Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not Crafty Cruise Beer Selection

One thing this meal is lacking is a good beer to pair it with.
As anyone who has read this blog periodically knows, I like beer, hockey, and often both of these things together.  And like many craft beer fans, I also enjoy good food and even more so when paired with good beer.  

My family and I were going to Alaska on a Cruise (which is a trip I'd highly recommend to anyone) and I looked online for the cruise line's beer selection. Unfortunately I found a horrifying reminder that craft beer, while growing, is still the minority.  Undeterred I did what any normal person (by my definition at any rate) would do: call and find out what type of beer they offered.

After totally stumped the nice girl on the other end of the phone who basically had to probably call a ship to find out what they had, she gave me a list of beers including a large selection of American generics, Bass, Guinness, Grolsch, Heineken, Boddington's, Stella, Dos Equis and Amstel Light.

I knew I was in real trouble when after she read off the list that left me slumping in my chair defeated I meekly asked "do you have any IPAs" and she responded, "No, we only carry the more common types of beer."

Asking about beer basically drove me to drink.  I also think I tried storing good beer inside me the week before like a camel stores water, although I don't think it was ultra effective.  They also X-ray baggage so I would be unable to smuggle beer on, which is unfortunate because I wanted to wear my Captain Reynolds Halloween costume again.

Below is the letter I sent them after the trip.
Dear Princess Cruises,

Recently my wife and I traveled with you to Alaska going from Whittier to Vancouver.  The trip was wonderful, the food very good, and your crew were great.  

However, there was one thing that fell short of my expectations, and while it might seem like a trivial thing, it did have a small impact on my overall experience.  You're beer selection is quite limited when you consider the vast selection of craft beer readily available nationwide.

Here are some points for you regarding upgrading your selection:
  1. You bought Alaska Summer and Amber Ale in Vancouver, which was supposed to last two weeks until returning to British Columbia.  By the time the second week began, there was none left strongly supporting the argument that there is a strong demand for craft beer.  (This trend is also seen in liquor stores, grocery stores, and places like Costco)
  2. You have the opportunity to offer special beer tastings like the wine tastings offered throughout the cruise.  This is another activity that generates revenue.
  3. There's an opportunity to have special beer pairings with meals with a featured, one night only selection.  As you are well aware, if you offer something "special" or "limited" you often have people running at you saying "Here, take my money!"
  4. Since most beers come bottled or canned, there's no need to worry about kegging, having it go bad if the rate of consumption is a little low.  This is the same as you currently carry your beer.
  5. While I don't care for this strategy, you can even single source your craft beer through a single brewery that has a broad range of offerings.  Some with nationwide distribution are Samuel Adams, Karl Strauss, Lagunitas, and Dogfish Head. There's others that share distribution with InBev and Molson Coors, if there's a corporate alliance that you can't break.
  6. You can charge a premium for craft beer!  I think beer was ~$6 per bottle.  I'd be happy to be $7 or $8 for premium craft beer.  But, there's also a point where I'm not willing to pay $8 for Red Hook's Longhammer IPA, but will for Stone IPA.  Not all beer was created equal.
  7. Beer pairs as well, or sometimes better, with food than wine. I'm not a cicerone but there's plenty out there who could help devise a reasonable selection of craft beers that would pair across your entire menu. Using the menu from one night, here's an example of some food and beer pairings:
    • Seared Sea Bass with Pineaple-Papaya Salsa - Bootlegger's Spring Saison
    • Cognac-Flamed Crawfish Etouffee with Louisiana Hot Sauce - Stone IPA or a Imperial IPA like Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
    • Slow Roasted Corn-fed Prime Rib with Natural Rosemary Jus and Horseradish Cream - A trappist ale (Chimay), a Red (Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale), or a brown ale (Ale Smith Nut Brown Ale or Smithwicks)
    • Cumin-spiced Texas Beef Chili - Stone Smoke Porter with Chiptole Peppers (or plain), or Bass Pale Ale (already on the ship)
    • Leek and Ricotta Cheese Tart - Boddington's Pub ale (already on the ship)
Obviously, from the above, you'd try to narrow down the selection so each beer could pair with multiple things over the week. I also intentional chose some beers you already stocked as opposed to finding different ales to try and reinforce the point.

Thank you for your time,
 ~James [Edited]

To my surprise, they called me the next day and we've been playing phone tag ever since.  I'm curious if my suggestion is being considered or if it is getting lip service.   I'll update this post with the outcomes of the conversation, if it happens.

I'll also do another post on the great craft beer I was able to enjoy in Alaska when things at my employer calm down and I have time to write.

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