“You can call anything premium if it’s marketed properly. We, on the other hand…we’re craft.” In a nutshell, Alex – Meantime brewer, brand ambassador, and committed beer drinker – outlined the philosophy behind one of the most successful brewing startups in UK history. The occasion was a recent “fact finding mission” by the Wine Intelligence team to the Meantime Brewery on the Greenwich peninsula, a short Thames Clipper boat ride away from the WI headquarters on Tower Bridge Road. We were investigating the growing craft beer movement and the shift in consumer demand to quality and variety in an industry which has, until recently, been better known for elaborate, expensive marketing schemes than a demonstrable commitment to quality.
On the tour, Alex was warming to his theme. “Wine needs two ingredients: grapes and terroir. Beer, on the other hand, has 4 main ingredients and when you consider the terroir for each of those, you’re left with 8 minimum ingredients.” Complex stuff, and that’s before you get into brewing techniques, which – like wine – all have basic commonalities, but with infinite variation at each stage.
And it appears craft beer and wine may be overlapping segments over time. Craft beer is marketed to consumers who are willing to experiment, and appreciate a good story behind the label. While beers in theory have the advantage of selling at a much lower price point per unit compared to wine, some of the beers coming to market in the “craft” segment are leaving wine in the shade for pricing – anyone for some of Brewdog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin (£35 per 375ml bottle) or even Samuel Adams Utopia (£65)?
Alex’s phrase “anything can be premium if marketed correctly,” still rings true in the beer category, and to a certain extent in wine, but it’s equally clear that creating a premium quality product cannot end at production. “We have really focused on our packaging, and on who our customers are,” he adds, because “it would be a shame if people couldn’t enjoy our beer because they thought the packaging was rubbish.”