Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Black Raven, Redmond and the cult beer phenomenon

   Redmond's other micro is, like Mac & Jack's, in a business park, next to a medical office and an Asian antiques place.  No restaurant, but they have the menus for the pizza place across the street that will deliver to the Raven.  In an hour there, I see the delivery guy bring in three orders, including my small pizza. The Raven has a number of tables for sit down diners and drinkers.
They have about eight beers on tap, and you can choose six of them for a tray of 5-oz samples. A steady stream of customers for growler fills comes in at midday on a Friday. Growler fills are pricey: they start at $14 and go to $16 and $18 for some of their top-end brews.  In the metro Seattle area, I am finding most micros filling your growler for somewhere between $7 and $8.  Tan Vinh, a Seattle Times reporter, has opined that Black Raven is "on the verge of being a cult brand."  If that is indeed the case, then maybe one of the benefits of culthood is that you the consumer are willing to pay more for the status of being seen with the "right" brand.
   In his perceptive book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that a few people with exceptionally wide circles of contacts could trigger a fad for a particular product like Hush Puppy shoes or Cabbage Patch dolls, and then for a while the retail stores could not keep up with the surge in demand.  That has happened in the beer business, too. I think Corona became the cult Mexican lager some years ago and surged way past its competitors in the USA, compared to its market share in Mexico. That didn't happen because Corona won some accolades from tasting experts the way GABF gold medals are won. It happened because the same kinds of people who started wearing Hush Puppies to work before anyone else started ordering Corona with Mexican food.
   If I want to fill a growler with a good pale ale, would I do so at Georgetown for Manny's ($7) or at Black Raven for Totem Pale Ale ($14)?  I know they are very close in taste; no way is the Totem twice as good.
Cue up "Take a Load Off Manny" for me.
(Visited 8/27/10)

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