| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 12 European pale lager comes in a
variety of brands but research shows that whatever the make of
the beer, consumers find it difficult to taste the difference
"Consumers are largely unable to distinguish between
different brands of European lagers in blind tastings,"
researchers reported in the Journal of the American Association
of Wine Economists.
In a series of blind tastings, economists Johan Almenberg
and his wife Anna Dreber, of the Stockholm School of Economics,
and Robin Goldstein, author of "The Beer Trials" and the
upcoming book "Blind Taste," pitted Czechvar, which is sold in
Europe under the brand name Budvar, Heineken and Stella Artois
against each other to see if volunteers could tell them apart.
They presented three blind samples of the beer to 138
volunteers aged 21 to 70. Two of the samples were the same
product and one was different. After tasting all of them, each
volunteer was asked to select the one that was different from
the other two.
The researchers found that the beer drinkers were unable to
distinguish between the European lager beers and suggested that
consumer loyalty was linked to marketing not flavor.
"I think basically what we're looking at is a commodity
industry - the products are interchangeable," said Goldstein
said in an interview.
"It also means that the beer industry has perfected pale
lager beer, which is my favorite style of beer," he added.
Global brewers such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, which
makes Budweiser and Stella Artois, and Heineken have
taken the world's most widely consumed style of beer, a brew
that has been around since the 1500s and perfected it, according
"They have a good product, a good manufacturing method and
it can be sold at a good price," Goldstein explained. "So if
you're in a bar and they don't have the lager you usually drink,
have a different one. They will pretty taste much the same."
Sean Lewis, author of the book "We Make Beer," which will be
published next month, said the finding was good news for beer
"It means they (the global brewers) are probably doing their
jobs right if they all taste the same. They're aiming for a
specific flavor profile and they've got it down at this point."
But although the taste has been perfected, the big beer
companies have seen their sales go flat, or even decline, over
the last few years in the United States. Last year in Germany
beer sales slumped to a 25-year low.
Meanwhile, sales of craft beers have continued to rise and
are estimated to reach $20 billion in 2014, according to the
research firm Mintel.
The global players have been swallowing craft brewers hoping
to shore up their bottom lines by capitalizing on the popularity
of indie beers.
But not all craft beer drinkers are pleased.
"Craft breweries are like bands. They develop a fan base,"
said Lewis. "They like it for more than just the product itself,
but for the stories behind the beer."
(Editing by Patricia Reaney, Bernard Orr)