Heineken's 'Passion for Beer' Campaign Takes on American Perceptions

Heineken is taking its “Passion for Beer” campaign across the United States in an effort to educate the industry’s top distributors on the complexities and great qualities of beer. What’s interesting about this costly endeavor is the company’s willingness not to create a campaign about the complexity and greatness of Heineken. In fact, at the most recent Passion for Beer event in San Francisco, efforts were made to get attendees to focus on the process and ingredients of all types of beer, as well as allow top brass for regional distributors to sample a variety of brands side-by-side. The goal, apparently, was not to promote one over the other, but to afford the opportunity to note subtle differences between each. On that element alone, the event was impressive, to say the least.

Groups of distributors were taken to three separate classes: "Process and Ingredients," "The Perfect Pour" and "Sensory and Descriptors." Each session was led by professionals with a firm grasp on their topic, but none brought as much energy and passion as Franck Evers, a long-time publican and publican trainer in the United Kingdom. While the information given at the more technical courses was solid, whether such granular information will make it to distributor reps in the field is questionable.

Evers made it clear up front that “anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature can pour a good beer.” (Keep in mind, Evers measures his temperature in Celsius, so a hot day for him may be in the mid-20s.) Physically pouring the beer was just a part of the conversation, however.

“Motivation is the most important thing in pouring properly,” he said, meaning that energy, delivery of the liquid and attention to detail (like a cool, clean glass and eye contact with a patron) starts with the bartender’s internal drive. Further, Evers said a “poor bartender can ruin a good beer’s perception” at the customer level. If a glass is unclean or the beer is poured messily, the bartender likely will not place the blame on himself; rather saying the keg was bad or something along those lines. Of course, Evers is right, but this was only the beginning of his passionate instruction.

What may be the biggest hurdle for Heineken in its Passion for Beer campaign is the idea of the "perfect pour" and what a beer should look like when poured properly. According to Evers (who is not a Heineken employee, mind you), the perfect pour should result in a frothy head that does two things: keeps carbon dioxide in the beer and oxygen out. Both of these clearly make for a better drinking experience (keeps beer carbonated longer, without becoming oxidized), but flies in the face of the idea of value American drinkers have come to expect in their glass of beer. For most bars in America it is imperative that the glass be filled to the brim; to pour less leads the customer to believe he or she has been "cheated" out of a full glass of beer. Right or wrong, a shift such as this at the average American beer bar will require consumer education.

Additionally, Evers suggests a cool glass and abhors frozen glassware for beer. The ice that forms on a frozen glass inhibits the beer's ability to maintain carbonation. Oh, and don’t even ask Evers his thoughts on beer by the pitcher; his speechless groan says it all.

To be certain, Heineken is pulling out all the stops for its Passion for Beer campaign. How well this information makes it to bartenders and patrons is yet to be seen. For this writer, I certainly wish it well. A focus on the quality of the liquid, beyond hype and marketing, is a great way to approach any beer. Respect the liquid and how it is served, and we all benefit — patron, bar and brand.


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