What’s in a label? Everything!
Several months ago I visited the Liquor Outlet and Wine Cellar in Boonton NJ; the thing that struck me, aside from the vast selection of beer, were the shelf labels that identified most of the beers. I remember remarking to the beer manager at the Liquor Outlet, “How did you get all this information for all of these beers?” Almost every beer had on the label, the appropriate drinking glass, the color of the beer, the IBU’s, the SRM, a brief description, and food pairings. It was a vast amount of important information on a very easy to read card. The beer manager told me they didn’t do it; it was a service with which they subscribe. I had to meet the person behind such a brilliant idea, Michael Kuderka of MC Basset.
I was able to have lunch with Michael Kuderka and discuss these labels and the book he created. His Book “The Essential Reference of Domestic Brewers and Their Bottle Brands” has a wealth of knowledge, over 500 brands and 3000 beers. What was impressive about this book was the way it was organized, you can find beer by brand, state, or brewery. For each Brewery, there was a listing of all the beer commercially produced, the states the beer is distributed in, and for most beer the IBU’s and SRM. Along with the vast index of beer, there is a very handy color and bitterness chart, a beer style index, and a brewery portfolio. With over 500 pages, this wealth of knowledge was compiled by contacting breweries and visiting the breweries and distributor websites. It took Michael over a year and half to compile the 1st edition in 2007 (the 3rd edition is available on Amazon).
Michael gave me a copy of this book and I’ve already used it several time in the last week. I can’t wait to take it on vacation with me to visit the breweries I may not have known were there. It is going to be a very handy guide!
But, what I really wanted to talk with Michael about was the labels I saw on the shelves at the Liquor Outlet. These labels, known as “Shelf Talkers” are amazing. There is so much information and any liquor store, restaurant, or bar can subscribe to for what seems like nominal fee. Each beer in the MC Basset database can be printed onto a Shelf Talker and the retail store can pick what data they want to print and the orientation. They could print a Shelf Talker with the beer’s name, description and price, or the retail store could also include the Food pair, Color, and IBU’s of the beer. It seems so simple and easy, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen these labels any where else.
Michael describes the Shelf Talkers as a non-intimidating display for customers to see, learn, and understand beer. It also providing the retail outlet’s employees with “Beer Confidence”. Beer Confidence is the ability for the stores employees to be able to talk knowledgeably about the beer.
Beyond the Shelf Talkers, Michael has also created beer menus. This will allow restaurant or bar subscribers to print menus which could include the same information as the Shelf Talker in an easy to read menu insert or vertical table card.
I’m probably starting to sound like an advertisement for the Shelf Talkers and Beer Menus, but they really impressed me. I cannot believe someone has not done this sooner; it is such a great idea.
Besides being a lover of beer and try to educate the world about beer, Michael is also an avid home brewer. He’s been brewing beer for over for 18 years. His passion for brewing beer is what led him to a love of beer. Not just a brand of beer, but beer as a science, a style, and something to be appreciated. You will not find beer ratings on the Shelf Talkers. He believes these cards should be used inform a customer about the beer, not be used to push or “sell” one beer over another. Everyone has different pallets and likes different flavors, what one person believes is a “99” beer, another may not like it. Michael would like people to try a beer and make that decision on their own.
For more information on Shelf Talkers and Beer Menus, visit the MC Basset website.