I sometimes wonder what beer would mean to me if I didn’t have the means to interact on social media, or research breweries and their beers online. I also wonder how the story might be so different for some breweries, if it weren’t for the immediacy of the information superhighway.
The alternative I’m suggesting wouldn’t be a hermit’s existence, confined to sharing tasting notes with the lampshade – more that impressions would be formed over time, and opinions orchestrated across a pub table.
Marketing a beer used to be separate from the many faces of conjecture, but in many cases they are now fused. Is the voice you’re hearing a commissioned one? Is it independent of bias? Cynicism and doubt are rife.
In the mele to get the scoop – display a trophy beer (not that Trophy) – or simply use the beer we’re drinking to interact, we can rush into mistakenly comparing like for unlike, falling foul of chinese whispers, forming allegiances and friendships that inform our buying habits, and quite often forgetting what it is all about. A drink.
A recent episode of BBC 2’s Horizon: ‘How You Really Make Decisions’, explored – among other things – behavioural economics. Specifically, how human beings have a propensity to believe that our decision process is influenced through rational thinking. Whereas some research has shown that, in fact, many decisions are based on intuition, or decisions that fit with what we have done in the past. This is just one form of bias, of which there are hundreds more. You get the idea.
My point? Here is a beery example. I go to a bar and order a beer, I don’t recognise the brewery / I recognise the brewery as a new one / the beer looks different to the one I was thinking of / I remember that someone I know doesn’t think much of this brewery / I recall that this brewery was rated in the top 5 of Britain’s best breweries etc… Logic would tell me to judge the beer on its merits, but instead thanks to the endless white noise (as described in the multiple choices above) my intuition has already finished the drink and is half way home. The part of my mind which takes over is intuitive, fast and automatic:
“This fast way of thinking is incredibly powerful, but totally hidden. It is so powerful, it is actually responsible for most of the things that you say, do, think and believe
And yet you have no idea this is happening. This system is your hidden auto-pilot, and it has a mind of its own. It is sometimes known as the stranger within” – (full article here from the BBC)
This is where we make mistakes. This is where bias takes over and makes our decisions for us. Or do I just believe that because I watched the program? read the article? tried to write about it?
Some would say that a brewery shouldn’t market beers, until they are ready to be marketed; but there are some businesses that can’t afford the luxury of an uncomprimising development process. These breweries live and die by the click of a mouse, the tap of a screen. They live and die by a beer that a customer drank a few weeks/years ago – that one that was brilliant/terrible, that beer that was from another brewery completely, but might have had a similarly vulgar pump clip. Or the one that Barry told you was “epic/craft/historically accurate”.
I also wonder if some people who are interested in beer – beyond the point of it just being a refreshment – could have immunity to some of the background noise. They make slow, rational and deliberate decisions, and may take weeks or months to share their opinions and judgements. But as before, there is always bias. They know what they like, and they like what they know. Others will opt for the Storage Hunter approach, in the belief that if you throw enough money at something you’ll win in the end….and they will win, because they tell themselves they won.
The mind boggles. I think I need a beer, don’t I?