Category Archives: Brewing

An exchange

A roadside stall in Kalaw, displaying dozens of dust bottles, gleaming in the dwindling sunlight.  The sky is grey-blue in the east, cinnamon in the west; it is a gloomy, but dignified wet-season sunset.  I screech to a halt in the slush, position the front doors of my beige hatchback over dry, rather than wet, mud and hoist my longyi.  Albert follows as I assess the area.

“Pineapple wine? Apple wine? Plum wine?” I ask, pointing to the array of bottles.  A young boy scurries out from the gloom within the stall nodding.  “What’s that one?” I ask, pointing to a bottle with more dust than usual, obscuring the writing and image on the label.  The boy replies with a word I don’t understand.  We go back and forth until realisation dawns: damson.

“Do you know who makes this wine?” I ask.  The boy doesn’t know.

“Where do you buy these from?” I ask.  The boy doesn’t know.

“Is it a company or a family?” I ask.  The boy stares at me.

“Is this all you have?” I ask.  The boy hesitates, then ducks inside.  He is gone twenty seconds.  Yes, that’s all they have.

I ask Albert, my partner in wine business, which he would prefer.  An enthusiastic drinker, he declares that they all sound wonderful.

“We’ll buy one of each.”

The boy calls out and is joined by another, older teenager, who looks around for something.  He pulls out six gleaming white cardboard bottle bags, the kind ubiquitous in Australian and high-end Yangon bottleshops, and carefully puts each of the dusty, dirty, aged bottles into their own crisp, clean gift bag.  As he does so, I go through the basics.

“Do you drink wine?” I ask.  The boy does not.

“Do you drink beer?” I ask.  The boy does not.

“How about cigarettes?” I ask.  The boy thinks for a moment, and then says no.

A motorcycle splutters past.  Then another.  Kalaw’s rhythms are foreign to me, but it is a town of domestic migrants, of opportunity and of tourists.  I can categorise it: and Albert and I at least fit in here, there is a role to play, unlike many other idiosyncratic villages and towns across the country, down potted roads and one-lane “highways”.

The sun descends.  Cinnamon turns to peach.

We load the boot of the Kia up with our mysterious wine, pay and leave.

Beeronomics 2017

I have just finished participating in the Economics of Beer conference hosted by the Copenhagen Business School and the Carlsberg Foundation. It was a really great conference, combining academic rigour with collegiality and many opportunities for socialising and learning about Danish culture and Danish beer. I think I speak for all participants when I say it was a very successful event, and I look forward to the next conference in 2019, which should be hosted in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

Before going into the research proper, here are some photographs of lovely Copenhagen, one of the bars we visited (as part of the conference program there were two brewery tours and two bar tours) and some of the presenters speaking in the plush Carlsberg Academy.

I drank a large quantity of free beers over the course of this conference, some of which were quite good. Two special beers were made available: the Carlsberg Rebrew (read about this on Cornell’s and Pattison’s blogs), which I very much enjoyed, though struggled to discover the “old” in it, and the Copenhagen Business School’s Centenary IPA. This was a 6.5% ABV Westcoast IPA brewed to celebrate CBS reaching 100 years of business education. It was delicious and set the mood for the conference very well. Other beer highlights were Warpigs’ Kaffestout and Last Rites IPA and the full range of Mikkeller beers we were supplied with.

In addition to academic papers, the conference was fortunate enough to hear from Danish beer heavyweights Flemming Besenbacher, Carlsberg Chairman, and Jacob Gram Alsing, Mikkeller Operations Manager. These were great talks and I was fortunate enough to have a ripping yarn with Jacob afterwards. Mikkeller are truly a unique operation in the beer world. We discussed Mikkeller’s Asia operations and its investigations into the Myanmar market.

But without further ado, here are just a few of the highlights from the conference proper:

Carlos Eduardo Hernandez presented a compelling case for why the US brewing industry moved west in the latter nineteenth-century. Essentially, the answer was bottling. He also discussed comparative advantages between brewing locations in the midwest.

Kitayama, Williams and Takeshita examined the relationship between corporate governance and internationalisation strategies of major Japanese breweries. I found their discussion of corporate governance differences between Suntory and Kirin particularly fruitful for my own understanding of Myanmar’s industry, and Kirin’s partnership with the Tatmadaw.

Kind and Kaiser had a work-in-progress report on how climate change could affect the value chain of the beer sector in Germany. In doing so it used case studies of hail and drought in Hallertau and drought in the southwestern US. Although very exploratory, this was a great paper that drew attention to the bigger issues.

I also enjoyed Steriu and William‘s presentation on Heineken’s internationalisation strategy, again for its relevance to the Myanmar market. Interestingly they were positive about Heineken’s Myanmar work and applied agency to their ability to keep other entrants out of the market, which I thought was quite peculiar.

There was also a fun panel on regulation of beer in the United States with some good qualitative and historical work thrown in between econometrics papers. Richard White delivered his paper on Alabama’s idiosyncratic history of regulation with particular verve and enthusiasm.

There were some big picture works on the craft beer revolution and the launch of a book from the society with the same name. Stack and Wagner seemed to be doing the most to understand the revolution in the US from a supply/demand, large-scale level. But the other papers on clustering, particular national craft beer sectors and consumer taste preferences were also food for thought.

The plenary session was on new research frontiers in beer economics. Of course, there is no shortage. But even so, Jen Gaamelgaard did a great job distilling and presenting these. For those interested, the main book presentation was for The Craft Beer Revolution: A Global Economic Perspective, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Lastly, a big thanks to the Carlsberg Foundation for funding my participation in the PhD workshop at this conference.