Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gimmick Schmimmick

Hot on the heels of the announcement that HBO and Brewery Ommegang have collaborated on a beer inspired by the network’s Dungeons & Dragons-esque, hit cable series, Game of Thrones, I got into an interesting conversation on twitter about beery gimmicks. The exchange stemmed from Alan’s tweet that, “[creating] beers based on themes and characters in the fantasy series...” was, as he put it, “meaningless.” Myself,'s Brian Papineau, and Katy Watts, of Sheltered Girl Meets World, all jumped into the conversation, weighing the pros and cons of gimmick. Alan’s take is that gimmick results in added expense that gets passed to he consumer as “sucker juice”, while Brian contends that it is consumer taste that drives, or should, drive beery trends.

Both are valid points, but the question for me is, at what point does gimmick turn to trend? If the intention of a gimmick, be it a pet rock or beer, is to sell and promote, then couldn’t it be said that any of the more recent beery trends—beer-wine hybrids, gypsy-brewing double IPAs, spiced-up holiday beers—are all, at the heart of it, gimmicks? Granted, these trends have some history to them. Imperial Stout is nothing new, but the imperialism of everything else, from pilsner to wheat beers, is.
The water gets cloudy—in the U.S, at least—by the influence of the distributor on the market. Stronger beers sell well in the U.S., as do hoppy beers. Find a marriage of both—like a double IPA— and obviously those are the beers that will be pushed by the distributor. The distributor is always looking for the next get-rich-quick idea, and who could blame them? Their job is to sell beer—good, bad, or gimmicky.

Regardless of influence, sometimes the short-run gimmick becomes the long-term trend. Buffalo Bill’s Brewery lays claim to brewing the first “modern” pumpkin beer in the early 1980s. Was that done as gimmick? Maybe, but pumpkin beers sure as hell are a trend now.

Personally, I’m a tad indifferent to the gimmick. If I buy it and it’s great—all the better. If it’s bad—oh well, live and learn. I might be out a few dollars, but I won’t make that mistake again. Is the “inspired by…” a bit schlocky? Sure, and honestly, I don’t know if Iron Throne would be my first choice at the beer store, but I usually like Ommegang stuff and at $8.50 for 750mL, it’s not a bad buy.

Do I think television show inspired beer will become the newest beer trend? Probably not, but if it is, I'm hoping for one inspired by Arrested Development—they could call it TobIPAs Fünke.

If you'd like to get in on these riveting twitter exchanges, follow me in the Twitterverse @drinkdrank1.


  1. I have created the #KeepBeerBeery hash tag and expect it to be the greatest thing ever. Embrace the future where things like non-beer branding and single bottles in boxes will be thought of like wide leg jeans and perms for men.

  2. Oh, I fully expect 2013 to be the year the PR people fully latch on to craft beer and undermine its integrity.