One of the great advantages of working for a German brewery is that the quality of the beer is never, ever questioned. As most of you know, all beer brewed in Germany comes under the basic law of 1516 called the “German Purity Law,” or the “Reinheitsgebot.” The beer does not have any additives or preservatives. While our marketing at Warsteiner wasn’t dedicated to this USP, we based everything “around” this concept using soft water, natural ingredients, and no additives, etc. Quality was not an issue. When speaking at sales meetings, I almost always had this idea of quality on my agenda.
The other day, while enjoying a beer with some the guys I grew up with, the topic of ingredients came up when I showed them the new Becks label with “Product of the US” imprinted at the bottom. My friends started to read the labels on their beers and one, who was drinking a Miller Lite, noticed the label had the words “no additives or preservatives” written in a small font. We starting looking for this on all the labels and not one other brands had this disclaimer written on the label! I recall my years at Coors Brewing and spending time with the chemists. They almost always discussed the quality of Coors. These chemists analyzed all brands and noted that only Budweiser came close to Coors’ quality (mid 1980’s), however, there is nothing about additives or preservatives on the Coors cans of today.
Several decades ago, Coors ran full-page ads in both the St. Louis and Milwaukee newspapers announcing that their Schlitz and Budweiser brands contained Fusel Oil (fusel is German for bad liquor), which is created during fermentation. Obviously this caused quite a stir within the industry. A call was made from St. Louis to Golden, and for the sake of the industry, the ads were dropped. I often wonder what would have happened if things were reversed? Would St. Louis have pulled the ads “doing the right thing?”
When Miller Lite (and Miller Brewing Co.) were growing like crazy and giving AB fits, AB created a poster which showed a glass of Miller Lite. The ad pointed out all the various chemicals in Miller beer such as “seaweed extract” a hydrocolloid. Luckily, most of those posters never got out of the AB warehouses.
Today, everyone agrees that the new crafts being created must first focus on quality, for without quality no brand will survive. We can all recall breweries in recent years who went under due to poor brewing and bad beer. Overall, the crafts of today are much better then those of 10 years ago. But take a look at the craft labels out there and see what’s on them. Do they have additives? Preservatives? Chemicals? Maybe Miller is on to something? If so, why don’t they announce this in their marketing? Is the question then, does Coors have preservatives and Miller now doesn’t want to have that out there? Or is it a question of: if it’s for the “good of the industry,” don’t focus on the quality of the beer?
I guess we should all thank the Germans, not just for the Reinheitsgebot, but for not using their German Purity Law as a marketing tool. Just read the labels.