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September 2012

Review: Coco’s Cantina

On Friday night I crossed one of the items off my ‘leaving Auckland’ list: Coco’s Cantina. And boy, do I wish I’d been earlier because it is awesome.

Coco’s has a bit of a rep for being incredibly popular and crowded, even bordering on boisterous. However, we didn’t find it so – we did arrive fairly early by Friday-night-dining standards and easily got a table, despite the warning on the website that you may have to wait for a one. The tables were close together, but not crowded, it was noisy, but not overly loud, and hip, but not pretentious so. It was cosy and comfortable.

I particularly like the way craft beer was presented – they didn’t boast about it, it was just matter-of-factly included because Coco’s is all about taste and therefore they have great tasting beer. On tap was Galbraith’s Munich Lager and West Coast Pale Ale. I immediately ordered the West Coast Pale, it being a contender for my all-time favourite Pale Ale, and nearly as quickly disappointed to discover a lot of the out-there hop flavour missin. But after a few more sips I discovered it was still a lovely beer – just more of an Amber Ale – and thoroughly enjoyable.

The elements that make up a great restaurant experience were there: friendly knowledgeable staff, great food (I can recommend the prawn pasta and the ravioli) and welcoming, relaxing atmosphere. If you haven’t been yet, get down there.

This would be a good time to mention Barb, my dinner companion of the night, has taken over the upkeep of the ‘Auckland Craft Beer on Tap’ website. Barb writes the Beer IQ blog and runs tastings under a company of the same name. The list is now located here – a big thanks to Barb!

Details: Coco’s Cantina, 376 K’Rd, Auckland, http://www.cocoscantina.co.nz

 

 

 

Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You

I’m gonna ‘leave you when the summer comes a-rollin.’ I’m off to Melbourne mid-November, for a chance of pace and place. I’ve got five weeks left in Auckland and then another four weeks in various parts of the North Island. It may seem a little early to be announcing it, but I’m looking to suggestions of things to do and beers to drink before I go. There’s three categories: the first two are ‘beer experiences’ – great pubs, bars, cafes or festivals that you feel are a must visit before I depart – divided into ‘Auckland’ and ‘The North Island Roadtrip’. The third category is Great Kiwi Beers – new beers that are about to be released or old favourites you feel I may have missed somehow. There’s already some items on the lists, but it would be nice if you could help pad them out a little for me:

Auckland Beer Experiences
Already on the list: Coco’s Cantina
As you can see, this list is a little light, I need some advice.

The North Island Roadtrip Beer Experiences
Already on the list: Pacific Beer Expo, BREW bar, mike’s Octoberfest, Montrose and the National Home Brew competition.
This list is already pretty packed, it’ll have to be an awesome suggestion to make it on.

Ten Great Kiwi Beers 
Already on the list: nothing yet
(I’m limited this to ten – I ain’t made of money, folks – although I’ll probably end up trying more than ten new beers in the next couple of months).

All and any suggestions welcome (except maybe Tiger) and I’ll attempt to document the experiences and the beers.

I ain’t jokin’ woman, I got to ramble. 

Hype

I have been pondering hype for a while now. How do you create hype? Can you even create hype or is it only something that occurs naturally? What make some hype strategies work and others fail?

First things first. I would define hype as a heightened excitement or interest in a product or event that results in selling more of the product or event tickets. Today I’m going to look at three campaigns that aimed (or are aiming to) hype their beer, if they are succeeding and why.

Case Study One: Boundary Road’s The Resident
The ‘craft arm’ of Independent Liquor, Boundary Road recently sought publicity by bringing Brian ‘Spike’ Bockowski over from the States to help introduce new ideas into the (apparently languishing) New Zealand beer scene. Spike helped Boundary Road develop three new brews: an IPA, Pilsner and a Red Rye Ale.

Tactics: social media campaign, including a new website, lots of Facebook coverage, press releases and a video (with more than a few mis-truths).

The Verdict: possible success in mainstream. Unfortunately I don’t have access to the sales figures, so I can’t tell you how well it is selling. But, because of Independent’s contacts, they’ve managed to get quite a few facings in all of the supermarkets I’ve been to lately and their packaging is eye-catching. Quite a few non-beer geeks I know have commented positively on it and there’s a fair amount of interaction on their Facebook page. I don’t know if anyone’s ‘hyped’ about it, but they are getting people’s attention. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next.

Case Study Two: Whatever the hell Hancocks are up to
The week after Beervana, Hancocks was apparently going to release a beer that will change beer in New Zealand ‘from conception to consumption’ – or at least that’s what one of their marketing consultants assured me would happen. The beer is still yet to make an appearance, despite the claims from the marketing dude of a massive release, with ‘the best t-shirt’ ever.

Tactic: the marketing guy targeted beer bloggers (I wasn’t the only one he approached), talking up his product in the hopes that they would then blog about it and create hype. Hype would then seem natural – we would (ideally) be curious about this mysterious beer, anticipate it and jump on any information that became available.

The Verdict: Not working so far/ too early to tell. I am curious about what they’re going to bring out and I’m writing about it, so they are getting some publicity out of it. But I’m already poised to think negatively of it. Why? Because I was trapped in a corner by a marketing guy who wouldn’t tell me anything about the actual beer or who was going to brew it, but just kept repeating the same buzz words, and telling me how well they were going to publicise it and how cool the t-shirts were going to be. Unfortunately, my suspicious nature has been aroused and now look, I’m telling everyone. Added to that, it’s been a few weeks since Beervana and there’s no sign of the beer. I might be wrong, it could be awesome. But more likely it will be a castle of brandwank built around a keep of terrible beer.

Case Study 3: Epic Hop Zombie
If you’re reading this blog, you already know about Epic Hop Zombie and that the third, much-awaited batch was recently released*.

Tactics: 1) Create an amazing beer. 2) Give it one of the best beer names in the world – not only is it a cool name, but it also is incredibly easy to write about. You can build many metaphors off it – it’ll eat your brains, leave you a shambling wreck – in short, it’s a copy writer/ beer reviewer / blog writer’s dream. 3) Launch it with a rock star tour of two of New Zealand’s best brewers. 4) Make a kick arse, instantly recognisable t-shirt. 5) Don’t make very much of this amazing beer (for perfectly legit reasons).

 

The Verdict: hype was successfully created and it sold lots of beer. The first batch of the third release sold out in a week and back orders had to be placed for the imminent second batch.

Conclusion
It is possible to create hype – but you’ve got to have a great product. You can have the coolest t-shirts in the world or the flashiest video, but if no one wants to tell their mates how amazing the beer is, you’re not going to get hype. This is not to say that Hop Zombie would’ve hyped itself – the names and tees certainly helped – but the level of hype needed an awesome product.

All in all, the number one step should always be: create great beer.

 

* Or it was when I first wrote this post. Then I waited to see what Hancocks’ beer was going to be like. And waited. And waaaaited.

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