Taste is always a personal thing. Marketing can, however, influence taste. Especially so in the lucrative beer market. News today that A. Le Coq, the Tartu brewer, has reached agreement with the world’s largest purchaser of alcoholic beverages, Ontario’s monopoly LCBO may mean, as Steve Roman of ERR News wrote, that the Estonian diaspora could rejoice. Buzzed about an Estonian beer, why not. But how will others greet yet another imported beer to choose from?
The proof of the pudding will be in marketing. When Saku made it to Ontario the marketing campaign seemed to be only visible on the pages of the Toronto newspaper Eesti Elu. Nowhere else did I see suggestions to sample one of Estonia’s top selling beers. Perhaps it was in the name? When I told Canadian friends how Saku is pronounced in Estonian, they laughed. I fear A. Le Coq may suffer the same fate. Some names just do not make it in English, ask any Tiit or Mare.
But then there is the product itself. My Canadian friends – and after all, Canada prides itself in being a beer-drinking nation – were not favourably impressed with Saku. There was nothing that separated it from the admittedly inferior Labatt Blue’s that would encourage them to pay the premium price. Heineken’s market saturation makes it for many the benchmark for comparison. This is certainly subjective, and could be the basis of a lively debate. However, I have not seen Saku on the LCBO shelves for a while. What happened? Marketing failure or product failure, i.e., the taste did not catch on?
When you also consider that there is a very competitive craft beer industry in Ontario, with the likes of Mill Street and Muskoka Breweries leading the way one suspects that A. Le Coq will have their work cut out if they hope to make inroads in what is a very crowded marketplace.
Returning to personal preference. For some, beer is merely a thirst-quencher, something for a hot summer day. Connoisseurs, however, look for hoppiness as opposed to happiness, fruity flavours, depth of aftertaste, much, much more. As we say in Canada, many love the rich, yeasty taste of a barley sandwich, for, after all, beer has been compared to liquid bread.
I wonder if A. Le Coq would commission a poll of their new marketplace in Ontario, as to preference. Their Porter is fine, but what do the lager drinkers say? I would think that EWR would gladly post what the “Estonian diaspora” would express.
Personally, my vote goes for not an A. Le Coq, or Saku product, but to Palmse tume, made by Viru Õlu, difficult to find but worth the search. That, however, is my personal opinion according to my tastebuds. What do others have to say?
What’s your beer? (1)