Yesterday I received a box full of suburban "camping" gear and a couple of sample beers from Shock Top, a package that stands as the perfect symbol of Anheuser-Busch InBev's utter contempt for and cluelessness about the culture of craft beer.
Packed inside a shock-resistant SwissGear Synergy laptop backpack, which retails for $65 to $99, were a backpacking stowaway pot (about $20), two Hershey's chocolate bars, marshmallows, a packet of graham crackers, roasting sticks, a Sterno can and some dessert thing with a s'mores base and chocolate molded into the shape of a beer mug. Most odious of all was a box of "Campfire Cologne," which consists of a few sticks of cedar wood, matches and instructions to "waft the essence over your flannel and beard." It sells for $13 a box at Urban Outfitters. Oh, and there were two bottles of Shock Top Campfire Wheat, too. It's made with graham wheat, chocolate malts, marshmallow flavoring and aged over cocoa nibs, because apparently the world needs a beer that tastes like artificial s'mores.
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Boy, the marketing department at that multinational, billion-dollar corporation really nailed us craft-beer drinkers, didn't they? We're a bunch of bearded, flannel-wearing laptop jockeys who aspire to an outdoors lifestyle but in reality are more likely to buy the scent of campfire smoke at the mall. And rather than spending money improving their core product, they know we'll line up to sample a gimmick beer made with weird ingredients, as long as they can create the perception that it's in limited supply.
Campfire Wheat is one of three offerings that the PR material, which is written in the smarmy, faux-friendly bro-speak familiar to readers of Urban Daddy, describes as "putting an innovative twist on beer styles." The three special releases will only be available at select beer festivals this year, including Saturday's Big Texas Beer Festival. The kind of smart, discerning beer lovers who pay $35 to $60 for samples of new, rare, unique and otherwise special brews are going to laugh the scantily clad Shock Top servers right out of the Auto Building.
Craft beer is booming, taking a bigger slice of the beer market every year, and the foreign-owned corporations are scared shitless. But rather than improve their products by not using trash ingredients, they're spending money to play craft-beer dress-up, buying out breweries or creating their own pseudo-craft companies. This package of swag is such a brazen insult it almost seems like satire. It's more than $100 worth of marketing swag that reduces its badly missed target audience to a stereotype, and, almost an afterthought, a grand total of two beers. You couldn't ask for a more literal illustration of their priorities.
Oh yeah, the beer. It was horrible. Beyond awful. The nose presents an immediate blast of marshmallow, and it's so sickeningly sweet that I almost gagged at the first sip. The three s'mores elements are definitely there, a testament to the power of artificial flavoring. I have polished off entire 40s of Steel Reserve and 24-ounce cans of Four Loko, but this was too disgusting even for me. I barely got through half a bottle before pouring it down the sink.