Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ölmönger Special: Why do bloggers receive beer samples?

As the summer was reaching its end in August, some Finnish beer bloggers posted that they had received a beer box from a Finnish microbrewery. In the beginning of September, some bloggers had received one or two cans of beer that was supposed to hit the stores in the middle of the month for pre-tasting. In the end of the month there was another can delivery. And this has been going on for some time: every now and then an individual blogger or a bunch of bloggers receives a delivery from a Finnish brewery.

I didn't get either of the brewery packages and haven't got any of the previous ones. Probably because this blog sucks ass and has no readers, and the people at the breweries see it. Or probably because I haven't begged anyone to send me free beer. Anyway, in a burst of envy, jealousy and feeling slightly pissed off I'm writing about:
  • Why didn't I get the free beers others did?
  • Why did the others get the free beers?
  • Why do I moan about it?
  • Why are you still reading? (Grab a beer and go Pokemon-hunting!) 
My fav fictitious freebie label #1
For amusement, let's suppose that I would have got the same beers the others did if I only had asked for them. The brewery would have sent me the package since I showed interest towards their products. Everyone would have been happy: I'd get some beers to drink for free and the brewery would get their beers consumed the right way. Let's stop the amusement ride for a moment and think what's missing there. Oh, yes: the brewery doesn't actually get anything with this system.  

The obvious answer to the first question was in the beginning: this blog actually isn't among the popular beer blogs of Finland. And it should never be if there's any justice, literacy and need for good beer blogs left in the world. Whether I wanted free beer from the breweries or not, it doesn't make a difference, since there's no audience. I suppose that the Finnish breweries don't send any blogger any free beers just for fun or to show kindness. It's not customary to give people anything for free without expectations of favours in return, is it?

So, what's the expected favour in return? Why did the other bloggers get the free beer samples? First, their blogs are way more popular than mine: there's a difference between mentioning to 1'000 active followers about getting some samples from the brewery and mentioning it to almost three random people. Secondly, if there's no written contract between the brewery and the blogger, it's an unwritten rule to post about gift you get. If you don't follow the unwritten rule for one reason or another they'll stop sending you the packages. If there's a contract, well, they've got you by the balls, which makes you suffer and eventually die. Simple. Thirdly, it doesn't actually matter whether the popular blogger gives the beer a good or a bad review. If it's good, it's less than mediocre and relatively free advertising and good publicity for the brewery. If it's bad, it's bad but almost free advertising and still good publicity for the brewery. To sum it up, bloggers get free beer samples just and only to boost the sales of the brewery's beers.

"So you really expect me to review this sh*t?" (Picture source: YLE)
So what's so bad or wrong about this, except the fact that I don't get free beers? To put the facts straight: I don't even want free beers posted to me. At least not the crap Finnish breweries are sending to bloggers. If someone is considering about sending me some critically acclaimed beers or their barrel-aged versions I'll reconsider. If someone in a brewery would like to thank me for making a nice post about their beer or brewery recently I wouldn't neglect. If someone would like his/her homebrew matched with a song I would suggest an exchange: I'll get you a commercial bottle for a homebrew bottle but not by post - let's meet. Otherwise I'll promise to return to sender every corruption beer package* and stamp them with a "Fuck off" sticker, make a blogpost about each incident and finish making Ölbeats about the beers of the breweries in question. By the way that's a promise, not a threat, so people at the breweries: start packing and posting the cans and bottles.

Nothing is "bad" or "wrong" with other bloggers receiving free beer. The thing is that posting any kind of reviews about these free beers turns a blogger into a viral marketer a.k.a. (Every) Brewery's Bitch. Suddenly you can see the same beer reviewed in different blogs in a relatively short time window, or at least some "I happened to get a free sample set from Horse's Ass Sweat Brewery, so there'll be some reviews about them here later" notifications. That just makes the beer blog scene look like a weak-willed and easily-manipulated herd. Nothing forces several bloggers to post about the same beers at the same time. Beer bloggers differ from let's say movie critics in the sense that there are more new different beers available at the same time than there are new movies shown in theatres. And there are always lots of timeless or rare beers available to write the blog reviews about. So it's no way natural for, say, six or seven bloggers publishing posts about the same beer samples at the same time. In the world of animals, that's called being on a leash, living in a cage or settling for the part of a subordinate in the herd.

Making an odd comparison to music artist and bands, there's a difference between ones playing for money (professionals), ones playing for charity and fun (amateurs) and ones playing for a beer case (Can Neither Play Nor Sing people) - we all know that**. Things are alright if you have black on white with a brewery about your marketing efforts, and in addition to free samples you get paid or at least some other money worth privileges for the job. But if you're blogging for a hobby and thinking that "I'm taking the beer culture forward" by doing unprofessional marketing for breweries for free beers, would you mind showing up with an "Every Brewery's Bitch" T-shirt or jacket on the next beer festival? I can sketch a badge or a forehead tattoo mold for you, if you prefer those. I don't believe that you'd earn any free beers or even a free attendance, but people would surely know your game. Of course, there's a difference between being someone's bitch on purpose and being someone's bitch accidentally, but that's a different story.

My fav fictitious freebie label #2
It's got nothing to do with respect either: there's none exchanged from the brewery to the blogger and none from the blogger to the brewery. The brewery's interest, to sell more beer to more consumers, was already dealt with in the beginning. The blogger may think that he "earns" the samples and selfishly would like to "earn" free beer from all the other breweries, too. As I see it, most of the beer bloggers tell that the reason for their blogging to steer the readers' beer drinking habits towards more cultivated alcohol culture i.e. drinking better and less beer than the Average Bud does. Since the samples are not that good and the blogger would like to get more of them... Ummm, can anyone else smell double standard here? "Just do as I say, don't do as I do", right? Well, so much for the respect from the blogger to the audience.

So am I really asking the breweries to stop sending bloggers free beer samples? No, they would send them anyway. Am I asking the bloggers to stop posting about the samples they receive? Hell no, it's not my decision. I'm trying to point out that getting some sample bottles or cans from breweries for free isn't actually a privilege or a reward but a steering device for what your blog is about and what your blog followers are reading. And when the free beers are mostly crap, your blog posts about them are mostly crap. Like every post on this blog.


In a way I've already kinda revealed what song is played here. Tina Turner's Private Dancer is already reserved for other purposes (= extreme torture), so I chose a metaphor for the relationship between the brewery and its bi.. the blogger:

Genesis: Jesus He Knows Me (YouTube)

From the 1991 album We Can't Dance, the song was written by Tony Banks, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford.
* Here 'package' means only the container where the cans or bottles were sent. The cans or bottles will be properly emptied to the sewage system and replaced with other ones filled with water. Why? Because I'm a sick pervert and have a secret crush on prohibition. Thank you for forcing me to reveal that, too. Of course, there's always an option to forget my promises, share the beer with the neighbour dude and have product placement in the pics of my home album. 
** I couldn't compare beer bloggers to professional, cheap or free gigolos here. That would have been too offensive. Towards the cheap and the free gigolos, I mean. Even though the beer bloggers are easily fucked, no one would even consider fucking one even for free. Right, chap?    

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