Craft Beer: Does Taste Matter?

For a brewmaster, nothing is more important than capturing the desired nuances of the spices and richness of flavors into the hoppy delight.  Commonly, owners of craft breweries are either brewmasters themselves or are very closely engaged in the making of their products.  From the roasting of malt to the fermentation process, a meticulously and skillfully crafted beer is truly a delectable prize for both the maker and consumer.  In fact, most craft brewery owners do not shy away from presenting their pint to be (with a bit of hyperbole) one of the best tasting beers.  Yet, they wonder, why hasn’t this “perfect” pint taken off?

At least, in terms of taste, many craft breweries do indeed offer better varieties than most over the counter mega-brewery beers.  And there is no doubt that people would prefer the better tasting brew.   Despite this fact, consumers continue to pick up that pack of bud light or a bottle of Sam Adams, even having tasted the greatness of the local draught.  A possible explanation is constructed preference.  Decades of research have shown that consumers often do not have a set preference, but their preferences are “constructed” or altered at the point of consumption through various factors (priming by advertisement, social circumstances, self-construal, etc.).

Moreover, repeated blind tasting tests (tap vs. bottled water, Coke vs. Pepsi) have shown that subtle conditions as temperature, shapes of containers, and others significantly influenced the “taste” of consumers.  What does this imply to the small business owner and brewmaster?  It means that craft breweries need to not only focus on the quality of the product, but more importantly actively manage and strategize how their product is communicated and primed among target customers.  A good way to achieve this is to strategically impose unique characteristics (bottle design, specific cup to be served, purposeful pairing with a certain food type, etc.) to flagship brews.

Yes, taste matters, but after a certain level of quality, you are better off investing in ways to give identifying reasons (symbolic, emotional, etc.) for customers to raise your craft brew in the local pub and in their homes.