Great Example Of Ahistorical [Beer] Reporting

It’s been sort of hot news lately (hot, at least, among beer people): China’s Snow beer is on the verge of becoming the world’s biggest selling beer, elbowing Current King Beer — Bud Light — of the throne it’s held since 2003. So today’s Guardian (a British newspaper) has an article about this moment in beer history.

But — oy — could the reporter have done a little research first? A little historical research? Case in point: the reporter’s claim that the Chinese “have been developing a taste for home-grown” beer. Oh? They “developed” that taste many years ago.

When I first visited China in 1987, the place was awash in local beers. My husband and I found a bit of Heinken and Busweiser in two major cities; we found Tsingtao in a few upscale, urban eateries. Otherwise, it was local beer all the time. (Great beer, too. Most of it was unpasteurized and each one tasted different.)

So I don’t think the Chinese are only now discovering “local” beer. The reporter also says that Snow’s success is due to China’s “the growing thirst of Chinese drinkers for beer.”

Again: Huh? The Chinese have been downing bazillions of gallons (or liters) of beer for a long time, if only because there aren’t that many hydration options. Potable water, for example, was (and still is) hard to come by. (Indeed, in 1987, I had a tough time figuring out how to fill the water bottle I’d brought with me. I developed a system, using the boiled water our hotel rooms always had on hand for tea. In 1999, I was able to find bottled water in a few cities.)

So until fairly recently, people’s choices in the People’s Republic have been tea, local soft drinks, or beer. In recent years, soft drinks have become more ubiquitous, as has bottled water, meaning that, if anything, the Chinese may be drinking less beer rather than more.

So: I’m not buying the explanation for Snow’s ascent.

On a different note: it’s also not clear that Snow has killed the King. Numbers in the beer industry vary, because it matters who is counting what. For example, those numbers for Snow may include all the Snow products, rather than just one label. Eg, the numbers may include Snow, Snow Light, Snow Whatever.

Put another way, the counters may be counting all versions of Snow against just one Anheuser-Busch brand, Bud Light. Obviously, if someone counted all Snow products and all A-B products, the numbers would come out differently.

Top o’ the mug to Hunter at Sybeeritic for the link to the Guardian article. (By the way, he gets my vote for having the most creative blog name. Terrific play on words…)

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