  Funnels or beer ‘bongs’.  Drinking games. Other fun stuff.  All to encourage mass consumption and intoxication.

People love it so much, they’ve built interactive, electronic beer pong tables, as covered by the CBC.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a tad irresponsible to be marketing Beer Pong and the tools of crazy drunkenness in the same place they sell toys, cheese and baby clothes.  We have children, many of whom that cannot discern between colorful things meant for amusement or more nefarious activities, that are going to get the wrong impression.

Deliver Us…

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The Toronto Star reports that the LCBO has opened up their retailing business to include selling alcoholic beverages on-line, along with the option of home delivery (by Canada Post, it seems, oddly), or delivery to an LCBO store of choice.

This will, of course, allow for the selection of many products that cannot normally be stocked in bricks-and-mortar locations, where shelf space is limited.  Meantime, virtual listings can allow for the ordering of obscure or less popular products that live only at warehouses.

Modernization.  That’s the new-age standard for alcohol.   Such modern mechanisms of e-commerce will likely allow for small brewers and small vintners – such as little guys in Ontario, BC and Quebec – to carve out a market for their products, where the old-fashioned way of getting stuff onto the shelves of The Beer Store or the LCBO just wasn’t or isn’t feasible.

Now, home delivery isn’t new.  Private companies have been offering beer, wine and liquor delivery for many years, in places like Toronto, Barrie and other cities throughout Ontario.  Now it’s just one of the big guns wading into the same business.  Maybe The Beer Store will follow suit with a phone service for home delivery – just like ordering a pizza.

Unfortunately, beer isn’t pizza.  While I don’t fault any little brewer for trying to peddle his wares, it remains that pizza on the average, doesn’t cause seven types of cancer…or cause folks to get violent…or act as a catalyst for accidental pregnancy.

Alcohol is not a regular, everyday commodity, like pizza or pens or popcorn.  Alcohol is a very special thing, that needs to be governed in a way that respects its potential for harm.   Ultra-convenient alcohol seems to me the opposite.

 

Yo Ho ! There be warnings ahead

 

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There are rumblings from the far side o’ the future that we may end up with warning labels on our alcoholic beverages.   Which might be interesting, considering there is advocacy for nutrition labels as well.  You know – highlighting all those ’empty calories’ – energy without nutrition.

I am no expert on the law, but considering what I do know about legislation, I’ll guess the reason you have a listing of ingredients and calories on a Pizza Pop  but not on a beer…is because, legally speaking, beer is not Food !  Food has the potential to provide your body with important sustenance, vitamins, protein.  Whereas beer is….well, you know what beer is.

Labels to better enrich our understanding of what we are getting up to and in to when we drink has been studied, such as in the video above from Global News.  If certain advocacy groups succeed (such as health agencies who want you to live long and prosper) – you’ll be see labels like the ones below, as highlighted by CTV.

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The question is whether these kinds of labels are effective in changing drinking behaviors.  I think it’s fair to say that they raise awareness about the issue, as they are so graphic as to be unavoidable and unmistakable.

But they would be just one piece of a change in our social philosophy regarding alcohol – where it begins with more persons working to have more non-drinking days, as part of the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines.

 

Big Culture, Big Alcohol

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Alcohol is part of our culture.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that in the past of number of years, the breadth of alcohol culture has increased, -its availability has widened.

It’s a lot more places than it ever used to be…

We see the possibility of booze being consumed where we get our haircut, at Starbucks, at the whole darned festival instead of just the beer tent, on the golf course, at the Farmer’s market.  We can buy it at the Supermarket.

This is in part due to market forces – economics.  Connected to economics and money as a driver, is marketing.  Marketing is the communication between corporate entities and consumer audiences, trying to entice changes in our choices and behaviour.  Marketing is a huge part of how we think, imagine, behave and define our social expectations.

For example, the diamond ring as an engagement present is a relatively new idea, perpetuated through mass marketing of diamonds by the DeBeers corporation.  Essentially, marketing convinced us as a society that diamonds are a symbol of love and commitment…and they sold a whole lot more diamonds after that.  It’s a very famous story.

The same principles hold true to alcohol marketing.  While economics have created pressure to allow alcohol to be available in more places, marketing has worked to create alcohol as a normal, everyday thing – a symbol of fun, ceremony or social exuberance.

Yet, let’s think for a second:

  • no one hands out samples of other recreational drugs at the Supermarket
  • there are no other recreational drugs that are advertised in print, or on television to make us feel we’ll be more attractive, popular, or likely to find a sexual partner if we partake…
  • no other recreational drugs have posters at the bus stop, or on huge billboards, or have hilarious commercials during sporting events
  • no other recreational drugs have massive sponsorship deals to support sports, athletes, car-racing or the arts…

Yet we have all this and much, much more for alcohol, convincing us that alcohol is a normal, fun, exciting, sexy, dynamic, funny, crazy, wonderful thing.  And while any one of us might feel this way in regards to booze for a social occasion or two, the truth is that over-consumption of alcohol is killing us, and costing us billions as a society.

 

Truth in Advertising ??

A compelling documentary on alcohol is attached to this Blog.  It’s long-ish, but maybe you’ll find it as fascinating as I did.

After all – the ‘truth’ in regards to alcohol is a complex one. We’ve got it sold by huge corporate entities, or used as liquid leverage to stimulate tourism.  We love to drink it at parties and gatherings, we use to amplify emotion, and to celebrate and to commiserate.

We are addicted to it…as individuals, and as a society who seems to want it ever more varied and available.

It correlates with crime and violence.

It creates disease.

It facilitates a party.

It shores up confidence (or is it impulsiveness?)

Alcohol has very complex and interwoven truths that filter down through every layer of our society and social lives.  It generates interesting and wild stories.  Some such stories have tragic endings.

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Open for Business!

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Wine and beer are coming to Starbucks.  I learned this from an article in the Toronto Star.  Certainly this is another of many changes combining to normalize alcohol in our culture.  The article mentions how alcohol is popping up in a number of non-traditional places, such as Taco Bell. What’s more, the grocery store I shop at in Orillia has a large new section of beer, supplanting bulk food and specialty breads.

Setting aside anyone’s wish for convenience, it is fair to say that the spread of alcohol into all these new locations – coffee shops, hair salon’s, grocery stores, farmer’s markets – serves to normalize and desensitize the presence of booze to all of us, including young people.

Politically, they call this ‘loosening of controls’ – an evolution from the way alcohol used to be sold in Ontario.  These controls, rightly or wrongly, allowed for two monopolies to sell all the alcohol: the LCBO and the Beer Store.  While the flow of free enterprise and the rise in popularity of cider and craft beer created pressure on the marketplace and actually changed the rules (because it means big money!), these changes will reinforce the sense that alcohol belongs.

Shouldn’t alcohol’s right to belong, to exist everywhere, be relative not only to our demand for it, but also its potential for harm?

Alcohol causes cancer.  It reduces the success rates or surgery and extends time needed for healing. It causes liver disease, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.  It is a catalyst for violence and crime and accidents and injury. It costs us billions in health care costs, enforcement, and incarcerations.  Let’s imagine it was tobacco, which only does some of these things.  Just to state the obvious: we are working feverishly, furiously as a society to remove tobacco from anywhere and everywhere.

Why are we working so hard to add alcohol ?