Deschutes Brewery using social media wisely

I have long wrestled with the "idea" of social media versus how we naturally use technology as an extension of our anthropological desire to reach out, communicate and belong; here I use the word idea in quotes as a signifier that all is not right. And I only say "not right" because of the marketing gold rush that has occurred around social media platforms wherein ones public foibles expressed say, on Facebook, result in a set of ads that are rather thinly related to ones "likes."

Deschutes Black Butte Porter XX11

On the upside, I have to say that I am less of a contrarian these days as I start to see some interesting uses of Facebook in campaigns. The ones that come from an understanding of how we use the web and how we interact with it will be successful. We may be settling in to a period where we'll see less digital versus old media arguments taking place. And better still we might soon see the day when we stop talking about 'social media' as somehow different than media.

Meanwhile many companies are still having a hard time embracing the social web. That cannot be said of Deschutes Brewery though, I'm happy to say. [Full disclosure: Deschutes Brewery is a client of North.] What follows is a sad tale [for craft brew lovers anyway] of how Deschutes' high standards of product quality and keeping their customers in mind at all times, resulted in them holding back from market a revered brew - Black Butte XX11. All was not lost though as the company's CEO, Gary Fish, stepped up to the plate to take the issue head on via the company blog and their Facebook page.

From the Deschutes Brewery Blog:

The much anticipated release of Deschutes Brewery’s Black Butte XXII is being canceled this year. The Imperial version of the brewery’s popular Black Butte Porter, this year made with chilies, dark chocolate and orange peel, has been a favorite since it was first produced in 2008 for the brewery’s anniversary on June 27th.

The experimental chocolate that was used in this year’s formulation never fully dissolved in the beer. While most of it dissolved, a portion formed a layer on the surface of the beer. While the beer tastes fantastic, the visual presentation in the bottle is not up to Deschutes Brewery’s long held commitment to quality and the customer experience.

So, it is with great sadness that we make this announcement. We are not happy with this years Anniversary beer and we don’t think most of our consumers would be happy with it either. Therefore we are refusing to ship the beer recently packaged.

However, take this as Deschutes Brewery’s firm commitment to quality and to our customers. When you push boundaries like we do, something like this is bound to happen. We have been fortunate in the past that none of our experiments have resulted in this kind of drastic action. I hope all our friends and customers will forgive this year’s lack of an anniversary beer while recognizing our commitment to them.

We promise to never back away from the line, even when the risk is great.

There will be very limited amounts of draft Black Butte XXII available at the Deschutes Bend Pub, Portland Pub and the Tasting Room where Deschutes staff can monitor it closely and take appropriate action if the beer becomes visually unacceptable.

Cheers, Gary Fish, CEO and Founder

This kind of clarity and transparency is crucial these days. By preempting any negativity about this brewing experiment the CEO stood behind his company's mantra of pushing brewing boundaries, while supporting his brewers' experiments in their attempts to bring the brewery's customers new and excellent product. Mistakes happen when you are willing to take risks. Being open about them is the right thing to do in the age of the social web. Bravely done!