A recently-launched online marketplace named Beer Hug aims to get fresher craft beer to consumers faster. Co-founder Adam Prentice shared some insight with us into why freshness is important.
Prentice and his co-founder Dan Phillips created Beer Hug to sell and deliver beer based on its ‘date of birth’, which they believe is a world first. Users can browse the site based on when products were packaged, and any beers they buy will be shipped direct from breweries. A single shipping charge will apply
New products will be added daily, and advertised on digital billboards around Auckland.
Here’s Prentice’s answers to our questions.
Tell us more about the importance of fresh beer. You seem to feel mainstream retailers aren’t selling their beer fresh enough – how bad is the problem out there?
Craft beer isn't typically pasteurised which means it is still living in the can or bottle. It therefore deteriorate very quickly particularly if it gets warm or is agitated from excessive shipping and handling. The experts globally (aka brewers) reckon the fresh window, in which flavours, aromas and mouth feel are amplified is four to five weeks.
Unfortunately mainstream retailers aren't geared up to handle craft beer in this manner. They don't typically have cold chain distribution, can have poor stock rotation and some beers can sit in the warehouse or on the shelf for months before being sold. The beer is totally shot at this point in time.
The problem isn't so bad with the big commercial craft brands as they move through the system faster. The real problem is with the smaller (and more interesting) craft beers who are really driving the category with innovative new beers. If you check the best before dates on these beers they are typically three to six months old before they are purchased. This is like buy a loaf of bread (which is essentially solid beer) that is three weeks old... Yuck!
Do you think the majority of consumers can taste the difference?
It's a bit like wine, people know what they like and want they don't in terms of taste. You get some good ones and some bad ones. Chances are the bad ones are simply old (or corked in the case of wine!).
Once you experience super fresh beer, direct from the source, you will taste a massive difference. The same happens when you drink wine at the winery, it just tastes better because it's been looked after properly. If you tried a fresh craft beer and the same beer that is three to six months old (particularly highly hopped beers such as IPAs, APA, pilsners and also fruity beers) you'll instantly notice that the stale beer has a totally different aroma. All the fresh, floral and fruity aromas have gone. This translates to the taste obviously.
The problem is that most consumers don't get to compare craft beer in this way, they simply don't buy the stale beer again which is a shame because it probably started out awesome!
Are you pairing your launch with a consumer education programme? If so, can you tell us more about it?
Definitely, we launched an outdoor campaign in Auckland yesterday introducing the idea that fresh tastes best. This will run for the entire summer. We also have an educational video on our website in which some of New Zealand's best brewers discuss why fresh tastes better (8-wired, Hallertau, Sawmill and Urbanaut).
We'll also be very active in the social media space promoting our date of birth symbol and new release beers (our brewery partners are also committed to this cause and will continue to champion). Any help you can give us to get the fresh is best message out there would be super amazing!
If an all-powerful market deity was to put the power to overhaul beer retail into your hands, what would you do to make sure all beer sold in New Zealand was as fresh as posible?
Easy… I’d make the breweries put a visible date of birth stamp on their beers so you know exactly what you are getting, rather than hiding it as an obscure and illegible best before date somewhere on the can! I'd also establish guidelines and standards alongside brewers regarding the dates you can actually put on your beers (there are currently no standards so you could feasibly put 1+ years as your best before date).
Finally I'd make sure craft beer was treated like a fresh product that is stored in a chilled and dark space and properly rotated. If all of this could happen, we wouldn't need Beer Hug… but the world would be a hoppier place!