Today’s 40b40 beer is La Chouffe, and before I talk about the lovely time we had with a few neighbours over this evening, I need to deal with a very serious issue. It has been bothering me since the start of the 40b40, and I’ve brought it up before in private consultations with my senior 40b40 advisors. Now, it’s time to air this in public.
The issue is Smurfs. Or maybe elves or gnomes or pixies or whatever the hell the Chouffe people put on the label of their beers. What is up with this Smurf thing? Are they marketing these beers to the under fives, or what? You can just imagine the conversation...
BS-ing outside consultant: “We see a gap in the beer-drinking market. Three- and four-year-olds just aren’t catered for. This new product could fill that gap.”
Gullible exec: “Really?”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Really. Think about it. The competitor has already grabbed the seven-to-nine crowd with their ‘Sparky the Dino-Hedgehog Alco-pop’, and we really don’t want a repeat of that experience, do we?”
Gullible exec: “Absolutely not.”
BS-ing outside consultant: “This is it. Our big chance. It’s an open market. We never see three- and four-year-olds drinking beer, do we?”
Gullible exec: “No.”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Well, there you are then.”
Gullible exec: “So, beer for three- and four-year-olds?”
BS-ing outside consultant: “That’s it. You’ve got the idea. Genius.”
Gullible exec: “Thank you.”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Now, how are we going to sell to this new market?”
Gullible exec: “Hmmm...”
BS-ing outside consultant: “What we should do is put some cute cartoon characters on the labels. That will bring the kiddies in...”
Gullible exec: “Like a mouse with big round ears?”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Legal would go nuts.”
Gullible exec: “What then?”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Elves.”
Gullible exec: “Gnomes.”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Pixies.”
Gullible exec: “Smurfs. This is Belgium!”
BS-ing outside consultant: “That’s it! You’re brilliant.”
Gullible exec: “That’s why I get paid the big money.”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Indeed. Look, we’ll get some elves or gnomes or whatever drawn on some labels and present some sketches for you next week, OK?”
Gullible exec: “Great.”
BS-ing outside consultant: “And we’ll have all the gnomes drawn bent over.”
Gullible exec: “Why would we do that?”
BS-ing outside consultant: “Just so.”
Gullible exec: “What, just so people ask why they’re all drawn bent over?”
BS-ing outside consultant: “That’s exactly it. Brilliant. Kids will love it.”
= = = = =
And as all that was rushing though my head, our guests arrived. We cracked open the dark McChouffe. 8%, hoppy. “Sweet”, said David. “Quite nice for a beer”, said Susan, “and I don’t like beer.” “Foamy”, said Julio.
Too right. Every glass I filled -- no matter how slowly I poured and how much I tilted the glass -- was all head and no visible liquid.
“Slightly bitter”, Julio continued, “with a sweet aftertaste -- honey?”
“Tingly on the tongue for a long time”, said Fiona.
Then, we moved to the blond. Julio noted fruity flavour with some liquorice. “Really good balance.” I found the hop dominant again, though there was something that I felt might be pickled red pepper. OK, I could be reaching there.
“I think this beer would taste better if the gnomes were in a different pose”, said Susan. Hard to argue with that.
The final beer tasting of the evening was Chouffe N’ICE -- that’s the Xmas one. Julio and I first noticed the sweetness. I also thought chocolate, specifically cocoa powder. Yes, chocolaty chocolate with chocolate trimmings. Wow. All choco, all the time.
Strange thing is, Chouffe had been recommended to me by several people who otherwise lead very serious lives. They are in their 40s and very focused on their areas of study -- highly respected experts in their field. You’d never suspect they were gnome fanciers. I guess they are just three- and four-year-olds at heart.