The rationale, says Bill Gould, president of WETT Sales & Distribution, a Winnipeg, Canada-based company that distributes Moosehead, Moosehead Light, Carlsberg, Crack Canoe and Samuel Adams, is for beer drinkers to be identified by their selection of draught just like they have been for many years with their bottles or cans.
“All the brand owners want their product served in their branded glass so people look around and see what others are drinking. It helps the brand,” Gould says.
Ferg Devins, chief public affairs officer for Molson Coors Canada, agrees. He says 20 years ago, draught beer was a commodity served out of an anonymous black tap at the bar. “Having a draught beer in the (branded) glass is just an important as cracking open a bottle with the label on it (in terms of branding and exposure),” he says.
Draught might represent a small piece of total volume for breweries in North America, but it’s big business in pubs, bars and restaurants. “The industry has done a pretty good job of moving the consumer to have their brand on draught. Unidentified draught is really a thing of the past,” Gould says, noting beer companies have had to invest a considerable sum in glassware to support their branding efforts.
The draught movement in bars these days is an extension of “bottle badging” – the phenomenon of beer drinkers buying a beer with which they want to be associated. It started 25 years ago when beer companies started making the switch from the stubby to the long-necked bottle, and the evolution has included the movement into green, clear and embossed bottles. Your bottle became your badge and now the same is true with your draught glass.
Beer companies can also build upon existing brand strength with their draught offering. For example, Coors Light’s draught glass features mountains painted on in temperature-sensitive ink that turns blue when the beer is sufficiently cold. That’s an off-shoot of the company’s “cold certified” technology with bottles and cans that it launched a couple of years ago. (The mountain logo turns from white to icy blue on both vessels when the beer inside has reached optimal coldness.)
Cans, bottles and draught glasses are all being used to reinforce its assertion that cold beer is better beer and Coors Light is the coldest. To ensure the branding strategy doesn’t fall apart in the pub, Devins says its sales team pays close attention to how its beer is served. “If it comes in the wrong glass, they tell the bartender. It’s important that it’s served in the right glass. They say, ‘I ordered that brand, I bought it for a reason,’” he says.
There’s a reason why pubs are full of glasses of all shapes and sizes, too. Kevin Hryclik, quality assurance manager for Labatt Breweries of Canada, says different glassware is suited to different beers. For example, goblets are designed for “flavorful” beers because their shape captures the aroma in the same way that wine glasses do with a chardonnay or merlot.
Flute-shaped glasses, meanwhile, are ideal for lagers and pilsners because the slight narrowing at the top concentrates the foam on a smaller surface area and helps it last longer.
“You hold a better head on the beer that way. That’s also where the aroma can be found. The foam helps hold on to the aroma for you. As the bubbles burst, the aroma is released. You’re not just tasting it with your palette, you’re breathing it in,” he says.
Stella Artois’ branding goes even further than the tall goblet-style glass in which it’s served. Bartenders around the world are taught the specific nine-step process how to pour it, which the brand refers to as “the perfect pour.”
Then they use a knife to slice off the excess foam, ridding the beer of the large bubbles, and submerge the glass in a clean sink of water, which washes off the beer clinging to the outside of the glass. The presentation is completed when the beer is passed over to the customer with the label facing outward.
“If you have a non-distinctive glass, you don’t know who’s ordering what. The glassware for draught really helps the consumers to have that recognition that ‘this is my brand, look what I’m drinking.’ It tells a bit of a story about me and it helps to build brand loyalty,” Hryclik says.
Of course, it doesn’t matter what kind of glass you’ve got if it’s not clean. Any dirt or residue inside the glass will kill the foam and cause the beer to go flat, Hryclik says.
And that’s not only bad for business, it’s bad for branding.